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Archive for December, 2015

The Stream, December 30: Major Floods Spread Across U.S. Midwest

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The  Global Rundown

The Global Rundown

Extensive flooding occurred in Missouri, killing more than a dozen people. High water levels on a number of major rivers in the Midwest United States could cause trouble for industrial areas in the South, while insurance companies are expecting to pay billions of dollars for flood damages in Britain. Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan agreed on two companies to assess the Grand Renaissance hydropower project. Water shortages are prompting Tanzania to build gas-fired power plants. Michigan’s governor apologized for an ongoing drinking water crisis in Flint, and a train derailment in Queensland raised concerns about water contamination.

“I want the Flint community to know how very sorry I am that this has happened. And I want all Michigan citizens to know that we will learn from this experience, because Flint is not the only city that has an aging infrastructure.” –Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, in a statement apologizing for lead contaminated drinking water in Flint. The director of Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality also resigned Tuesday. (Detroit Free Press)

By the Numbers

By The Numbers

5 major rivers Number that are flooding in the Midwest United States and could threaten industrial areas in the South. Severe floods in Missouri have killed at least 13 people. Bloomberg; CBS

$2.22 billion Estimated cost of insurance payouts in Britain due to extensive flooding. Economic costs overall could amount to more than $US 7 billion. Reuters

31,500 liters Amount of sulfuric acid spilled when a train derailed in Queensland, raising concerns about possible contamination of nearby waterways. Australian Associated Press


Science, Studies, And Reports

A new agreement signed Tuesday by Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan determined which two independent consulting companies will study the possible effects of the Grand Renaissance hydropower project, which is being built on a tributary of the Nile River. The review of the project will begin in February and could take up to 15 months to complete. Reuters

On the Radar

On The Radar

Water shortages are prompting Tanzania to build gas-fired power plants in order to reduce its dependence on hydropower. The country currently generates approximately 35 percent of its electricity from hydropower. Reuters

The post The Stream, December 30: Major Floods Spread Across U.S. Midwest appeared first on Circle of Blue WaterNews.


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How to Make Money in Energy Storage [GTM Squared]


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Cleantech IPOs: Predictions Revisited, 2015 Winners, 2016 Picks

GTM has a respectable track record in predicting cleantech IPOs — despite the conspicuous infrequency of these events. 

An initial public offering (IPO) or acquisition is the promised land for venture-capital-funded startups — but the fact is that most cleantech companies require a longer time frame, a bigger budget, and a different set of investor skills to go public compared to other fields. 

Still, in the past decade, cleantech companies such as SunPower, First Solar, EnerNOC and Comverge, and more recently, Tesla, SolarCity, Silver Spring Networks, Enphase, Aspen Aerogels, and Control4 have made it onto public exchanges. Biofuel startups Gevo and Kior went public and failed. Solazyme went public and shed much of its shareholder value since the IPO. Battery vendor A123 went public — and then went bankrupt. BrightSource, Luca, and Enerkem filed for IPOs but had to withdraw, as did biofuel maker Mascoma. 

SolarCity, Tesla stock performance since IPO

The recent high point of greentech public market success: SolarCity opened at $8 per share in 2012 and traded at $49.71 on Tuesday; Tesla opened at $17 in 2010 and trades at $233.82 per share today.

Here’s a review of GTM’s recent annual IPO predictions.

Cleantech IPOs: 2014

In 2013, we predicted that energy efficiency specialist Opower, Vivint Solar and SunEdison’s TerraForm YieldCo would float on public markets in 2014. Today, these firms are trading well below their IPO strike price.

Both of the solar firms have market caps greater than $1 billion.

We picked Nest, the smart thermostat and home appliance firm with Apple Inc. DNA to go public, but instead, the firm was bought by Google for $3.2 billion. We didn’t predict that Aspen Aerogels would get through the IPO window with its high-performance insulation, or that Intelligent Energy and its fuel-cell production would go public on the AIM. Other YieldCos that went public in in 2014 included Abengoa Yield and NextEra Energy Partners.

We were a year off on Sunrun, and fuel cell vendor Bloom did not go public, despite its traditional inclusion on this list.

Cleantech IPOs: 2015

We were right-on with our prediction that distributed solar electronics maker SolarEdge would go public. We managed to get Sunrun‘s IPO right in 2015. And we divined the debut of SunPower-First Solar YieldCo, 8point3.

We didn’t call’s public offering. We wrongly suggested that Clean Power Finance might have a shot and that nuclear cleanup startup Kurion might consider a public raise. Sol-Wind tested the bottom of the YieldCo market only to withdraw its offering.  

Again, we suggested that Bloom Energy might go public as it continued to win customers for its natural-gas-fueled solid-oxide fuel cells. The firm boasts an all-star list of customers, including Adobe, FedEx, Staples, Google, Coca-Cola, and Wal-Mart. Bloom has raised more than $1 billion in venture capital over a decade from investors including GSV Capital, Apex Venture Partners, DAG Ventures, KPCB, Mobius Venture Capital, Madrone Capital, NEA, SunBridge Partners, Advanced Equities, and Goldman Sachs. Bloom is Kleiner Perkins’ first cleantech investment and, at more than 12 years old, an old maid in VC terms. 

Bloom did not go public in 2015.

IPO predictions for 2016

There isn’t exactly an embarrassment of riches in 2016’s potential cleantech IPO pool. The cleantech and alternative energy market just doesn’t have a deep bench of late-stage, privately held, VC-funded firms. (Nor does it have a pack of shaky companies with valuations north of $1 billion, the now vapidly labeled “unicorns.”)

There are a few possible large company spin-out IPOs. But the IPO market in general is sluggish or worse, and a market-changing cleantech IPO hasn’t happened in a while. Still, here are some potential IPO candidates for 2016.

  • Would solar finance and sales experts Sungevity or Sunnova be interested in public markets? (Both companies have recently closed on enormous sums of finance capital, so there is no sense of urgency on a financial raise.) The ITC extension could drive more YieldCos to market.
  • The market loves Tesla. Perhaps it would love a BYD electric vehicle spin-out going public. Or the less flashy electric bus business of Proterra.
  • Speaking of spin-outs, a GTM Research analyst floated the idea of GE’s new $1 billion energy services group, Current, as an IPO candidate. 
  • And speaking of spin-outs and Tesla, does spinning out Tesla’s stationary energy storage business unlock more value for the company? Are there other energy storage companies such as Sonnen growing fast enough to find a positive reception on public markets?                
  • Doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome, I am including Bloom Energy on the list. I mean, what other exits exist for this firm? Anything less than an IPO or an enormous acquisition would be a disappointment to the firm’s investors and existing customers. In the meantime, the firm’s revenue is substantial enough to warrant an IPO, although questions linger about the company’s profitability and the reliability of its fuel-cell products.


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News Quiz: The Biggest Clean Energy Stories of 2015

Welcome to GTM’s energy news quiz. I’m your host, Alex Trebek Mike Munsell. In this year-end edition, we tapped into GTM’s web analytics to find the biggest clean energy stories of the year.

See if you can remember all the way back to the first quarter of 2015.

We’ve provided explainer links to all of the solutions below the quiz, so try not to cheat by looking ahead! Sign up for our newsletter to improve your score every week.

How’d you do? Share this with colleagues and see if they can beat your score. Feel free to brag (or shame yourself) in the comments section.


1. In July, SunEdison announced a plan to purchase this firm for $2.2 billion.

2. In June, Austin Energy got 1.2 GW of solar bids for this price.

3. In May, Tesla announced the price for its 10 kWh Powerwall. How much will it cost?

4. According to a Jan. report, solar is cheaper than the grid in how many of the 50 largest U.S. cities?

5. What was Barack Obama referring to when he said, “This is huge”?

6. In June, SolarStar, the world’s largest PV power plant became operational in this U.S. state.

7. SolarCity claimed that it will produce the most efficient rooftop solar panel. How efficient is it?

8. Which firm’s CEO said, “By 2017, we’ll be under $1.00 per watt fully installed”?

9. Which company announced in October that it would lay off 15% of its workforce?

10. According to GTM Research, how much additional PV will the U.S. install thanks to the ITC extension?


Mike Munsell is GTM’s resident gameshow host. In addition to creating the GTM Energy News Quiz, he writes original riddles at Sign up to get them in your inbox every Monday and Friday.


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2015 Was the Year of Cheap Gasoline in America, But It Hasn’t Been a Big Economic Boost

Washington Post: $2 Gas Is Not Having the Economic Impact Everyone Thought It Would

If low oil prices are a gift to U.S. consumers, why isn’t the U.S. economy growing faster?

After all, cheap crude pumps money into consumers’ pockets much the same way a tax cut would. The drop in oil prices this year has been like a $290 billion tax cut, roughly equal to a 1 to 2 percentage point across-the-board cut in federal income and payroll taxes.

But the economy has not snapped back. And consumers aren’t responding to falling gasoline prices with the usual shopping gusto. Instead, the economy has slowed to a lackluster annual rate of 2 percent in the third quarter, confounding the Federal Reserve and souring Americans on the recovery that President Obama has tried to portray as one of his principal achievements.

InsideClimate News: 2015 Was the Year We Found Out Exxon Knew

From the halls of Congress to the campaign trail to households across the nation, there is a roiling call for federal and state prosecutors to probe what Exxon knew about climate change and whether it broke consumer and shareholder protection laws in what it communicated to the public. Petitions and other public demands for investigations follow the publication of investigative stories by InsideClimate News and other news organizations that showed Exxon was at the forefront of global warming research decades ago until it launched campaigns to cast doubt on climate science and delay action.

Exxon is already the target of a probe by the state attorney general in New York, though the inquiry was opened months before the nationwide clamor for action began. Investigators for Democratic Attorney General Eric Schneiderman subpoenaed Exxon records last month spanning four decades of research findings and communications about climate change.

The Atlantic: The Storm That Will Unfreeze the North Pole

The sun has not risen above the North Pole since mid-September. The sea ice — flat, landlike, windswept, and stretching as far as the eye can see — has been bathed in darkness for months.

But later this week, something extraordinary will happen: Air temperatures at the Earth’s most northernly region, in the middle of winter, will rise above freezing for only the second time on record.

On Wednesday, the same storm system that last week spun up deadly tornadoes in the American Southeast will burst into the far north, centering over Iceland. It will bring strong winds and pressure as low as is typically seen during hurricanes.

MSNBC: The Year in Climate Change

The Earth’s climate has never had a year like 2015.

It’s likely to shatter the record for the hottest year since humans started keeping track. But the most amazing part of 2015 isn’t the heat — it’s the fact that humanity finally agreed to do something about it.

The historic moment arrived on December 13, just after 7 p.m. local time, inside a high-security airplane hangar on the outskirts of Paris. Delegates from nearly 200 nations ratified a universal pact to slow manmade global warming, ending a decades-long political stalemate and — according to the best possible science — lowering the risk of ecological collapse.

Industry Week: Drama Erupts at Solar Energy Firm Hanergy as Boss Sells Stake at Huge Discount

The boss of Beijing-based solar energy firm Hanergy Thin Film Power Group is selling a stake in the company at a massive discount in Hong Kong, as the once high-flying firm faces a continuing regulatory probe.

Hanergy grew more than sixfold to became the world’s largest solar power company by market value before dramatically suspending trading in May after its stocks plunged 47%.

But even before that crash, questions were raised over its valuation and revenue sources.


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The 7 Most Interesting Climate Findings of the Year

At Climate Central, we love climate research (but really, who doesn’t?). We cover it relentlessly and a lot of findings have come through our inboxes this year. All those studies are crucial to shaping both what we know about the world we currently live in as well as what we’re in store for in the future depending on how we respond to climate change.

But there are a baker’s half dozen studies that really piqued our interest this year, from the Atlantic circulation slowdown to the disappearance of the global warming slowdown. While the seven were all fascinating and critical, some also created controversies that are still ongoing.

The finding: We could be entering an era of warming unseen in at least 1,000 years.
Why it made the list: The rate of global warming has increased with each passing decade. A couple of studies published this year show that the rate will not only continue to rise, but soon be one the earth hasn’t seen since the Vikings found their way to Greenland (and possibly longer than that). Warming will be fastest in the northern hemisphere, which just so happens to be where most humans live.

Changing drought patterns across the U.S. at the start of each decade through 2095.
Credit: NASA

The finding: The Southwest and Central Plains face an “unprecedented” megadrought.
Why it made the list: The Southwest and Central Plains are already pretty dry places. Now imagine a drought that “makes the Dust Bowl look like a picnic.” That’s what the region has in store in the coming decades, according to climate projections published earlier this year. Since the 1930s Dust Bowl, population and agriculture have both boomed in the region. That means more people and more assets could face a drought worse than anything the region has seen in a long time.

The finding: Atlantic circulation is weakening, which could be bad news for weather and sea levels.
Why it made the list: Climate change is causing Greenland’s ice to melt, sending a rush of cold freshwater into the sea. That’s acting as roadblock on a key ocean conveyor belt that shuffles warm water from the tropics northward. The slowdown in circulation has been tied to a 5-inch spike in sea levels on the East Coast and harsh winters in Europe. Movie aficionados might also remember a similar scenario occurring in “The Day After Tomorrow” and spinning up a series of super storms that freeze out the East Coast. That outcome is a little far-fetched but the impacts of an Atlantic shutdown are still nothing to scoff at.

A revised analysis shows a slight recent uptick in the global average temperature.
Credit: NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information

The finding: The global warming hiatus might just be a data artifact.
Why it made the list: Hoo boy, did this study generate some controversy. A theoretical slowdown in global warming has been studied — and debated — extensively and a number of studies have linked it to different ocean basins taking up more heat from the surface and stashing it down with Aquaman’s lair.

But a study by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers said the slowdown might just be a data artifact based on how scientists account for temperature measurements taken by ships. The revised dataset has come under fire from highly partisan Congressional investigations but we’ll let Gavin Schmidt, NASA’s chief climate scientist who maintains one of the other major global temperature datasets, have the last word: “The fact that such small changes to the analysis make the difference between a hiatus or not merely underlines how fragile a concept it was in the first place.”

The finding: A climate change-induced drought helped spur the Syrian conflict.
Why it made the list: The climate-conflict got a topical jolt earlier this year when a study tied climate change to the Syrian drought that, in part, precipitated Syria’s civil war and the rise of ISIS. The connection between climate-driven conflict is the source of, well, conflict, in the research world. This study makes the case that climate change-caused drought acted as a threat multiplier, though it’s clearly but one of many threats that brought about the current quagmire in the Middle East.

The collapse of Larsen B ice shelf in early 2002.
Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

The finding: Ice sheets in Antarctica could rapidly melt, causing seas to rise up to four times faster than current projections.
Why it made the list: Most high end sea level rise projections indicate if we continue on our current greenhouse gas emissions path, oceans will rise a little more than 3 feet by 2100. But research published earlier this year by James Hansen, NASA’s former chief climate scientist, shows that number could be far too low. Instead, oceans could rise by as much as 16 feet due to the rapid melt of Antarctica.

While the odds of ice sheet collapse, especially in West Antarctica, are increasing, the timeline is still very much under scrutiny, which made these findings highly controversial. They also attracted debate for highlighting results that hadn’t yet been through the peer review process. That’s because the journal they were published in does public peer review, putting the results through the independent scientific ringer for all to see. In the months since, it’s received dozens of comments (see them all here) and is still under review by the journal.

The finding: California’s drought has turned its forests from climate guardians into climate polluters.
Why it made the list: The Golden State’s seemingly endless drought has been the subject of much research, including the role climate change has played (the verdict: yes in terms of heat, maybe in terms of precipitation). An important but perhaps under-the-radar drought impact has been the transition of California’s forests.

Major forest fires raged across the state this year, releasing decades of stored carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That effectively turned California’s forests into climate polluters as they released more carbon dioxide than they took up. Warmer temperatures in the future likely mean more years where not just California’s forests, but forests across the West and the world release more carbon than they take up, increasing the dire consequences of climate change.


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Michigan on its way to compliance with EPA Clean Power Plan

Michigan will seek two-year extension to file its CPP compliance plan


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Dynegy blasts AEP's deal to save some of its coal-fired capacity

Dynegy says this deal will distort the Ohio power market


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The Stream, December 29: UK Flood Costs Top $7 Billion

The  Global Rundown

The Global Rundown

Winter floods in the United Kingdom are expected to cost billions of dollars, while high water levels on the Mississippi River are slowing barge traffic. Water levels on Lake Baikal could reach record lows this April. Warmer water temperatures due to climate change could increase toxic algae along Florida’s coasts. Corrosion control measures should have been in place in Flint, Michigan before the city switched water sources, according to the state auditor general.

“What’s clear is that corrosion control should have been used and there are serious failings in our system that must be addressed. Between the FOIA emails released recently and these findings, it’s obvious that legislative oversight is the best way to see how all of these pieces fit together. I expect holding hearings to be high on the agenda when the Legislature returns.” –Michigan Senator Jim Ananich, on a report by the Michigan Auditor General that said corrosion control measures should have been implemented in Flint when the city’s water source was switched to the Flint River. The city has since struggled with high levels of lead in its drinking water. (MLive)

13.7 meters Height of the Mississippi River expected on Thursday, the second highest level ever recorded. Flood waters are slowing barge traffic on the river. Reuters

$7.4 billion Estimated cost of severe floods in the United Kingdom this winter, where many homes and businesses lack adequate flood insurance. Guardian

By the Numbers

By The Numbers


Science, Studies, And Reports

A toxin produced by algae along the Florida coast is expected to become more prevalent due to climate change, according to a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Warmer water temperatures could increase the production of the toxin Ciguatera, the report said. 10 News

On the Radar

On The Radar

Water levels in Lake Baikal, one of the world’s largest freshwater lakes, could drop 22 to 30 centimeters below the minimum average set by the Russian government next April. That would mean water levels in the lake would reach a record low. Bloomberg

The post The Stream, December 29: UK Flood Costs Top $7 Billion appeared first on Circle of Blue WaterNews.


Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Editor - December 30, 2015 at 6:12 am

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10 Predictions for Rooftop Solar in 2016

2015 was a banner year for solar policy: Obama announced his Clean Power Plan, Pope Francis came out in favor of incentives for renewables and against fossil fuels, the California Public Utilities Commission announced its preliminary decision that Net Metering 2.0 should be at the retail rate (the deal’s not done; there are still extra charges), and Congress — in the biggest surprise of all — voted to extend the ITC for five more years.

I don’t know how much influence the solar industry had on the president and the pope, but I do know how diligently the solar industry worked toward extending the ITC and a favorable decision at the CPUC. With the ITC secure for another six years, my crystal ball for solar is clearer than last year (I did not expect the ITC renewal until the end of 2016). So here are my predictions for rooftop solar in 2016.

  1. The rooftop solar industry will focus on steadier, more sustainable growth. Ironically, this means that customer demand in 2016 with the ITC extension will be slightly less than we expected demand to be in 2016 without the extension. With no incentive cliff to use as a closing tool, we need to recalibrate our 2016 sales expectations. Indeed, a quick look at GTM’s forecasts indicates about a 300-megawatt drop in residential demand between the two scenarios — but steadier growth in subsequent years.
  2. Manufacturers and installers were ramping up capacity to meet expected U.S. demand in the last year of the ITC. Until mid-December, rumors of shortages in all market segments implied steady or even higher prices. Now, with slightly higher supply and lower demand levels in 2016, we can expect continued module, inverter and BOS price reductions.
  3. Local and regional installers will continue to gain market share. Although smaller installers pay more for equipment, their lower overhead and customer acquisition savings enable them to operate profitably. Companies that operate with a hybrid business model — such as financing, customer acquisition or simply installation wrench work — will also gain market share in 2016.
  4. Adam Smith’s invisible hand will wave away the impact of the module tariff dispute. There is now so much cell and module production around the world that multinational manufacturers can shift production to maintain tariff compliance. No longer will a company’s headquarters location define its business practices, quality or manufacturing source.
  5. Soft costs will continue to go up as a percentage of the total installed cost to homeowners. Essentially, equipment costs will decline faster than direct and indirect labor costs. Germany has demonstrated that national standardization of financing, permitting, interconnection and equipment requirements will reduce soft costs. Although politically challenging, this national approach is the best way to achieve the SunShot goals.
  6. Even with slightly higher interest rates, homeowners will have more choices for system financing: national and regional banks, credit unions, specialized solar lenders, and PACE. Leases and PPAs will continue to thrive, but will have to reduce their monthly or kilowatt-hour price to compete with other solar financing sources.
  7. Investments in all segments of the U.S. solar industry will increase. VCs will emerge from their cleantech shells and invest in hardware, software and business models that reduce direct and indirect installation costs — as well as accelerate solar deployments in new market segments.
  8. Rooftop solar companies will clean up their act when it comes to fair marketing practices toward consumers. No solar company wants the Tin Man taint, although there are several companies that are being Yelped to death. SEIA’s Consumer Protection Guide spells out these legal and ethical practices, but there will still be crooked companies that will do whatever they can to close a deal.
  9. 2016 will not be the year of residential battery storage — although it’s getting closer. Code-compliant, permitted, interconnected and useful (i.e., with a critical load subpanel) battery storage systems will continue to be expensive. Although battery, inverter and BOS costs for residential energy storage systems will continue to decline, we have yet to characterize and reduce the high “soft costs” for these energy storage systems.
  10. Product differentiation will become more important than ever. Smart companies will avoid the commodity race to the unprofitable bottom by providing system solutions to their rooftop customers — not just cheapest individual components. Installers prefer complete solutions that reduce their overall costs. The flip side of the coin is also important: continued price pressure will motivate installers to transition away from premium-price products with commodity features.


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