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World Carbon Producers Face Landmark Rights Case

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By John Vidal, The Guardian

The world’s largest oil, coal, cement and mining companies have been given 45 days to respond to a complaint that their greenhouse gas emissions have violated the human rights of millions of people living in the Phillippines.

In a potential landmark legal case, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR), a constitutional body with the power to investigate human rights violations, has sent 47 “carbon majors” including Shell, BP, Chevron, BHP Billiton and Anglo American, a 60-page document accusing them of breaching people’s fundamental rights to “life, food, water, sanitation, adequate housing, and to self determination.”

The move is the first step in what is expected to be an official investigation of the companies by the CHR, and the first of its kind in the world to be launched by a government body.

The complaint argues that the 47 companies should be held accountable for the effects of their greenhouse gas emissions in the Philippines and demands that they explain how human rights violations resulting from climate change will be “eliminated, remedied and prevented.”

An oil rig off the coast of California.
Credit: Pete Markham/flickr

It calls for an official investigation into the human rights implications of climate change and ocean acidification and whether the investor-owned “carbon majors” are in breach of their responsibilities.

The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands, is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change.

Four of its most devastating super-cyclones have occurred in the last decade, and the country has recorded increasingly severe floods and heatwaves that have been linked to man-made global warming.

Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda, was one of the most powerful storms ever recorded, killing more than 6,000 people and displacing 650,000 others in 2013.

The legal complaint has been brought by typhoon survivors and non-governmental organizations and is supported by more than 31,000 Filipinos.

“We demand justice. Climate change has taken our homes and our loved ones. These powerful corporations must be called to account for the impact of their business activities,” said Elma Reyes from Alabat Island in Quezon, who survived super typhoon Rammasun in 2008 and is part of the group submitting the complaint to the CHR.

The full legal investigation is now expected to start in October after the 47 companies have responded. Although all 47 will be ordered to attend public hearings, the CHR can only force those 10 with offices in the Philippines to appear.

These include Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, BHP Billiton, Anglo American, Lafarge, Holcim, and Taiheiyo Cement Corporation. The CHR has the power to seek the assistance of the UN to encourage any which do not attend to co-operate.

“The commission’s actions are unprecedented. For the first time, a national human rights body is officially taking steps to address the impacts of climate change on human rights and the responsibility of private actors,” said Zelda Soriano, legal and political adviser for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, one of the groups which has brought the complaint to the CHR.

“This is an important building block in establishing the moral and legal ‘precedent’ that big polluters can be held responsible for current and threatened human rights infringements resulting from fossil fuel products. From the Netherlands to the U.S., people are using legal systems to hold their governments to account and demand climate action,” she said.

The list of the 47 “carbon majors” being asked to respond to the CHR is based on research by Richard Heede, director of the Climate Accountability Institute in Colorado. In 2013 he calculated that just 90 global companies had produced nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions generated since the start of the industrial revolution

Together these companies emitted around 315 gigatons of CO2 equivalent into the atmosphere, or nearly 22 percent of estimated global industry greenhouse gas emissions from 2010 to 2013, said Heede.

“We pray that the CHR heed the demand to recommend to policymakers and legislators to develop and adopt effective accountability mechanisms that victims of climate change can easily access,” said Father Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of Caritas Philippines and a recipient of the Goldman environmental prize.

The CHR is not a court and would have no power to force companies to reduce emissions or fine them. However, it can make recommendations to government and would add to the worldwide pressure to persuade shareholders to divest from heavy carbon emitters.

The investigation is the latest in a growing tide of climate liability cases being brought against governments and corporations. In June, the Netherlands’ high court ruled on the world’s first climate liability suit, ordering the Dutch government to take stronger action against climate change to better protect its citizens.

However, several court cases launched in the U.S. urging the U.S. government to take more action against climate change have been dismissed.

Reprinted with permission from The Guardian


Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Editor - July 31, 2016 at 6:00 am

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How Regulators Are Thinking About Distributed Energy Resources

The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) has issued a draft manual on the compensation of distributed energy resources that could influence how regulators across the country design rates and how the U.S. electricity sector evolves.

The document was presented and discussed this week at the NARUC annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee. According to NARUC President Travis Kavulla of the Montana Public Service Commission, it’s relatively rare for the association to issue a manual. It’s also the first time the association has written a manual specifically on distributed energy resources (DERs), and the first time the association has sought input from outside parties.

“In the past, NARUC hasn’t taken this kind of feedback; we just tasked our experts with writing a manual,” Kavulla said, in an interview. “But we realize this is a subject of some contention and wanted to give people an opportunity to try to frame the issue and frame particular methodologies for our benefit.”

NARUC received nearly 130 stakeholder comments on the draft manual ahead of its release, and is now accepting additional responses through Sept. 2, with plans to release the final version in late November.

The manual addresses the rapidly increasing deployment of distributed energy resources (DERs), which includes solar PV, wind, combined heat and power, energy storage, demand response, electric vehicles, microgrids, and energy efficiency by NARUC’s definition. However, the report has a particular focus on the increasing penetration of net-metered solar — a topic that has pitted utilities and rooftop solar companies against each other.

The manual notes that net metering has created economic pressures, such as utility revenue erosion and cost recovery issues, as well as cost-shifting from DER to non-DER customers. Utilities frequently cite these issues, while solar advocates say net metering is critical to meeting consumer demand for clean energy, especially in nascent solar markets.

Debates fell along traditional lines at the NARUC meeting (video), although some parties underscored their willingness to collaborate. Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), acknowledged that solar companies rely on attaching technology to the grid, which has the potential to fuel conflict or create new opportunities. “We’re in favor of trying to find ways to work through these issues together,” he said.

While the event showed some progress on DER ratemaking solutions, Katherine Hamilton, principal at 38 North Solutions, noted there was also a sense of unease. Environmental groups and other solar advocates are concerned that the NARUC manual is coming together too quickly, and could enshrine a set of policy recommendations that undermine the DER market before it’s fully understood and analyzed.

“Let’s slow down a little bit; let’s not try to ram something through,” Hamilton said on this week’s Energy Gang podcast. “Because if you put something out and say, ‘This is the way it should be done,’ it’s really hard to change it once regulators adopt that.”

Support for cost-benefit studies

The NARUC report doesn’t include any specific recommendations, but does offer commentary on various policy options and factors for regulators to consider when designing rates related to customer-side resources. The current draft is a bit of a mixed bag for DER providers.

In a positive development for DER companies, the manual acknowledges the potential short- and long-term benefits offered by DERs and speaks favorably of conducting comprehensive value of resources (VOR) studies for DER systems to help with ratemaking.

“It is important to value both positive and negative factors for each of the categories of costs/benefits to ensure neutrality,” the guide states. “This method attempts to recognize potential benefits to the grid, other customers, and/or society.”

Solar advocates have fought hard for state regulators to include the benefits of DERs — and not only the costs — in their decision-making. Ahead of the NARUC meeting, a group of solar and tech organizations and companies released a paper describing the range of benefits DERs can provide to all consumers. In comments submitted to NARUC, The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) called for long-term studies to explore the value of a given DER and how to fairly compensate it.

The NARUC manual states that because VOR studies value costs and benefits in an inclusive and transparent manner, the results may be more acceptable to all parties. However, there is still a debate to be had over which factors to include in the calculation and how to weigh them.

According to Kavulla, some factors fall outside of the regulatory purview, and gave the example of distributed energy employment studies. “With all due respect to those studies, that’s not how rates are made,” he said, adding that rates do not reflect how many jobs a power plant provides.

“Frankly, some cost-benefit studies might be useful to legislators that want to set policy or decide how big they allow distributed generation to be, but that’s not the game that we’re in,” Kavulla added.

The types of DER benefits regulators are likely to consider are things that affect a customer’s utility bill, including the value of energy production, a resource’s capacity contribution to the grid, and any deferred distribution or transmission investments. The cost of carbon may also be considered in some jurisdictions.

Support for data-driven analysis

In addition to VOR studies, the NARUC manual calls for a detailed analysis on the operations and physical characteristics of a given utility’s distribution system, including the level of DER adoption. “In any evaluation, the utility’s specific characteristics and their most likely reaction to any rate design changes must be clearly and thoroughly determined before questions and challenges from DERs are addressed through ratemaking changes,” the guide states.

This statement seeks to discourage regulators from acting on assumptions. The manual specifically states that jurisdictions with low DER penetration and growth have time to plan and avoid “unnecessary policy reforms simply to follow suit with actions other jurisdictions have taken.”

More than 30 environmental, consumer, low-income and ratepayer advocate groups published a letter to NARUC ahead of the annual meeting with recommendations on the regulatory process, including a call for rate design to be done in a “mindful, holistic way that is informed by substantiating data.” In this respect, the manual document addresses one of the main concerns brought by DER supporters.

“The manual generally urges caution on sweeping rate design reform due to the level of DER penetration in a given state,” said Rusty Haynes, energy policy research manager at EQ Research. “It says you have to look closely at the data and analysis in a utility’s service territory before imposing some sweeping rate design reform.”

“It’s nice to hear NARUC say that,” he said. “We’ve certainly seen several utilities try to impose charges with flimsy data or no data at all.”

Proactive regulatory reform?

Haynes cited Kansas and Oklahoma as examples of states that sought to lower compensation for distributed solar, though solar penetration in those markets is negligible. And in both recent cases, the utilities’ proposed changes were rejected or withdrawn.

Kavulla said that regulators and other stakeholders in states that seek to change DER compensation prematurely could end up paying more for the regulatory proceeding than the total amount of the DER cost shift. However, rates are also meant to convey a forward price signal that encourages people to take a certain action in future.

“Prices in utility ratemaking are used to recover historically invested costs,” he said. “But here it’s a little tricky, because if you really think the utility industry is on the cusp of an epic change, [regulators] probably do want to make sure that prices for the technologies in question are forward-looking — that they represent benefits net of costs over the medium to long run.”

If regulators are looking to stay ahead of the game but also avoid taking early action, Haynes questioned why the NARUC manual didn’t directly address the ability for regulators to proactively initiate broad rate reform proceedings, as with New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision undertaking.

“The alternative is to keep sitting back and watching utility proposals roll in, then having contentious cases that drag on for months and months and drain everybody’s resources,” he said. “That’s one big issue I was surprised not to see in [the manual].”

When the issue was put to Kavulla, he said that some commissions simply don’t have the resources or legal authority to launch their own in-depth proceedings. But he said he wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of jurisdictions begin studying alternative DER compensation methodologies in the near future as the penetration of net-metered devices grows.

“I wouldn’t be surprised over the scope of time to see commissions begin more dockets on [DERs], and this manual is supposed to be useful for those states,” he said.

In the meantime, the manual itself could see more discussion added on New York’s REV proceeding and the compensation proposals submitted to date.

“Many unknowns” of demand charges

One of the favored DER rate changes for utilities in some states, such as Arizona, is to introduce residential demand charges. Demand charges are based on a customer’s highest average usage over a given period of time and can help to reduce peak load, saving customers money. But they’re widely believed to have negative consequences for distributed solar and other DERs.

The NARUC report notes that the success of residential demand charges largely depends on how they are designed and implemented, but in general, there are “many unknowns and uncertainty.”

“If you set a price to encourage or discourage an action, it’s a pretty important consideration whether or not a customer can meaningfully respond to price signals,” said Kavulla. “At the moment, not only do we not necessarily have metering infrastructure to convey that demand cost signal, but people don’t have the kind of retail visibility on their demand consumption that would be necessary in many cases.”

“But if we’re talking about transforming the energy future, it’s probably reasonable to try out pilot projects to test those rate designs,” he added.

At the NARUC meeting, SEIA’s Gallagher said his organization appreciated the association’s treatment of demand charges and generally agrees they are “unproven.” Solar companies are also likely to welcome NARUC’s statement that although higher fixed charges accomplish the goal of utility revenue stability, “they may result in uneconomic or inefficient price signals.”

TASC, one of the most influential rooftop solar advocacy groups, made the case in its NARUC filing that there are better ways to ensure rates match the true value of DERs. The group continued to push for long-term cost-benefit studies and maintaining robust net-metering programs, but also proposed voluntary time-of-use rates and a minimum bill approach as policy tools to bridge the gap between stakeholders.

“TASC is now coming to the table in several states with proactive suggestions for discussions about rate design changes,” Andrew Newbold, public policy manager at Sunrun, wrote in an email. “We are are looking to collaborate and work with key stakeholders to bring positive, fair change for all.”

Earlier this month, the leader of TASC, which is spearheaded by Sunrun, was fired from the position. Bryan Miller led TASC through numerous proceedings and succeeded in upholding pro-solar policies in dozens of states, but was known for taking a hard-line stance. TASC’s comments at NARUC seem to suggest the organization is now taking a more collaborative approach.

Meanwhile, utility stakeholders held fast on their policy positions at the NARUC event. Lisa Wood, executive director of the Edison Foundation’s Institute for Electric Innovation, maintained that net metering is a subsidy and a “zero-sum game,” and insisted that alternatives are necessary. Barbara Lockwood, vice president of regulation for Arizona Public Service, argued in defense of “technology-agnostic” residential demand rates, which she said stand to benefit all ratepayers.

David Owens, executive vice president of business operations and regulatory affairs at the Edison Electric Institute, called on regulators not to rule out any rate options prematurely, underscoring that rates need to focus on equity, revenue stability and transparency.

“None of those [rate] approaches should be taken off the table,” he said at the NARUC town hall last Saturday. “In fact, I would strongly encourage NARUC to continue this discussion, this dialogue and even to expand it a bit to look at the very important issue of integrated distribution system planning.”

More to discuss?

There are a number of other issues that stakeholders may seek to address as they file reply comments to the draft NARUC manual over the coming weeks.

For one thing, the report recommends that regulators consider grandfathering, but does not offer a ringing endorsement of the practice. The manual acknowledges that grandfathering offers customers rate stability and is the most convenient transition solution, but also states that keeping some customers on existing rates may be unfair to others. This finding could be cause for some concern in light of the grandfathering controversy unfolding in Nevada.

Furthermore, the manual raises concerns around predatory lending by DER providers and the need for customer protections, as well as the need for targeted low-income customer programs. These issues aren’t addressed in detail, but could see greater treatment in future discussions.

Some stakeholders may also seek more granularity on NARUC’s definition of DERs and what policy recommendations apply to different DER technologies. The association takes the term to include energy efficiency, combined heat and power systems and energy storage, and yet some of the policy recommendations appear to apply only to rooftop solar. This is relevant when considering a separate rate class for DER customers. Should electric-vehicle owners and households with LED lights be on the same rates as solar customers?

“It seems like NARUC needs to break down the term ‘DERs’ and be more specific with what technologies they’re referring to when they’re advising utility regulators,” said Haynes.

The ability for utilities to own DERs is another issue related to DER compensation, but it isn’t fleshed out in the manual.

“There are policy questions about what degree to allow utilities to enter this market, but that’s another regulatory consideration that doesn’t get comprehensive treatment in the manual because it’s a ratemaking manual alone,” said Kavulla. He added that the issue will likely be flagged in the final version, “but that’s probably a discussion for another day.”


Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Editor - July 30, 2016 at 6:03 am

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Community Solar and Barbecue: The Devil Is in the Details

Last year, we published a three-part series about community solar as offered by regulated utilities. These articles focused on key program design decisions; many of those discussions are just as relevant now as they were last year. But today I’d like to take the conversation up a level and talk about all the different varieties of community solar.

Reports about community solar usually begin with a definition such as this one provided by NREL: “a solar-electric system that provides power and/or financial benefit to multiple community members.” Agreed. But that definition leaves considerable room for various forms of community solar, and I think we’re still collectively struggling to find common language to describe these different types of community solar. Calling all variations of community solar by one generic term is sort of like calling all varieties of barbecue just of “barbecue” with no way to differentiate between North Carolina, Kansas City or Texas barbecue. Although they all have some common elements, there are fundamental differences as well — from ingredients to cooking style to condiments. So too with community solar. In this article, we offer a framework for thinking about the varieties of community solar programs across the country.

The most significant dichotomy in community solar programs is between those offered in regulated versus competitive retail markets. Let’s discuss each of these electricity markets and the varieties of community solar that are offered in each.

Community Solar offerings in regulated markets

In fully regulated utility service territories, there is a single (almost always) vertically integrated utility, serving all customers. Regardless of whether the utility is investor-owned, a municipal or a cooperative, there are a few different types of community solar operating.

Utility-led: In these cases the utility has decided to offer community solar to customers on its own, and in most of these cases, the utility has made a policy decision (or been directed by their commission) to ensure that program participants cover the full cost of offering the program. In practice, this often means that the community solar is offered at a price premium, and that energy price is fixed for the time the customer stays in the program. Customers can usually make renewable energy claims (because they keep the REC). Examples include Rocky Mountain Power and Consumers Energy.   

Third-party-led: In this model, some sort of legislative or regulatory intervention creates a market for private companies to offer community solar within a utility’s service territory. In these instances, the utility typically pays either a full retail rate or something close to it for the energy from the system, and the third party is then able to offer solar power to customers at a savings to traditional utility rates. In return, the utility is able to use the RECs to meet RPS requirements. Colorado is a poster child for this structure, and it’s where community solar first gained real traction in the market.       

All of the above: Until last month, California was an outlier with legislation that mandated that the regulated utilities offer community solar and created the framework for third-party community solar providers to acquire and service customers in the utilities’ service territories. In April of this year, Oregon joined California, passing legislation directing the Public Utility Commission to finalize rules that will allow the regulated utilities to offer community solar programs while also allowing third parties to provide community solar to customers of the regulated utility. As one would expect, the relative success of these programs in both states will be defined by how the final rules are structured — the higher the rate for energy provided to the solar facility, the more successful the program will likely be.

Community solar in competitive markets

For those of you who spend all your time in the western or southern U.S., it’s easy to forget that retail competition (with varying levels of actual competition) is alive and well in many states in the Northeast, a few states in the Midwest, and in Texas. In these competitive markets, there is a distribution utility that sends out monthly bills and acts as a default provider, but customers can buy energy from a number of retail providers. Community solar is an interesting new option in this world. But, it is important to note, currently it only works when there is an incentive for the solar that makes it price-competitive. With rapidly falling solar prices, this will surely change in coming years, but for now, the vast majority of capacity installed for community solar products in competitive states receive energy payments well above rates paid to other energy resources.

There are two common ways to provide an incentive for community solar developers. One is to allow developers to pass through net metering credits to end-use customers. These credits are often valued at the full retail rate for every kilowatt-hour of energy generated. A second option is to agree on the value of solar provided to the grid by the system and then compensate community solar developers at this rate. The value of solar is a rate negotiated with state regulators; not surprisingly, the higher it is, the more appealing community solar is to potential buyers. In both cases, the developer is most likely selling the REC to someone else so the customer is not receiving the renewable energy attributes of the electricity produced. These products are predicated on providing a financial benefit to customers, rather than solar energy.

Community solar has many variations. Some programs are are granted sizable incentives, some are not. Some are small, some are relatively large. Some transfer the renewable energy attributes to the customer, some do not. Depending on the details of each program, customer interest and acquisition costs can vary widely. And just like good barbecue, the details (or ingredients) matter — especially when we review case studies and best practices and seek to apply lessons learned from one program to another. As the market matures, we should get more specific with our language so that when we are comparing programs, we’re talking about the same type of community solar.


Adam Capage is the vice president of community solar at 3Degrees, a B Corp that provides renewable energy services to utilities, government agencies, universities and corporations.


Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Editor - at 6:03 am

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NextEra Will Go Deeper Into Texas and Buy Oncor for $18B

NextEra Energy is the lucky bidder to buy Texas distribution utility Oncor in a deal valued at $18.4 billion.

Oncor’s parent company, Energy Future Holdings, has been in bankruptcy for more than two years. It is one of the largest bankruptcies in American history. NextEra will acquire all of the equity of a reorganized Energy Future Holdings, including its 80 percent stake in Oncor. Energy Future Holdings’ power plants and retail business will be spun off to creditors. 

Bidding had been robust for Oncor, with interest from energy companies and others including Berkshire Hathaway, Edison International, Hunt Consolidated and Fidelity Investments.

For NextEra and Oncor, it is a chance to move on after other deals have recently fallen apart. For Oncor, it seemed like Hunt Consolidated was going to move forward, but then that company withdrew its bid in May due to regulatory restrictions. Earlier this month, NextEra was summarily denied its bid in a 2-0 vote to acquire Hawaiian Electric Industries after nearly two years of jockeying for ownership of HECO.

Both deals were not necessarily a natural fit, while NextEra and Oncor are a better-suited relationship. Though Hunt Consolidated is a Texas company, bringing a distribution utility into something that looked like a REIT structure seemed bizarre and too complex to many people, including regulators.

In Hawaii, the public never really got behind NextEra. Regulators cited their belief that the deal was not in the public interest as one of the main reasons for rejecting it. NextEra may have learned something from that experience, offering a detailed list of bullet points in its press release about the benefits of the deal to Oncor and its customers.

It also helps that NextEra already has a presence in Texas as owner of the transmission provider Lone Star Transmission. NextEra also owns several wind farms and a natural-gas pipeline in the state. Additionally, NextEra owns Florida Power & Light, another utility that has experience dealing with hurricanes and strong storms. NextEra touted the fact that FPL customers have the lowest electric bills in Florida and that the utility is among the most reliable in the U.S.

“NextEra Energy’s proven track record of providing affordable, reliable electric service for customers complements Oncor’s operational strengths, and is at the core of why we believe this transaction will be a significant benefit for Oncor and for Texas,” Jim Robo, chairman and CEO of NextEra, said on an investor call.

There has been a steady stream of energy companies buying up regulated distribution utilities in recent years. While NextEra Resources does not have any coal in its portfolio and two-thirds of its generation mix is wind, regulated utility assets are an attractive part of a diversified energy company to offset the volatility of wholesale markets.

Earlier this year, Exelon’s merger with Pepco was approved, and Exelon is also hedging its generation with a recent purchase of energy retailer ConEdison Solutions. In 2012, Duke bought Progress Energy to form the largest utility in the U.S. shortly after Exelon merged with Constellation.

When NextEra’s acquisition of Oncor is complete, NextEra Energy is expected to have combined assets of $102 billion, up from $82 billion today. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2017.


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Searing Kuwait Temp Could Rank Among World’s Hottest

The Middle East is no stranger to scorching heat, but a recent heat wave sent temperatures soaring to heights that are rarely seen even there. On July 21, Mitribah, Kuwait, recorded a temperature of 129.2°F (54°C) during the height of the heat wave.

If it checks out, that will be the second hottest temperature ever measured in the Eastern Hemisphere.

Temperatures across the Middle East in the midst of a heat wave on July 21, 2016.
Click image to enlarge. Credit:

As the world continues to heat up due to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such record heat becomes more likely as heat waves become more frequent and more extreme, posing a risk to public health, particularly when combined with high humidity.

“Given the observed trend globally in breaking temperatures records more frequently in the last two decades, we can expect to see more record setting in the future in the region and elsewhere,” Omar Baddour, head of the World Meteorological Organization’s climate data and monitoring program, said in an email.

Thermal Lows and Record Highs

Summer is always very hot across the Middle East, with July temperatures typically falling in the 100°-113°F (38°-45°C) range, Baddour said.

But earlier this month, temperatures soared even higher due to a meteorological phenomenon called a thermal low. This low pressure system is the result of the land heating up rapidly from the sun’s rays when compared to its surroundings.

The air above the surface heats up and, because it is less dense than the air around it, rises, creating an area of low pressure. (Unlike the low pressure systems that bring stormy weather, these systems have a weak circulation.)


Thermal lows can travel over large distances and can bring heat waves that cover a widespread area.

“The heat wave system associated with the thermal low covered much of the Middle East, Iran and southern Afghanistan,” Baddour said. “The dome of the heat wave was located in Kuwait, southern Iraq and northern Saudi Arabia. This explains the existence of the maximum values in Kuwait and Iraq.”

Topography also a plays a role, as higher elevations heat up faster than the air around them, and the highest temperatures were recorded in some of the area’s highlands.

Besides Kuwait, other extreme temperatures that were recorded during the heat wave included 129°F (53.9°C) in Basra, Iraq, on July 22, and 109°F and 116°F in southern Morocco, according to the WMO.

More Records in Store

As greenhouse gases continue to build up in the atmosphere from human activities, the Earth’s average temperature continually rises. That means the baseline temperature that heat waves today occur against is higher, meaning it is easier to set record hot temperatures (and harder to hit record cold ones).

In the Middle East, “values near or equaling 50°C are beyond the norms, but they have become more frequent in the past years,” Baddour said.

Daily low temperatures have been even more affected, with low temperatures staying at record high levels and doing so at an even faster pace than record highs.

How rising temperatures affect extreme heat.
Click image to enlarge.

These rising temperatures have a major impact on human health. When temperatures stay elevated at night, the body doesn’t get time to recover from the day’s highs. The threat becomes even more acute when humidity is also high, as the combination stresses the body’s natural coping mechanism by blocking the evaporation of sweat.

A study last October showed that the Middle East is a region of major concern for this combination in a hotter future. While it is typically associated with dry desert heat, cities in coastal areas of the region can experience sky-high humidity thanks to the exceptionally warm waters of the Persian Gulf. A heat wave last year combined with humidity sent the heat index in Bandar Mahshahr, Iran, to a mind-boggling 163°F (72.8°C).

The study found that in the future, heat waves capable of reaching the theoretical limit of what the human body can cope with will happen several times in the last decades of this century if greenhouse gas emissions aren’t curbed.

Double Checking

Before the temperature in Kuwait can take its place in the record books, it must be validated by the WMO officials responsible for making sure temperature measurements around the world are accurate.

“One of the key aspects of our WMO Archive of Weather & Climate Extremes is to make sure that the weather observations taken around the world are good enough to stand the strongest available examination,” Randall Cerveny, the WMO rapporteur on weather and climate extremes, said in an email.

Cerveny and his colleagues will be investigating whether the equipment that made the measurement was properly calibrated and sited, and that the operator was properly trained.


Temps of 54°C in Kuwait and Iraq last week. #Climatechange means more, stronger #heatwaves

— WMO | OMM (@WMO) July 26, 2016


One factor they consider, whether the temperature jibes with those measured in the surround areas, seems to check out with this case.

If it is validated, a process that could take between six months and a year, it will be second only to the temperature of 131°F (55°C) measured in Kebili, Tunisia, on July 7, 1933.

Some meteorologists doubt the veracity of that measurement (along with the world record holder 134°F measured in Death Valley, Calif., in 1913), but clear evidence of error would have to be brought to the WMO to remove them from the top spots.

That is what happened to the former world record holder, a reported temperature of 136°F measured in Libya in 1922. During a two-year investigation (delayed by the revolution and civil war there), the WMO showed that the instrument that made that measurement was improperly sited and likely operated by an inexperienced person.

“The quality of our weather information is only as good as the quality of the equipment and personnel who are measuring it,” Cerveny said.


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California heat brings energy efficiency alert

Operators of California’s power grid have issued a so-called Flex Alert calling for energy conservation due to high temperatures in the state 


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Mississippi Power announces additional $9 million Kemper overrun

Mississippi Power Co. says it will spend another $9 million on its overrun-plagued Kemper County power plant, pushing its total cost toward $6.8 billion 


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National Grid recommends Itron for advanced metering across Massachusetts

The utility has proposed use of Itron’s OpenWay smart grid platform to meet the AMF objectives of its Grid Modernization Plan in Massachusetts 


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Wind, nuclear advance as N.Y. moves ahead with energy plan

Several big decisions in the next few weeks could fill in some of the details about how the state will meet Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s renewable energy standard  


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Connecticut council signs off on 485 MW Bridgeport Harbor project

Unit 5 would include one General Electric 7HA.02 gas turbine


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