Puerto Rico's Utility PREPA Plans To Divide Island Into Renewable Energy Microgrids

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After the catastrophe caused by 2017’s Hurricane Maria, many Puerto Ricans were left without electricity for months. Now, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) has put forward a plan to radically reform electricity access on the Caribbean island .

The latest draft of the integrated resource plan (IRP) has been greeted with mixed reactions by environmentalists and clean energy advocates. Like many Caribbean islands, Puerto Rico has long depended on electricity generated from imported fossil fuels. The new plan has a heavy emphasis on utility-owned solar energy with battery storage but also involves constructing three new terminals for the importation of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to be burned to generate electricity.

A worker stands in a cherry picker while fixing power lines on a utility pole in the town of Limones, Yabucoa, Puerto Rico.© 2018 Bloomberg Finance LP

The Sierra Club de Puerto Rico has celebrated the movement towards renewable energy, although the organization remains vociferously against the planned privatization of PREPA. The NGO’s Environmental Justice Organizer, Adriana Gonzales, is blunt about the problems facing Puerto Rico.

In a recent Sierra Club statement on the IRP, Gonzales notes that “during Hurricane Maria hundreds of people died simply because they couldn’t keep their insulin refrigerated, or their oxygen machines running. We need the solar and storage in this plan so we can protect health and safety through the next hurricane with distributed, reliable energy infrastructure. I’m also proud to see my island taking the lead in addressing the climate crisis. Puerto Rico, a small island burdened by punitive debt obligations, could soon be leading the U.S. in the adoption of new solar technology.”

What’s Next For Puerto Rico?

In the IRP, PREPA lays out the future development and recovery of the islands’ electricity grid for the next 20 years. The move should allow for the better allocation of resources and for the utility to improve its service to the public. In addition, it notes what factors may impact the future supply of electricity such as new regulations, physical assets, and risks from natural disasters.

P.J. Wilson, President of the Solar and Energy Storage Association of Puerto Rico, greeted the announcement with caution saying that, PREPA’s initial filing of their IRP could be a step in the right direction, but it only marks the beginning of a long formal process where stakeholders will intervene to encourage its eventual certification by the Energy Bureau. We are glad to see the draft plan includes a focus on shifting towards decentralized generation and anticipates the growth of solar and storage. We will be working to ensure the final IRP complies with all of the aggressive targets being set by the new 100% renewable energy requirements, which we hope will soon be signed into law.

 Read Also: The New Age Of Electricity – Utilities In 2019

The proposals offer a pathway to divide the island into eight connected regional “mini-grids” . Each of the regional grids would be interconnected, but also capable of generating its own power and functioning independently in the event of a natural disaster.  Each mini-grid would be further broken down into smaller microgrids, which could function autonomously to service a small community. There would be further microgrids built in remote regions of Puerto Rico that are not easily accessed by transmission lines.

The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) building stands in San Juan, Puerto Rico.© 2016 Bloomberg Finance LP

The implementation of the microgrids aims to help communities prepare themselves for future hurricanes, and also maintain the country at the forefront of the use of clean energy. The government of Puerto Rico seeks to improve the resilience of the island to future climate events through the implementation of cutting-edge technology and revolutionizing the traditional utility model.

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló endorsed the decentralized model as part of his “New Vision for Puerto Rico” speech at the Aspen Ideas Festival last year saying, “We want to lower the costs. This is a major driver of economic growth. We want distributed generation. We want microgrids everywhere within the island. This is an opportunity to leapfrog into the future and create an Energy 2.0.” 

Achieving Energy Independence

The IRP contains plans for the largest solar and battery storage project in the United States to date, with over 2220MW of solar energy backed up by 1080MW of storage. As the entire US electricity grid currently include just 1031MW of storage, this is an unprecedented feat in the region and ten times bigger than the much-discussed South Australia energy storage project installed by Tesla last year.

 Read Also: 10 Powerful Women Leading Jamaica’s Sustainability Movement

The IRP includes the phasing-out of coal and oil to generate electricity, with benefits to both public health and air quality. However, it is not a move to 100% renewable energy. The plan includes an increase in natural gas imports, which campaigners argue should not be seen as a cleaner alternative. In fact, leakages of methane are 87 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year time period.

Noticeably absent from the IRP is a move to encourage homeowners to install domestic solar and storage systems, which could threaten the utility’s profits further. However, some homeowners with the financial resources available have left the grid, fearing a future storm could leave them without power once again.

But, PREPA needs to find a model that keeps the company profitable while also offering an improved service. The threat of utility death spiral looms. If more consumers defect from the grid, it reduces the demand for electricity. For the company, the fixed costs remain the same inevitably forcing them to raise prices, which in turn encourages more people to leave the grid. The downward spiral ultimately could lead to bankruptcy for a utility with many negative implications for its remaining customers. PREPA argues that the solutions in the IRP give a stronger future for itself and the island as a whole.

For longer than most can remember, Puerto Ricans have paid some of the highest energy costs in the U.S. to a notoriously unreliable utility that neglected their grid for years and runs fossil-fuel plants that may be damaging their lungs.© 2017 Bloomberg Finance LP

Building A Resilient Electricity System

Almost all of Puerto Rico’s electricity generation is located along the island’s south coast, but the majority of the load demand is in the north in the greater San Juan area and surrounding resort communities. By decentralizing the generation, PREPA aims to avoid the repeat of the outages of recent years with generation distributed across the island.

↪ Read Also: 6 Renewable Energy Trends To Watch In 2019

With these fundamental changes proposed by PREPA, Puerto Rico can minimize the possibility of another disaster on the scale of Hurricane Maria, which had a death toll of almost 3,000 peoplePuerto Rico has an opportunity to pioneer new grid technology that could improve lives for local people and be a model for the world to replicate. The IRP is the start of a long reform and the rebuild will require substantial investment. But the results and benefits will not only improve the economy of the country or be friendly to the environment but will give more security and stability to its citizens.

For more information on sustainable development follow James’ newsletter Island Innovation by clicking here. Be sure to follow @jellsmoor on Twitter and Facebook for updates.

Chenango County earns clean energy designation

CHENANGO COUNTY – After months of working towards a clean energy community designation through New York State, Chenango County officials announced the county met the requirements and was recognized for its efforts by New York State.

According to county officials, Chenango County has been designated a Clean Energy Community by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), recognizing its leadership in reducing energy use, cutting costs and driving clean energy locally.

Announced by Governor Cuomo in August 2016, the $16 million Clean Energy Communities initiative supports local government leaders across the state by providing grants to eligible municipalities to implement energy efficiency, renewable energy and sustainable development projects in their communities.

Officials said Clean Energy Communities advances the Governor’s Reforming the Energy (REV) strategy by demonstrating the importance of communities in helping New York reach its Clean Energy Standard mandate of having half of the state’s electricity coming from renewable energy resources by 2030.

Chenango County received the designation for completing four of 10 high-impact clean energy actions identified by NYSERDA as part of the Clean Energy Communities initiative, said officials. In addition, they added, the designation gives Chenango County an opportunity to apply for up to $150,000 toward additional clean energy projects, with no local cost share.

Chairman of the Chenango County Board of Supervisors Lawrence N. Wilcox spoke on the designation and said he was proud of the progress Chenango County made towards clean energy.

“We are proud to have Chenango County be designated a Clean Energy Community. Various County Departments, including Planning and Development, the Code Enforcement Division of Public Health, and Public Facilities, along with other partner organizations along the way, have worked hard to complete the four action items necessary for designation,” said Wilcox. “We look forward to using this opportunity to make our County Offices more energy efficient and environmentally friendly.”

President and CEO of NYSERDA Alicia Barton also spoke on the designation and said Chenango County’s recent designation is an example of how communities are stepping up to build a cleaner New York.

“The County of Chenango’s designation is the latest example of how communities in every corner of the state are stepping up to help build a cleaner, more sustainable New York,” said Barton. “I applaud the County for joining Governor Cuomo’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, lowering energy costs, and ensuring the state meets our nation-leading renewable energy goals.”

To earn the Clean Energy Community designation, Chenango County completed the following high-impact clean energy actions:

• Adopted a benchmarking policy to track energy usage at all County-owned buildings over 1,000 square feet.

• Participated in a community-based Solarize campaign with Southern Tier Solar Works to reduce solar project costs through joint purchasing.

• Streamlined the local approval processes for solar projects through adoption of the New York State Unified Solar Permit.

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How Walt Disney World plans to run on clean energy

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Epcot's Daredevil Circus Spectacular, at Walt Disney World Resort

Epcot’s Daredevil Circus Spectacular, at Walt Disney World Resort

…Climate change is bad for business. But as I’ve seen firsthand, companies that invest in clean energy, engage customers in sustainability efforts and leverage their influence to drive smart policies can turn a downside risk into tangible cost-savings, customer retention and global leadership.Forbes

Many of Walt Disney’s original plans for Disney World, in Orlando, Florida, were scrapped shortly after his death in 1966. Disney envisioned EPCOT (short for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow), for instance, as a hotbed for scientific research and a model for energy and material conservation. While EPCOT in its current form produces its own food and some of its own energy, it is a far cry from Disney’s original vision.

Walt Disney announcing his plan for the Florida Project, which includes EPCOT. 1965.

But more than fifty years later, a series of changes are making serious headway at the worldwide destination. Angie Renner, an Environmental Integration Director at Walt Disney World Resort, spoke with Jake Hiller of the Environmental Defense Fund about the theme park’s initiatives. “Today,” Renner stated, “we are striving towards three main environmental goals: divert 60 percent of our waste from landfills by 2020, reduce net emissions 50 percent (from 2012 levels) by 2020, and reduce water consumption across the board.”

Living with the Land ride, at Walt Disney World’s EPCOT.

Renner ran through some of the surprising energy figures of the park in its current form: “One of my favorite large-scale LED projects that we have here is when we light up the Cinderella Castle with 170,000 LED lights for the holidays – it only uses the energy of about four coffee pots.” Renner also indicated that a 270-acre solar facility is about to be installed just outside the property lines, with enough energy to power 10,000 homes annually.


These countries are leading the charge to clean energy

The Earth is edging ever closer to a point of no return, with a joint statement issued during the COP24 climate conference calling for “decisive action” on climate change within the next two years.

Most nations have taken on the challenge to switch from a reliance on fossil fuels to a sustainable energy system – some faster than others.

A recent Carbon Brief report written by E4tech and Imperial College London and published by Drax has ranked 25 major world economies on their efforts (or lack thereof) in the transition to clean energy.

Green and clean

Clean electricity underpins almost all efforts to shift towards a decarbonized future. In 2017, the global average carbon intensity of electricity was 450 gCO2/kWh. Of the 16 major countries below that average, the United Kingdom showed the fastest transition to decarbonization.

Image: Drax/E4tech/Imperial College London

Despite consuming the most electricity per year, China and the United States (6,500 TWh and 4,250 TWh respectively) also reduced their carbon intensities in 2017. Indeed, if they could both match the reductions made by the UK, global emissions would fall by 9%.

Renewable ambitions are limited in part to the generating and storage capacities of each country. In the last decade, an extra 1,125 GW of capacity has been installed worldwide. Germany leads the way, having installed almost 1 kW of renewable capacity per person in the given time period, and ranking 1st and 3rd for solar and wind capacity per person respectively. And Germany’s push towards renewables is part of a wider trend within Europe, with eight of the top 10 countries coming from the region – only Canada (5th) and Australia (10th) are from outside the region.

Image: Drax/E4tech/Imperial College London

Saying goodbye to coal

Renewable energy is not a new concept. But during the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries, the use of renewables like wind and water fell by the wayside because they were less efficient than coal and later oil in a world focused on progress.

Since then coal has remained the most polluting fuel for generating electricity. And in order to achieve a future in which we limit global warming to less than 2°C we’ll need to abandon it as an energy source.

In terms of which countries get the lowest percentage of their electricity from coal, Europe leads the way once again, boasting six of the top 10 nations.

Norway sits in first place with 0%. At the other end of the spectrum, three of the six countries at the bottom of the list are from Asia (Indonesia, China and India), although South Africa, which uses coal for almost 90% of its electricity, is placed last among the 25 nations assessed by the report.

When it comes to the transition from coal-based electricity production in the last decade, the pattern follows a similar trend to the change in carbon content; the UK and Denmark are ahead of the field. But the USA and China are making progress – both are in the top five, with 18% and 14% decreases respectively.

Image: Drax/E4tech/Imperial College London

The rise of EVs

At an individual level, as more people attempt to reduce their carbon footprints global sales of electric vehicles (EVs) are rising rapidly. Over 4.5 million electric vehicles are on the road, 1.2 million of which were purchased in 2017.

Despite this increase, only one country has plug-in vehicles reaching 10% of new sales. Norway has a staggering 47% EV share, reaping the rewards of having offered EV incentives since the 1980s.

Image: Drax/E4tech/Imperial College London

In total figures, China leads the way with over 2 million EVs on the roads, as well as 150,000 charging points. The US takes second place with 1 million, which means that China and the US alone make up almost three-quarters of the worldwide EV market.

Image: Drax/E4tech/Imperial College London

India, Indonesia, and China are responsible for the three largest increases in energy intensity of transport, with China topping out at 75%. Despite this, China and Indonesia also top the list of countries with the biggest percentage change in energy intensity of their industries, seeing a 30% drop within the last decade.

Image: Drax/E4tech/Imperial College London

As technology and public interest evolve, more governments are taking the advantageous steps of implementing energy efficiency policies in addition to improving renewable capacity and decarbonizing electricity generation.

But it’s clear the world still has a long way to go to achieve the targets set out in the Paris Agreement. Climate scientists estimate that if we don’t take drastic action to curb global warming before 2035 it’s unlikely that we will be able to limit global temperature rise to under 2C.

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Emissions-free energy system saves heat from the summer sun for winter

​A research group from Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, has made great, rapid strides towards the development of a specially designed molecule which can store solar energy for later use. These advances have been presented in four scientific articles this year, with the most recent being published in the highly ranked journal Energy & Environmental Science. 

Around a year ago, the research team presented a molecule that was capable of storing solar energy. The molecule, made from carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen, has the unique property that when it is hit by sunlight, it is transformed into an energy-rich isomer – a molecule which consists of the same atoms, but bound together in a different way.

This isomer can then be stored for use when that energy is later needed – for example, at night or in winter. It is in a liquid form and is adapted for use in a solar energy system, which the researchers have named MOST (Molecular Solar Thermal Energy Storage). In just the last year, the research team have made great advances in the development of MOST. 

“The energy in this isomer can now be stored for up to 18 years. And when we come to extract the energy and use it, we get a warmth increase which is greater than we dared hope for,” says the leader of the research team, Kasper Moth-Poulsen, in Nano Materials Chemistry at Chalmers.Professor Kasper Moth-Poulsen holding a tube containing the catalyst, in front of the ultra-high vacuum setup that was used to m

The research group have developed a catalyst for controlling the release of the stored energy. The catalyst acts as a filter, through which the liquid flows, creating a reaction which warms the liquid by 63 centigrades.  If the liquid has a temperature of 20°Celsius when it pumps through the filter, it comes out the other side at 83°Celsius. At the same time, it returns the molecule to its original form, so that it can be then reused in the warming system.

During the same period, the researchers also learned to improve the design of the molecule to increase its storage abilities so that the isomer can store energy for up to 18 years. This was a crucial improvement, as the focus of the project is primarily chemical energy storage. 

Furthermore, the system was previously reliant on the liquid being partly composed of the flammable chemical toluene. But now the researchers have found a way to remove the potentially dangerous toluene and instead use just the energy storing molecule. 

Taken together, the advances mean that the energy system MOST now works in a circular manner. First, the liquid captures energy from sunlight, in a solar thermal collector on the roof of a building. Then it is stored at room temperature, leading to minimal energy losses. When the energy is needed, it can be drawn through the catalyst so that the liquid heats up. It is envisioned that this warmth can then be utilised in, for example, domestic heating systems, after which the liquid can be sent back up to the roof to collect more energy – all completely free of emissions, and without damaging the molecule. 

“We have made many crucial advances recently, and today we have an emissions-free energy system which works all year around,” says Kasper Moth-Poulsen. 

The solar thermal collector is a concave reflector with a pipe in the centre. It tracks the sun’s path across the sky and works in the same way as a satellite dish, focusing the sun’s rays to a point where the liquid leads through the pipe. It is even possible to add on an additional pipe with normal water to combine the system with conventional water heating. 

The next steps for the researchers are to combine everything together into a coherent system. 

“There is a lot left to do. We have just got the system to work. Now we need to ensure everything is optimally designed,” says Kasper Moth-Poulsen.

The group is satisfied with the storage capabilities, but more energy could be extracted, Kasper believes. He hopes that the research group will shortly achieve a temperature increase of at least 110°Celsius and thinks the technology could be in commercial use within 10 years. 


More on: the advances behind the four scientific publications 

The research group has published four scientific articles on their breakthroughs around the energy system during 2018.

1. Removing the need for toluene to be mixed with the molecule. Liquid Norbornadiene Photoswitches for Solar Energy Storage in the journal Advanced Energy Materials. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/aenm.201703401

2. Increasing energy density and storage times. Molecular Solar Thermal Energy Storage in photoswitch oligomers increases energy densities and storage times in the journal Nature Communications. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-04230-8

3. Achieving energy storage of up to 18 years. Norbornadiene-based photoswitches with exceptional combination of solar spectrum match and long-term energy storage in Chemistry: A European Journal. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/chem.201802932

4. New record in how efficiently heating can be done. The liquid can increase 63C in temperature. Macroscopic Heat Release in a Molecular Solar Thermal Energy Storage System in the journal Energy and Environmental Science. https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlehtml/2018/ee/c8ee01011k

Science says: Get used to polar vortex outbreaks

WASHINGTON – It might seem counterintuitive, but the dreaded polar vortex is bringing its icy grip to the Midwest thanks to a sudden blast of warm air in the Arctic.

Get used to it. The polar vortex has been wandering more often in recent years.

It all started with misplaced Moroccan heat. Last month, the normally super chilly air temperatures 20 miles above the North Pole rapidly rose by about 125 degrees (70 degrees Celsius), thanks to air flowing in from the south. It’s called “sudden stratospheric warming.”

That warmth split the polar vortex, leaving the pieces to wander, said Judah Cohen, a winter storm expert for Atmospheric Environmental Research, a commercial firm outside Boston.

“Where the polar vortex goes, so goes the cold air,” Cohen said.

By Wednesday morning, one of those pieces will be over the Lower 48 states for the first time in years. The forecast calls for a low of minus 21 degrees (minus 29 Celsius) in Chicago and wind chills flirting with minus 65 degrees (minus 54 Celsius) in parts of Minnesota, according to the National Weather Service.

The unusual cold could stick around another eight weeks, Cohen said.

“The impacts from this split, we have a ways to go. It’s not the end of the movie yet,” Cohen said. “I think at a minimum, we’re looking at mid-February, possibly through mid-March.”

Americans were introduced to the polar vortex five years ago. It was in early January 2014 when temperatures dropped to minus 16 degrees (minus 27 Celsius) in Chicago and meteorologists, who used the term for decades, started talking about it on social media.

This outbreak may snap some daily records for cold and is likely to be even more brutal than five years ago, especially with added wind chill, said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the private weather firm Weather Underground.

Map explains the current Polar vortex; 2c x 5 inches; with ; ETA 2 p.m. ;© The Associated Press Map explains the current Polar vortex; 2c x 5 inches; with ; ETA 2 p.m. ;

When warm air invades the polar region, it can split the vortex or displace it, usually toward Siberia, Cohen said. Recently, there have been more splits, which increase the odds of other places getting ultra-cold, he said. Pieces of the polar vortex have chilled Europe, Siberia and North America this time. (It’s not right to call the frigid centre of cold air the polar vortex because it is just a piece or a lobe, not the entire vortex, said University of Oklahoma meteorology professor Jason Furtado.)

When the forces penning the polar vortex in the Arctic are weak, it wanders, more often to Siberia than Michigan. And it’s happening more frequently in the last couple decades, Furtado said. A study a year ago in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society looked at decades of the Arctic system and found the polar vortex has shifted “toward more frequent weak states.”

When the polar vortex pieces wander, warmth invades the Arctic, Alaska, Greenland and Canada, Masters said. While the Midwest chills, Australia has been broiling to record-breaking heat. The world as a whole on Monday was 0.7 degrees (0.4 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 1979-2000 average, according to the University of Maine’s Climate Reanalyzer.

Some scientists — but by no means most — see a connection between human-caused climate change and difference in atmospheric pressure that causes slower moving waves in the air.

“It’s a complicated story that involves a hefty dose of chaos and an interplay among multiple influences, so extracting a clear signal of the Arctic’s role is challenging,” said Jennifer Francis, a climate scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center. Several recent papers have made the case for the connection, she noted.

“This symptom of global warming is counterintuitive for those in the cross-hairs of these extreme cold spells,” Francis said in an email. “But these events provide an excellent opportunity to help the public understand some of the ‘interesting’ ways that climate change will unfold.”

Others, like Furtado, aren’t sold yet on the climate change connection.

Northern Illinois University meteorology professor Victor Gensini, who has already felt temperatures that seem like 25 degrees below zero, said there’s “a growing body of literature” to support the climate connection. But he says more evidence is needed.

“Either way,” Gensini said, “it’s going to be interesting being in the bullseye of the Midwest cold.”

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Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter at @borenbears .

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This Associated Press series was produced in partnership with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

New Survey Shows Americans Are Finally Coming to Terms With a Pivotal Scientific Truth

The US is wrapped in a cold and brutal winter. Some people have suggested this change of seasons is enough to deny decades of scientific fact, but new data shows the average American is not so naive.

As our planet rapidly warms at an unprecedented rate, the number of people who accept this reality has finally surged to record levels.

In December 2018, more than 7 in 10 Americans said they acknowledge that global warming is happening, the highest percentage recorded in the past decade, according to the Yale program on climate communication.

This means that those who are convinced by this pivotal scientific truth now outnumber deniers by more than 5 to 1.

Screen Shot 2019 01 23 at 11.02.48 amEstimated percentage of adults who think global warming is happening, 2018

What’s more, Americans are slowly coming around to the true source of these dramatic changes. By December 2018, those who thought this phenomenon was due entirely to natural causes dropped to just 23 percent, the lowest level since the survey began in 2008.

“After a year of devastating extreme events, dire scientific reports, and growing media coverage of climate change, a record number of Americans are convinced that human-caused global warming is happening, are increasingly worried, and say the issue is personally important to them,” says lead researcher Anthony Leiserowitz, a human geographer at Yale University.

It would be nice to think that public understanding can only improve with the years, but for a while there, things were not looking so good. In 2011, the proportion of Americans who were very worried by global warming hit its lowest point, just three years after the survey began.

Today, however, despite the number of climate change deniers in the White House, public understanding appears to be turning around. 

The most recent Yale survey – based on answers from 1,114 American adults – found that “the proportion of Americans who are very worried about global warming has more than tripled since its lowest point in 2011.”

Amid raging wildfires, extreme heat and destructive hurricanes, more and more people are starting to see climate change for what it truly is. Last year, for instance, 65 percent of those surveyed acknowledged that climate change is affecting weather in their nation.

“Global warming used to be viewed as a problem distant in time and space,” said one of the researchers, Ed Maibach, a climate change and public health communications expert at George Mason University.

“But Americans increasingly understand that global warming is here and now and are growing concerned about the threat to themselves, their communities and the nation.”

The findings are cause for celebration, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Even though the vast majority of Americans accept the reality of global warming, only six in ten think these changes are mostly caused by human activity.

And while more than half of Americans understand the scientific consensus on human-caused global warming, less than a quarter know that almost all climate scientists (more than 90 percent) agree on this truth.

Screen Shot 2019 01 23 at 10.34.19 am

This is an extremely important point as expert consensus is often called a ‘gateway belief‘, leading to greater public support for climate action.

“… when in doubt about scientific facts, people are likely to use consensus among domain experts as a heuristic to guide their beliefs and behavior,” concludes a 2013 study on this very topic.

With US carbon emissions once again on the rise, convincing the public of this dire threat is of the utmost importance. It’s a relief to see public opinion is now heading in the right direction; let’s hope it’s not too late.

The report has been published online by the Yale program on climate communication.

These Islands Are Leading The Drive For Hydrogen Energy

Tucked away in Scotland’s far north is an archipelago steeped in history, its’ sandstone cliffs holding the secrets of Neolithic settlements, Viking raids and… renewable energy?

Read also: 5 Renewable Energy TED Talks To Start Your 2019

Orkney is the only place in the United Kingdom that generates its entire power supply from clean energy and has become one the most promising sites for low-carbon energy research in the world. Made up of seventy islands of which less than a third are inhabited, the 22,000 Orcadians who call the island group home long had to rely on the Scottish mainland’s coal and gas power plants for its energy. In 1980, the UK government decided to invest in wind power, designating Orkney as the first place to trial the new alternate power source. Across the British Isles uptake of wind energy was slow, but Britain wasn’t the only European power keen on testing the merits of renewable energy.

Coastline of the Orkney Isles in Scotland, which is harnessing its strong winds and powerful currents to generate renewable energy.Getty

Enter Denmark and Germany, who decided to invest millions into developing their own wind energy programs, leading the push for renewables – until now. Today, Orkney is home to 700 micro wind turbines producing over 120% of their electrical needs, the archipelago has become a poster child for sustainable development . The excess energy produced has led to a debate on how to appropriately use it. Although a cable connects to the mainland, it was designed to import energy to the islands and lacks the capacity to export all of the extra electricity generated. Many Orcadians have already traded in their diesel or petrol powered cars for electric ones, and several discussions were had regarding laying down new cables to the mainland to inject Orkney’s energy into the Scottish grid. But then they had an idea: why not turn it into fuel?

Read also: 6 Renewable Energy Trends To Watch In 2019

Hydrogen fuel has long been touted as the next big thing in alternative energy, it consists of splitting water molecules into their base components (oxygen and hydrogen), releasing the oxygen back into the atmosphere and storing the hydrogen gas as a liquid which can be used a fuel. Although a simple process, the sheer amount of energy needed to split water molecules is what has led to its slow development amongst alternate forms of energy. However, the excess energy produced by Orkney’s wind turbines has provided engineers with a rare opportunity to create and store hydrogen fuel on a larger scale than previously done before. The Surf ‘n’ Turf project in Orkney is the direct result of this, using the extra power on windy days. The energy used to produce the hydrogen is provided by the community-owned wind turbines on Shapinsay and Eday, two smaller islands in the archipelago that have a combined population of fewer than 500 people.

With the help of the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), Surf ‘n’ Turf endeavors to create and store hydrogen in large enough quantities to make it a viable fuel source for the ferries that provide the connection between Orkney and Scotland. EMEC has also been looking into the benefits of hydrogen fuel as a by-product of its own Orkney power project. Established in 2001, EMEC conducts leading research on ways to use waves and tides as a renewable energy source, and now counts a vast range of new technologies harvesting the ocean’s movements throughout the islands. The center has secured significant funds to increase the scale of its’ program with hopes that it could help produce enough power for 750,000 homes by 2020, with any excess energy being redirected to creating hydrogen fuel.

Read also: 2018: The Electric Vehicle Revolution Is Alive In Barbados

Orkney’s improbable rise as a leader in renewable energy is emphasized by its relative isolation. Closer to the Arctic Circle than it is to London, it is nestled as far away as possible from the hustle and bustle of lowland Scotland. But in an age where the world becomes increasingly interconnected, success stories like Orkney are likely to become more prevalent, as Laura Watt explores in detail in her book Energy at the End of the World: An Orkney Islands Saga.

“When people think of future technologies or innovation, they assume it has all got to be happening in cities,” Watts said during a recent interview for The Guardian. “ But this revolution in renewable energy is being done in a place that lies at the very edge of the nation .

Orkney is famous for its neolithic sites, but now renewable energy is making headlines.Getty

Buffeted by winds for thousands of years of human history, the coasts of Orkney are now putting pen to paper as they map out the future. Building on its past innovations in wind power, it has become one of the world’s leading hubs of renewable energy research and continues to take massive strides in marine renewables and zero-emissions fuel. With an increasing international push to decrease carbon emissions, Orkney is the model to aspire to and keep an eye on as it continues its journey into alternative energy sources and could serve as a template for other islands and cities looking to become more sustainable.

Huawei solar panels could threaten US grid, lawmakers warn | Financial Times

Huawei’s sales of solar equipment in the US threaten the entire American electricity grid, members of Congress have warned, in the latest rift between US politicians and the Chinese company.

Both Democrats and Republicans have said that Huawei solar equipment could be hacked to allow a third party to slow or even interrupt US electricity supplies.

Their warnings come just six weeks after Canadian officials arrested Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and daughter of founder Ren Zhengfei, in Vancouver on US charges of breaking sanctions against Iran. The move has exacerbated trade tensions between Beijing and Washington.

Tom Marino, a Democratic representative from Pennsylvania, wrote to Rick Perry, US energy secretary, saying he was “concerned that the company’s entrance into large-scale and residential solar markets may pose a threat to our nation’s infrastructure”.

Bob Latta, a Republican member of the House committee on energy and commerce, said: “Ensuring our energy infrastructure is safe, secure, and resilient is an issue of critical importance. With documented efforts by state actors to hack our energy infrastructure, it’s essential that we are more vigilant than ever about the technology we use.”

Jerry McNerney, a Democratic representative from California, said: “If we are using equipment that is made by less than trustworthy suppliers, we are setting ourselves up. US intelligence agencies have warned American businesses that Huawei is not to be trusted, so we need to take that seriously.”

Mr McNerney called on the Trump administration to compel Huawei to reveal exactly what is in the solar equipment it sells in the US.

Their move further increases the heat on Huawei, which has long been viewed with suspicion by US policymakers. Members of Congress and officials within the Trump administration have expressed concern that the company’s technology could be used by the Chinese government for spying or cyber attacks.

US officials have been lobbying allies in recent months to restrict Huawei’s sales of equipment for high-speed 5G telecoms networks, while prosecutors pursue their legal case against Ms Meng.

On Wednesday a bipartisan group of members of Congress launched a bill that would ban sales of US equipment to Chinese companies that violate US sanctions. Analysts say that if such a ban were to apply to Huawei, it could cripple the company’s global business.

Also on Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that federal prosecutors were pursuing a criminal investigation of Huawei for allegedly stealing trade secrets from its US business partners including T-Mobile. Huawei said it would “not comment on such reports”, adding that the company had settled its dispute with T-Mobile.

Earlier this week, Mr Ren, Huawei’s founder and president, issued a rare public statement denying his company had ever spied for China.

But these denials have not allayed the fears of members of Congress, who warn that the company poses a risk not just in the telecoms market but also with its sales of electrical equipment.

Huawei sells inverters, which help move the electricity produced by solar panels on to the grid. It currently accounts for about 20 per cent of all inverters sold in the US for small-scale commercial use, according to analysts.

The inverters also provide information to third parties about the amount of electricity passing through them, which has raised concerns that they can be accessed by those third parties and even shut down.

The company said there had been no vulnerabilities proven in their technology, but were willing to work with policymakers to carry out tests if requested.

Andy Purdy, chief security officer at Huawei Technologies USA, said: “There is no evidence, and I have never heard any specific allegation that there is any greater vulnerability in our products than anybody else’s.”

Bates Marshall, the general manager of the company’s US solar business, said: “Everything we do in the US is in accordance with cyber security rules.”

The US energy department did not respond to a request for comment.