New-Orleans-swears-in-its-first-female-mayor-continuing-the-trend-in-black-women-s-leadership
| May 9, 2018 | 9:18 pm | African American history, Local/State, political struggle | Comments closed

New Orleans swears in its first female mayor, continuing a new trend in black women’s leadership

New Orleans mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell talking to voters

LaToya Cantrell becomes the first female mayor in the history of New Orleans. 

On Monday, LaToya Cantrell will be sworn in as mayor of the city of New Orleans. As the city commemorates its 300th anniversary, Cantrell becomes the first woman mayor in its history. And she will also join two other mayors in the state, forming a trio of black women who lead Louisiana’s three largest cities.

This on its own is significant in a state as deeply conservative and red as Louisiana. But it also mirrors a pattern that is currently present in four other cities across the country. As The Washington Post writes:

Deep South Louisiana also will have two black women leading cities that rank in the top 100 by population, joining four other such cities nationwide: Atlanta, Baltimore, Charlotte and the District of Columbia. […]

Some experts and voters point to Louisiana’s deep challenges, which disproportionately affect minority communities, as being a driving force for change. Income, unemployment and life expectancy here lag behind most of the country, issues that have motivated the three mayors. Each said the idea of serving the public — especially the ability to improve the lives of those in their communities — has been a driving factor in their public lives.

This is where the Democratic Party and America can learn some important and valuable lessons. Black women are not just the base of the party that can be trusted to deliver votes that contribute to Democratic wins. We are also experienced and motivated members of the community who can be trusted to understand the needs of a variety of constituents and successfully lead. For decades, the Party has relied on us as voters but has failed to support black women candidates and recruit them to run for office.

But times and the political climate are changing, and this is long overdue. The examples in Louisiana as well other cities around the country show that black women can win elections. And there seems to be a willingness among people to vote for them, since they represent something different than the status quo.

As explained by The Washington Post:

Some voters in the three cities said they have grown tired of the usual candidates and want to give someone else — notably women — a shot at accomplishing what others have not.

“It’s probably happening because citizens have seen what a man can do in office, and it’s not been all good,” said Darren Broussard, 31, of Baton Rouge. “Why not put a woman in there and see if she can try some other things out?”

The other two black women that Cantrell joins in Louisiana Democratic leadership are Shreveport mayor Ollie Tyler and Baton Rouge mayor Sharon Weston Broome. Both grew up knowing that they inherited a complicated legacy, as black girls descended from families in the South. They have all resided in Louisiana for decades—though Cantrell and Weston Broome were not born there. All three women cite specific experiences in their respective communities that helped solidify their decisions to run for office. Each knows what its like to live through hardships, violence, racism, and sexism, and has turned a passion for preserving and protecting their communities into careers working on behalf of marginalized people. Cantrell is quoted in The Washington Post as saying the following:

“Being someone who comes from a very humble background and beginning, those are things you carry with you and that are a part of who you are,” Cantrell said. “You may see things a little differently because you are connected to them in a different way.”

The Democratic Party needs these important victories now more than ever. We have winnable races ahead in 2018 and 2020 if we focus our energy not just on voter turnout, but on the right candidates. Black women across the country are running for office and they are well-positioned to win and lead us toward a better future in a country that has seemingly gone mad. All it requires is investment, support, and trust.

LIVE UPDATES: Victory Day Military Parade Held in Russian Capital (VIDEO)
| May 9, 2018 | 9:10 pm | Russia, struggle against fascism | Comments closed

https://sputniknews.com/military/201805091064275368-victory-day-military-parade-2018/

BREAKING:
T-14 Armata tank during the final rehearsal of the Moscow military parade, dedicated to the WWII Victory Day in Europe.

LIVE UPDATES: Victory Day Military Parade Held in Russian Capital (VIDEO)

© Sputnik / Grigory Sysoev
Military & Intelligence

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2018 Victory Day Celebrations (20)
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The parade will consist of three major parts – the infantry march, the procession of armored vehicles and a fly past column, involving military helicopters and airplanes.

A military parade to honor the 73nd anniversary of the end of the Great Patriotic War is held on Moscow’s Red Square.

Among the 70+ aircraft set to take part in the aerial portion of this year’s parade is a pair of Sukhoi Su-57 stealth fighter jets, which will be making their parade debut. In addition to this, the Kinzhal hypersonic missile designed to preserve the global strategic balance, which was revealed earlier this year by Russian President Vladimir Putin, carried by the MiG-31 supersonic interceptor fighter, will also make its debut this year.

READ MORE: Five Things You Should Know About Victory Day Parade in Moscow

Trump is a liar, rogue, and thief
| May 8, 2018 | 8:21 pm | Analysis, Donald Trump, Iran | Comments closed

By A. Shaw

The decision of the reactionary bourgeois US regime to violate the terms of the Iranian nuclear deal further exposes Trump, the leader of this rogue US regime, as a liar, rogue, and thief.

THE LIAR
Trump lies when he says that Iran violates the nuclear deal. The US regime under the rule of Trump violates the deal.
THE ROGUE
Trump is a rogue because he acts outside and against the law.
Under Article 6 of the US Constitution, the Iranian deal is protected by the Supremacy Clause.
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States 
which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; 
and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, 
under the Authority of the United States
shall be the supreme Law of the Land.”
 
The deal is a treaty made under the authority of the United States.
 
THE THIEF
 
Trump is a thief because the goal of Trump and his closest supporters is to extort
cash and business from Iran and from Trump allies which are also parties to the Iranian deal.
USA/Africa: Achieving 100% Renewable Energy
| May 7, 2018 | 8:39 pm | Africa | Comments closed

USA/Africa: Achieving 100% Renewable Energy

AfricaFocus Bulletin May 7, 2018 (180507) (Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

“We can’t have a working nation or a world if we don’t stop the climate from careening out of control. That’s been clear for decades now, but what’s been less clear is precisely what we should do about it. Happily, that’s no longer the case. We now know exactly what to do, and we’re increasingly certain it can be done. We have to switch off of coal, oil, and gas, and on to 100% wind, water, and sun energy sources.” – Bill McKibben

Prominent climate justice activist Bill McKibben, one of the founders of http://350.org, puts it clearly in his most recent article, highlighting the situation in the United States but also making a case that applies around the world. And Joe Romm illustrated the point in another recent article noting that wind and solar provided stunning 98 percent of new U.S. power capacity in January and February this year, according to the latest statistics from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (https://www.ferc.gov/legal/staff-reports.asp).

The trend line is clear, despite the fervent opposing actions of President Trump, EPA Commissioner Scott Pruitt, and fossil-fuel industry and its tame politicians around the world. But the pace is still much too slow, and technological progress must be matched with political and grass-roots pressure to have a chance of staving off the worst consequences, already disastrous for many of the most vulnerable.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin reposts these two short articles by McKibben and Romm. Another AfricaFocus Bulletin released today (and available at http://www.africafocus.org/docs18/clim1805a.php) contains excerpts from a number of articles on both progress and protests on the African continent, including a review of trends in the U.S. Power Africa initiative, the case of the Chinese-backed Lamu coal plant being opposed by Kenyan environmentalists, and more.

The best source for documenting the advance of renewable energy worldwide is the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA, http://www.irena.org/). Its latest progress report was published on May 2, 2018 (available at http://tinyurl.com/y9bxyoly).

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on climate and the environment, visit http://www.africafocus.org/intro-env.php

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor’s note+++++++++++++++++

Achieving 100% Renewable Energy

by Bill McKibben

Sanders Institute, April 2018

http://tinyurl.com/ydz3fn5m

Last year, Hurricane Harvey dropped more rain on Houston than any storm has ever dropped on any American city, ever. Hurricane Maria set back development in Puerto Rico 25 years, according to early estimates. And the tab keeps mounting: in 2017 alone, the economic cost of hurricanes and wildfires was greater than the cost of paying tuition for every American in a public college or university. We can’t have a working nation or a world if we don’t stop the climate from careening out of control. That’s been clear for decades now, but what’s been less clear is precisely what we should do about it.

Happily, that’s no longer the case. We now know exactly what to do, and we’re increasingly certain it can be done. We have to switch off of coal, oil, and gas, and on to 100% wind, water, and sun energy sources. And though this drive for a conversion to clean energy started in northern Europe and northern California, it’s a call that’s gaining traction outside the obvious green enclaves. More and more major US cities have taken the pledge to go 100% renewable by the year 2050, while others have taken action to sever their ties with the fossil fuel industry, signifying a global shift in how we’re thinking about our energy system.

What Medicare for All is to the health care debate, or Fight for $15 is to the battle about inequality, 100% Renewable is to the struggle for the planet’s future. It’s how progressives will think about energy going forward.

Former President Barack Obama drove environmentalists crazy with his “all of the above” energy policy, which treated sun and wind as two items on a long menu that also included coal, gas and oil. That’s simply not good enough. No more halfmeasures.

Scientists now tell us that at current rates, within a decade we’ll likely have put enough carbon in the atmosphere to warm the earth past the Paris climate targets. And in any event there’s no need any longer to go slow: engineers have in the last few years brought the price of renewables so low that it would make sense to switch over even if fossil fuel wasn’t wrecking the earth. In fact, that’s why the appeal of 100% renewables goes well beyond the left: if you pay a power bill, clean energy is increasingly the common-sense path forward. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen automatically: the fossil fuel industry recognizes its peril, and is rallying all the political power its cash reserves can buy to prevent the idea getting traction. It’s going to be a hell of a fight.

To understand why it took a while to get here, consider the solar panel. We’ve actually had this clever device for quite a while: Bell Labs produced the first recognizable models in 1954. They were only about four percent efficient, and they were incredibly expensive to produce, which meant that they didn’t find many uses on planet Earth. In space, however, they were essential: Buzz Aldrin deployed a solar panel on the moon not long after Apollo 11 touched down.

Improvements in efficiency and drops in price came slowly for the next few decades (Ronald Reagan, you may recall, took down the solar panels Jimmy Carter had installed atop the White House). But in 1998, with climate fears on the rise, Germany’s Green Party found itself holding the political balance of power after a close election. In return for its support, the Social Democratic government began moving quickly toward renewable energy. German demand for solar panels and wind turbines coincided with rapidly growing Chinese industrial capacity in the early years of the new millennia, as factories across the People’s Republic learned to make the panels ever more cheaply.

There are now days when Germany generates half of its power from the sun—and, more to the point, the price of a panel began to truly plummet years ago, a freefall that continues to this day. By 2017, solar or wind power had won most competitive bids for electric supply, and India announced the closure of dozens of coal mines and the cancellation of plans for dozens of new coal-fired generation stations because the cost of solar power was badly undercutting fossil fuel. Even in places like Abu Dhabi, the comparative advantage of free power from the sun is impossible to resist, and massive arrays are going up amidst the oil fields.

One person who noticed the falling prices and improving technology early on was Mark Jacobson, the director of Stanford University’s Atmosphere and Energy Program. In 2009 his team published a series of plans showing how the United States could generate all its energy from the sun, the wind, and the falling water that produces hydropower. Two years later, along with actor Mark Ruffalo and other coconspirators, Marc co-founded The Solutions Project to take the idea out of academic journals and into the real world. The group has since published similarly detailed plans for most of the planet’s countries. (If you want to know how many acres of south-facing roof you can find in Alabama, or how much wind blows across Zimbabwe, these are the folks to ask).

With each passing quarter the price of solar and wind power has fallen farther, moving the 100 percent target from aspirational goal to the obvious solution. I spent the spring of 2017 in some of the poorest parts of Africa where people—for the daily price of enough kerosene to fill a single lamp—were now installing solar panels and powering up TVs, radios, and LED bulbs. If you can do it in Germany and you can do it in Ghana, you can probably do it in Grand Rapids and Gainesville.

This minigrid in Niger can provide power to a village. IRENA is providing grids and home solar kits to 100 rural villages. Credit: IRENA.

That’s especially true since renewable energy is lights-on popular across the American political spectrum. The polling data is almost unbelievable: in a country with a yawning partisan gulf on virtually every issue, one poll after another shows that massive majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents favor government action to develop renewable energy.

Even 72% of Republican voters want to “accelerate the development of clean energy” in the United States. That helps explain why, say, the Sierra Club is finding dramatic success with its Ready for 100 campaign. Sure, Berkeley was quick to sign on, and Madison, Wisconsin. But by the early summer of 2017 the U.S. Conference of Mayors had endorsed the drive, and leaders were popping up in unexpected places.

Columbia South Carolina mayor Steve Benjamin even said, “It’s not an option. It’s an imperative.” Environmental groups from Climate Mobilization to Greenpeace to Food and Water Watch are backing the 100% target, differing mainly on how quickly we must achieve the transition, with answers ranging from 2028 to 2050. (The right answer, given the state of the planet, is 25 years ago. The second best response: as fast as is humanly possible.)

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders joined with Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley in the spring of 2017 to propose the first federal 100 percent bill. It won’t pass Congress any time soon, but Congress is not the only legislative body that matters in America—you could make an argument that in the Trump era capitals like Sacramento are just as important.

In a conscious bid to recreate the spirit of the Paris climate talks, California governor Jerry Brown summoned the world’s “sub-national” leaders—governors, mayors, regional administrators—to a giant San Francisco conference in September of 2018:

“Look, it’s up to you, and it’s up to me and tens of millions of other people to get it together to roll back the forces of carbonization and join together to combat the existential threat of climate change,” said Brown, as he invited the world to his gathering. If activists have their way over the next few months, many of those cities and states will arrive in the Bay bearing pledges to take their places totally renewable.

That’s not to say that this fight is going to be easy. The fossil fuel industry is well aware that they’re not the future, yet they’re determined to keep us stuck in the past as long as possible. Every year they can drag out the transition means billions of dollars in revenue.

The arguments against renewables has always been: the sun goes down, the wind ceases to blow. Indeed, one group of academics challenged Jacobson’s calculations last spring partly on these grounds. But technology marches on: Elon Musk’s batteries work in Tesla cars, but scaled up they also make it possible, and economic, for utilities to store the afternoon’s sun for the evening’s electric demand. As one California utility executive said at an industry meeting in May 2017, “The technology has been resolved. How fast do you want to get to 100 percent? That can be done today.”

The trouble, however, is that most utility executives think in very different ways. The growth in new rooftop solar installations has come to what the New York Times called “a shuddering halt,” largely because of “a concerted and well-funded lobbying campaign by traditional utilities, which have been working in state capitals across the country to reverse incentives for homeowners.” Instead of cutting residents a break for helping solve the climate crisis, the utilities—led by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Edison Electric Institute (whose lobbying efforts ratepayers actually underwrite)—are eager to end “net-metering” laws that let customers sell excess power they generate back to the grid. That’s pretty much the law that Germany used to make itself a renewable energy powerhouse—and in the process cause huge losses for its utilities.

Rather than trying to adapt to renewable energy, says industry observer Nancy LaPlaca, “utilities have a great monopoly going and they want to keep it.” They use their political clout to make sure that state regulators roll over. Sometimes the results are truly ludicrous—Arizona, for instance, whose capital lies in the “Valley of the Sun” and whose sports fans root for the Suns and the Sun Devils, produces only about 4% of its power from solar energy. Its biggest utility has showered state regulators with dark money to keep it that way—in fact, in the spring of 2017 a former utility commissioner and his wife were indicted by the feds, along with an industry lobbyist, for their role in anti-solar shenanigans.

And it’s not just right-wing Republicans who want to keep business as usual chugging along. Democrats have often found themselves supporting new fossil fuel plans because they are beholden to the building trades unions for campaign support. That was the case last fall when the AFL-CIO, reflecting those building trades members, released a statement supporting the Dakota Access pipeline days after the security companies hired by the oil industry had sicced German Shepherds on indigenous protesters:

“The AFL-CIO supports pipeline construction as part of a comprehensive energy policy,” labor chief Richard Trumka said in a statement. “Pipeline construction and maintenance provides quality jobs.” And of course Donald Trump approved the project early in his presidency, shortly after a cheerful meeting with the heads of the building trades unions. The first oil flowed through it the same afternoon that he pulled America out of the Paris climate accords.

That means, of course, that renewables advocates need to emphasize the jobs that will be created as we move towards sun and wind—and since those jobs aren’t always going to be in the same places as the fossil fuel ones they replace, a just transition for displaced workers is needed. There are already far more Americans employed in the solar industry than in the coal fields, and we’re still near the start of the conversion: Sanders and Merkley produced studies to show their federal 100 percent bill, beyond its generous transition benefits, would produce three million net new jobs over the coming decades.

Environmental justice advocates, who have been at the front of the climate fight, are quick to point out that a push for renewables needs to means more than EV charging stations and solar panels on the roofs of people who can afford big roofs. If a city announces it’s going 100% renewable and then keeps buying diesel buses (or stops buying buses altogether, relying on Lyft and Uber to create an alternate transit system), then it would be an empty boast.

Meanwhile, renters need ways to join the renewable revolution, just like homeowners. None of it’s easy. As Jacqui Patterson, who heads the NAACP’s environmental justice work, says: “people now lose their lives for not being able to pay for electricity—they’re burning down their houses by using candlelight, or because their oil has run out and they have to use heaters, or they’re on respirators and their electricity goes out. So as we’re transitioning to renewables, we need to make sure there are not unintended consequences in term of rate increases–for those communities ‘just transition’ means their bills don’t fluctuate upwards. Ideally their bills would go down.” In the best of worlds, she adds, “just transition means they’re owning part of the energy infrastructure. They’re not just a consumer writing a check every month, but they see now a chance to own part of that infrastructure.”

There are signs that’s starting to happen. When Sanders and Merkley announced their federal legislation in April of 2017, leaders of groups like Green for All and Brooklyn’s feisty UPROSE were featured speakers; one of the most impassioned endorsements came from Mustafa Ali of the Hip Hop Caucus: “This act gives our country an opportunity to embrace a just transition, honor the innovation and hard work that exists in communities that are often overlooked and forgotten, and revitalize communities of color, low income communities and indigenous populations,” he said.

In May of 2017, the Wallace Global Fund, one of the big environmental philanthropies, pointedly awarded the Standing Rock Sioux a million dollars to build renewable energy on the reservation, a fitting commemoration to the bravery of protesters who tried to hold the Dakota pipeline at bay and a reminder that private charities will need to play a role in this transition as well. But the political battle will be hard-fought: the New York Times reported last year that the Koch Brothers have begun to aggressively (and cynically) court minority communities, arguing that they “benefit the most from cheap and abundant fossil fuels.”

America’s twisted politics may slow the transition to renewables, but other countries are now pushing the pace. In July of 2017, for instance, the Chinese announced that Qinghai Province—a territory the size of Texas—had gone a week relying on 100% renewable energy, a test of grid reliability designed to show that the country could continue its record-breaking pace of wind and solar installation. (About the same time the Chinese released aerial photos of their newest giant wind farm—which seen from above depicts a cheerful black-and-white panda).

China is not alone:

One Friday in April of 2017, Great Britain managed to meet its power demands without burning a lump of coal for the first time since the launch of the Industrial Revolution.

Solar production has grown six-fold since 2014 in Chile

Santiago announced that starting this year, their subway system will be running entirely on the sun.

Since January 1 of 2017, Holland’s train system has been entirely powered by the wind.

These are all good signs—but set against the rapid disintegration of ice caps and the record global temperatures set each of the last three years they also seem like too little. It’s going to take a deeper level of commitment—including turning the federal government from an obstacle to an advocate over the next election cycles. That’s doable precisely because the idea of renewable energy is so popular.

“There’s a few reasons why 100% renewable is working—why it’s such a powerful idea,” says Mike Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “People have agency, for one. People who are outraged, alarmed, depressed, filled with despair about climate change—they want to make a difference in ways they can see, so they’re turning to their backyards. Turning to their city, their state, their university. And, it’s exciting—it’s a way to address this not just through dread with something that sparks your imagination.”

Sometimes, he said, all environmentalists have to rally together to work on the same thing: the Keystone pipeline, the Paris accord. “But in this case the politics is as distributed as the solution—it’s people working on thousands of examples of the one idea.” An idea whose time has come.

Wind, solar deliver stunning 98 percent of new U.S. power capacity in January, February

Renewables to provide 69 percent of new capacity by March 2021, as dozens of coal plants are retired

by Joe Romm ThinkProgress, April 24, 2018 http://tinyurl.com/ya8bytfp

Solar and wind power was responsible for a remarkable 98 percent of all new U.S. power generation capacity that came online in the first two months of 2018.

According to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) latest “Energy Infrastructure Update,” the overwhelming majority of new power plants set up in January and February were renewable energy projects.

As FERC reports, during these two months, 1,568 Megawatts of wind and 565 MW of solar power capacity were put into service — along with just 40 MW of natural gas.

While President Trump and Energy Secretary Rick Perry have been promoting policies that favor fossil fuel generation over renewables, FERC reports that most of the big new renewable energy projects came online in states that voted for Trump.

These projects include the 170 MW Beaver Creek Wind Project in Iowa, the 168 MW Prairie Wind Project, also in Iowa, and the 81 MW Stuttgart Solar Project in Arkansas.

The stunning and ongoing price drops in solar and wind have shifted the economics of new generation away from fossil fuels.

Indeed, FERC also projects that renewables will keep dominating the market for new power generation over the next three years, while coal power plants will keep being shuttered for the foreseeable future.

Of the nearly 212,000 MW of new net generating capacity — additions minus retirements — proposed by March 2021, renewables comprise almost 147,000 MW, or 69 percent of the total.

Meanwhile, FERC reports that over the next three years, 70 coal power units will be shut down while only 5 new ones are expected to be added. Net coal generation will drop by more than 15,000 MW.

The coal and nuclear industries have been wooing both Trump and Perry to get an emergency intervention, which is to say, a massive bailout.

But whatever the Administration does in the short term, the global shift toward cheaper, cleaner energy is unstoppable.

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AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at africafocus@igc.org. Please write to this address to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about reposted material, please contact directly the original source mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see http://www.africafocus.org

USA/Africa: Renewable Energy Advances on Many Fronts
| May 7, 2018 | 8:37 pm | Africa | Comments closed

USA/Africa: Renewable Energy Advances on Many Fronts

AfricaFocus Bulletin May 7, 2018 (180507) (Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

Resistance to rapid renewable energy expansion is still high, despite the acknowledged costs in climate change. The U.S. Power Africa initiative still funds predominately natural gas, although its investment in renewables is growing. In Kenya, the Kenyan and Chinese governments are pushing ahead with a coal-fired generation plant in Lamu, despite strong resistance from local environmentalists and the fact that China is rapidly abandoning coal at home. Nevertheless, technological changes and rising awareness of the damage done by fossil fuels are propelling new advances on many fronts.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains links and brief excerpts from articles and reports documenting both progress and the potential for more rapid progress for renewable energy on several fronts in the African context. Particularly notable are reports on off-grid solar, the best known option for rural African households; on solar and wind mini-grids, which have great potential which is also beginning to received significant investment; and on the steadily increasing role of renewable energy in the Power Africa portfolio, in contrast to the “all of the above” mantra as initially launched by the Obama administration.

Also of note are the increasing scope of civil society protests as well as broader international trends in driving the turn away from fossil fuels. This is highlighted in particular by the continuing resistance to the Lamu coal project in Kenya, and by the advance of renewable energy in the United States despite the campaign against it being waged by the Trump administration.

The Lamu project is the focus of the Decoalonize initiative (http://www.decoalonize.org/) The Africa affiliates of the 350.org project (https://350africa.org/) are also active, particularly in South Africa and Ghana. The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (http://www.pacja.org/) brings together national and regional coalitions from around the continent. And the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (http://www.arei.org/) brings together African governmental agencies to shape a continent-wide framework.

On May 25, climate justice groups in Africa will be holding “Fossil Free” protests in at least eight countries. http://tinyurl.com/yd6vxbpd.Another AfricaFocus Bulletin released today and available at http://www.africafocus.org/docs18/clim1805b.php, contains two recent articles on the progress of renewable energy even in Trump’s America, by leading climate action advocates Bill McKibben and Joe Romm.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on climate and the environment, visit http://www.africafocus.org/intro-env.php

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor’s note+++++++++++++++++

Off-grid solar market returns to robust growth, according to latest sector report

Apr 26, 2018

http://www.gogla.org – Direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/y9sa4m2o

The off-grid solar sector has returned to robust growth, reversing a brief dip in sales that was mostly due to localized shocks, according to a new report released today by the World Bank Group’s Lighting Global program and the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association (GOGLA).

The latest Global Off-Grid Solar Market Report shows that during the second half of 2017, participating companies reported sales of 4.14 million off-grid solar products – a jump of 18 percent compared to the first half of the year.

This generated $115 million in cash revenues for the sector, up 20 percent on the previous six months. For the first time, the report also captured the amount of solar capacity installed by participating companies: 22 megawatts between July and December 2017.

Russell Sturm, the Global Head of Energy Access at IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, says clean, affordable off-grid energy solutions are delivering crucial private sector growth in emerging economies.

“Innovation and investment are catalyzing a revolution in energy access”, said Sturm. “Recent findings suggest that the market will grow by around 25 percent year-on-year, providing improved energy access to 740 million people by 2022. That’s a very powerful prospect.”

The quality of off-grid products has also improved. The report shows that since the start of 2016 alone products sold have become, in aggregate, 43 percent brighter. This enhances security while also providing students with the opportunity to study at night, or for workers to engage in income generating activities.

The number of people accessing larger systems – which can power multiple lights or appliances such as radios, fans and televisions – has also grown. Today, over two million people have access to Tier 2 energy services through off-grid solar products: 350,000 more than in the same period of 2016.

The latest edition in this series of semi-annual sales reports uses data provided by 67 GOGLA members and companies whose products meet Lighting Global quality standards. These companies represent an estimated 30 per cent of the total off-grid solar market, and have sold 34.8 million off-grid solar lighting and energy products since 2010.

Minigrids Are the Cheapest Way to Bring Electricity to 100 Million Africans Today

A CrossBoundary analysis shows why minigrids are vital to achieving affordable, sustainable, modern energy for all.

by Matthew Tilleard, Gabriel Davies and Lucy Shaw

Greentech Media, April 20, 2018

http://www.greentechmedia.com – Direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/y9lmlffs

By all measures, Africa is currently losing the battle to end energy poverty by 2030.

U.N. Sustainable Development Goals commit the global community to delivering access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. One barrier to success is the ongoing political debate about how best to provide power to the more than 600 million people in Africa without access to electricity. Vested interests, inertia, aversion to change — all traits of the energy sector — do not lend themselves to speed, nor to innovation.

The debate has huge financial, economic and social implications. To solve it, empirical questions on technical feasibility and cost must be solved. At the same time, tough judgments about what quality of power people should receive, how much they should pay for it, and the role of the private sector vs. the public sector must also be addressed.

Three main ways exist for providing electricity access: 1) extension of the existing electricity infrastructure (i.e., “main grid extension”); 2) minigrids; and 3) standalone solar home systems (i.e., residential solar). All three have a role to play.

Minigrids are self-sufficient electricity grids with their own power generation, storage and transmission capacities. They can serve households and businesses isolated from or integrated with the main grid.

The potential for minigrids to play a role in universal electrification in Africa has been well recognized. Beyond their ability to integrate with the main grid, they are also the least-cost option for many people in rural Africa. The International Energy Agency in 2014 estimated that minigrids could serve 140 million people by 2030. In an updated projection last year, it put that number at 290 million, or more than double the original estimate.

This minigrid in Niger can provide power to a village. IRENA is providing grids and home solar kits to 100 rural villages. Credit: IRENA.

However, actual minigrid deployment is still extremely limited. As such, justifiable skepticism exists on whether this potential can be fulfilled.

In an effort to put that skepticism to rest, CrossBoundary developed a new analysis to calculate the minimum number of people in Africa who can be most cheaply connected by minigrids today, compared to the two other options.

Why is this important? Because when governments, donors and investors do reach consensus, they mobilize billions of dollars to support millions of connections. The pay-as-you-go solar home system sector in Africa — comprising systems serving single households — raised over $750 million from 2012 to 2017. This is dwarfed by the investments that single countries are making on expanding their existing grid infrastructure. For instance, the Kenyan government is investing $1.4 billion, supported by $675 million from the World Bank, African Development Bank and other development funders to build generation capacity, transmission lines and distribution networks.

In comparison to those sectors, the top five minigrid developers in Africa have raised less than $100 million over the last five years.

To help establish this “minimum role,” CrossBoundary has undertaken a least-cost analysis (based on “like-for-like” connections — average 100 watts per household) in order to estimate the number of people for whom minigrids are the cheapest way to connect today. We took the most conservative view possible. No projections on population growth, no future cost reductions on minigrids, and no assumptions beyond minimum quality of power required. We used the costs now, for the people who live off-grid now.

What is the minimum number of people in Africa for whom minigrids are the most costeffective option?

As the chart below [available in full article] shows, of the three paths, no single means of electrification is always the cheapest. Main grid extension is generally the least-cost option for people who already live close to the grid (such as urban and peri-urban populations). Minigrids are usually least-cost for people who live so far from the main grid that extension costs are higher than installing local generation and storage capacity, but in a location densely populated enough to support the fixed costs of building the minigrid infrastructure. Solar home systems are the least cost for everyone else -– those living in sparsely populated areas, where running poles and wires from even a local minigrid becomes expensive.

How did we develop our minimum answer?

CrossBoundary started by combining the data on existing and planned high-voltage transmission lines from the World Bank with data on the population density of Africa by square kilometer from WorldPop. This allowed us to map out where each square kilometer of population is relat

[more detail, with tables and graphs, in the full article available at the link above]

So, returning to the original question: Should minigrids have a role in delivering universal access in Africa?

Yes, because they are the cheapest way to deliver power for at least 100 million people.

Our minimum analysis approach compares well with more complex and optimistic models. Other published estimates have more complex methodology and also projections on minigrid cost reductions and population growth. We are right at the lower end of estimates made by UN-DESA and IEA, both using the KTH Royal Institute of Technology model. The striking increase in IEA’s estimate from 140 million in 2014 to 290 million in 2017 is driven by falling costs of solar, better information on population densities, and rollout plans of the existing grid. Our analysis establishes a minimum number that the most hardened skeptic can accept. These models establish more realistic estimates for those who already see the potential of mini-grids.

Tracking Power Africa: Lessons and best practices in energy access

Oxfam America and Sierra Club

April 2018

[Brief excerpts only: full report available at http://tinyurl.com/ycnztowp]

Executive Summary

Significant financial investment is required to achieve universal energy access, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where the problem is especially acute. Access to energy is essential in building livelihoods and economic opportunity across sectors such as agriculture, health, and education.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that approximately $43 billion is required annually to provide electricity to the 1.1 billion people around the world presently lacking it. The majority of these energy-poor people are also most at risk to have their livelihoods impacted by climate change. There is, hence, increased urgency to reduce emissions from the energy sector, raising questions on the best forms of technology in achieving energy access and how best to finance them.

Power Africa is a US government-led public-private financing initiative with the goals to add more than 30,000 megawatts (MW) of “cleaner, more efficient electricity generation” and to increase electricity access by adding 60 million new connections in sub-Saharan Africa. Power Africa operates across multiple US government agencies and has employed most forms of conventional energy technologies in its four years of operation. This report presents an independent analysis of Power Africa’s portfolio in order to inform the broader energy-access financing agenda.

Process and Top Line Findings

The report’s authors analyzed the entire Power Africa portfolio through March 2017, drawing from multiple agencies, including the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) Power Africa Tracking Tool (PATT), a tool that tracks the first of three Power Africa goals, called “pillars”: the generation of energy, measured in megawatts. (Power Africa’s three goals are (1) generation,(2) connections, and (3) unlocking energy sector potential.) The report assesses four categories: the breakdown of projects across the different US government agencies, the technologies employed, the target countries, and the breakdown of spending for on- and off-grid investments.

The analysis considered 371 projects, amounting to more than 22,900 megawatts (MW) of generation potential and $52 billion total expected investment. Information on what financing had been approved was only available for 178 projects, amounting to 3,500 MW of new generation potential and totaling $3.5 billion of approved US financing for $12.2 billion of anticipated investment.

Support for Off-Grid Projects Still Falls Short But is Trending inn The Right Direction

To achieve universality, energy access financing requires that the majority of financing—approximately 71 percent, according to the IEA—should support off-grid projects. Overall, Power Africa is trending in the right direction with financing increasing over the years for off-grid projects. The Beyond the Grid subinitiative (BTG) was specifically established in order to achieve its connection goal of 60 million new connections.

Aggregate information provided by Power Africa shows that, as a percentage, Power Africa has increased spending toward its connections goal, where it now represents approximately one- third of its budget. Of the 178 projects tracked in this report’s analysis where approved financing data was available, off-grid projects only represent 10 percent of financing approved within the initiative so far. While much of the data was only available from projects for the megawatt goal (generation), it is clear that Power Africa should continue to increase funding toward off-grid projects.

High-risk projects with little development and access potential receive significant support. Projects that have high social, environmental, and climate risk while having a less direct impact on development and energy access—such as heavy fuel oil and natural gas—represent a major component of Power Africa’s footprint. Africa has a significant generation gap, which the megawatts goal of the initiative is attempting to help address. However, adding more megawatts cannot be a goal unto itself, as many separate studies have shown that the development benefits of such projects for local communities are often difficult to track.

Fuel Sources

The US government provides more financing to natural gas—over $740 million—than to any other fuel source. The fact that the US government provides both the largest amount of financing as well as the largest amount of megawatts to natural gas demonstrates the US government’s reliance on natural gas in meeting its Power Africa goals. There is very little evidence that natural gas development increases energy access. It is unclear that this or any other large centralized power plants actually improve the economic livelihoods of poor people, a stated goal of Power Africa. For example, the Azura-Edo natural gas power plant in Nigeria failed to connect the communities that resided closest to the plant, thus failing to provide them with any economic gains. Moreover, natural gas is a much higher-risk project given that it contributes to climate change by releasing methane at every point in its life cycle—extraction, transportation, processing, and consumption. Because methane is far more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of its warming potential, 20 some studies find it to be almost as bad, if not as bad or worse than coal.

Conclusion

..

Although Power Africa has recognized the importance of mini- and off-grid renewables with increased financing for off-grid projects trending upwards, an even greater emphasis on such projects would improve the initiative’s energy access goals. There is still significant support for projects with high levels of social, environmental, and climate risk, with these projects typically offering little to no benefit for development or energy access. A different model that moves away from rewarding large, polluting companies like ContourGlobal—responsible for the Cap des Biches project—and, instead, nurturing innovative, community-supported organizations is required.

Other related articles

Dorothy Otieno, “Why coal has no place in Kenya’s energy future: Economic and environmental realities spur countries across the world to close coal power plants,” Kenya Daily Nation, April 14, 2018 http://tinyurl.com/ybp3vppb

“A all in the cost of renewable energies, ever-improving technologies and the threat of climate change have all come together to make wind and solar energy more attractive than coal across the world. Still coal accounts for 40 per cent of global electricity, according to the World Bank.

Kenya is set to build a 981.5 megawatt (MW) coal-fired thermal electricity-generating plant in the Manda Bay area, Lamu County, even as costs of renewable energies are falling dramatically and fuelling a push to phase out coal power generation around the world.”

Derrick Jackson, “Catching a Breeze,” American Prospect, Spring 2018 https://portside.org/2018-04-22/catching-breeze

“There no longer is any comparison with coal, which Trump touted as beautiful and clean in his January State of the Union address. While at most 1,000 coal jobs were added in Trump’s first year, the wind industry added 25,000 jobs in 2016, according to Trump’s own Department of Energy. In 2012, there were nearly 90,000 coal-mining jobs and 80,000 wind energy jobs. Today, with cheap natural gas and the rapid advance of technology that makes renewable energy cost-competitive, there are more than 100,000 manufacturing, construction, and operations jobs in wind, nearly double coal’s now 52,000.”

“WindEurope anticipates that offshore wind will account for 7 percent to 11 percent of the EU’s electricity demand by 2030, and that all wind energy will provide between a quarter to nearly a third of demand. But with the cost of offshore wind dropping and technology improving so rapidly, the group said offshore wind could produce a quarter of EU demand on its own by 2030.”

“Climate Change Could Force Over 140 Million to Migrate Within Countries by 2050” World Bank Report, March 19, 2018 http://tinyurl.com/ycyd6f9v

“The worsening impacts of climate change in three densely populated regions of the world could see over 140 million people move within their countries’ borders by 2050, creating a looming human crisis and threatening the development process, a new World Bank Group report finds

But with concerted action – including global efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and robust development planning at the country level – this worst-case scenario of over 140m could be dramatically reduced, by as much as 80 percent, or more than 100 million people.

The report, Groundswell – Preparing for Internal Climate Migration, is the first and most comprehensive study of its kind to focus on the nexus between slow-onset climate change impacts, internal migration patterns and, development in three developing regions of the world: Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America.”

Ahmed Mokgopo, “How a Development Bank is Propping Up the Fossil Fuel Industry in South Africa. And Why it Must Reverse Course,” Common Dreams, April 27, 2018 http://tinyurl.com/ydhol699.

South Africa is grappling with a serious energy crisis.

Communities across the country are crippled by the lack of electricity, a situation worsened by the widespread lack of jobs. A straightforward solution to both problems would be investing in distributed and small scale renewable energy, particularly in rural areas.

Instead, the country is still doubling down on coal, with a new coal fired power plant called Thabametsi set to open in Lephalale, Limpopo province. Regrettably, the project can count on the financial contribution of the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA)

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Trump committed to ‘regime change’ in Iran, his lawyer Giuliani says
| May 6, 2018 | 7:54 pm | Analysis, Donald Trump, Iran | Comments closed

https://www.rt.com/usa/425960-trump-regime-change-iran/

Trump committed to ‘regime change’ in Iran, his lawyer Giuliani says

Trump committed to 'regime change' in Iran, his lawyer Giuliani says
Donald Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, says the president is committed to regime change in Iran and will most likely tear up the nuclear deal before he begins supporting protesters to oust the supreme leader from power.

“We got a president who is tough, who does not listen to the people who are naysayers, and a president who is as committed to regime change as we are,” former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani – US President Donald Trump’s personal friend and a long-time supporter – said in a speech to the Iran Freedom Convention for Democracy and Human Rights in Washington.

The first order of business in bringing about regime change in Iran would be to tear up the 2015 nuclear deal, which Trump is set to either reject or approve before the May 12 deadline. Giuliani, who is not part of the government, believes the president will tear up the agreement – despite the insistence of European allies to preserve the milestone accord – and Trump’s so-called “war” cabinet will help him do the job.

“With Secretary of State Pompeo now on his right hand and his national security advisor John Bolton… on his left side, what do you think is going to happen to that agreement, that nuclear agreement?” Giuliani asked, smiling and indicating to the crowd that Trump will simply rip it up and spit on it.

Iran has been outspoken about Washington’s plans to leave the nuclear deal. President Hassan Rouhani stated on Sunday that the US would regret the decision.

“If America leaves the nuclear accord, this will entail historic remorse for it,” he said in a speech carried live by state television.

Scrapping the deal would also mean Washington will lose its face on international arena, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), said on Saturday. Given that this is “an international agreement,” withdrawing would mean that “no country in the world is able to trust the US because it is also possible to see the coming administration do not accept the agreements brokered by Trumps’ administration.”

Giuliani also said in his speech that once the deal is gone and “sanctions [are] back, we have a real chance of escalating these protests,” referring to series of public protests in various cities throughout Iran beginning in late December 2017 and continuing into early 2018.

The White House has yet to comment on Giuliani’s statement, but it seems to be in line with the president’s views.

“TIME FOR CHANGE!” Trump tweeted at the height of recent protests in Iran, adding that “the great Iranian people have been repressed for many years.”

While the US government was quick to claim the protests were anti-government in nature, they might have missed the point. According to a poll conducted by the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland and IranPoll, only 0.3 percent of Iranians chose “lack of civil liberties” as the most important problem or challenge facing the country. “Injustice” was also low on the list (1.4 percent). Unemployment came in first at 40.1 percent, followed by inflation and high cost of living (12.5 percent), and youth unemployment (9.4 percent).

“The middle class, who took to the streets, are asking for more economic reforms, asking for more jobs and employment, [for] better standards of living,” Ahmed al-Burai, a lecturer at Aydin University in Istanbul, told RT at the time.

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Days of decision for Armenia
| May 6, 2018 | 7:50 pm | Analysis, Armenia | Comments closed

After weeks of tensions and massive public protests across Armenia, things appear to be calming down, at least until May 8, when it is expected that parliament will vote for the opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan as the country’s new PM.

https://news.cgtn.com/news/3d3d674e79417a4d77457a6333566d54/share.html

Days of decision for Armenia

Politics
By Aljosa Milenkovic

2018-05-06 18:55 GMT+8

Updated 2018-05-07 07:21 GMT+8

After weeks of tensions and massive public protests across Armenia, things appear to be calming down, at least until May 8, when it is expected that parliament will vote for the opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan as the country’s new prime minister.

Doors for that move were open after the long-time leader Serzh Sargsyan from the Republican Party of Armenia, stepped down after huge countrywide protests.

I went to one of Yerevan’s middle class neighborhoods to meet Garegin Davtyan and Sose Ghadyan. They are a young couple in their late twenties, that were married just a few months ago. Both are computer programmers and at the same time political activists that have struggled for years to change the order of things in Armenia.

Sose Ghadyan (L) and Garegin Davtyan (R), computer programmers and opposition activists /CGTN Photo

They showed me photos of them at the latest protests that gripped Yerevan for weeks. But for them, being part of an anti-establishment movement is not something new, as Garegin told me:

“We had protests in Armenia long before these latest ones. Those were motivated by a variety of local problems and issues, but none of them demanded a change of power. They had a more social character with requests for changing of tariffs or taxes. And we were among those who raised their voices and didn’t want to accept the government policies.”

But this time, after the public call that came from the former journalist and now opposition leader Pashinyan, they’ve decided that the time for change of power is now.

Garegin’s wife Sose was very passionate when explaining her motives for joining the protests.

Parliament of Armenia /CGTN Photo

“For me this was the struggle for justice. Until now, laws in Armenia served not the society but the interests of those in power. That group has custom made laws to suit them the best. For me that was the struggle for justice and equality,” Sose said.

And her opinion was shared by tens of thousands of dissatisfied Armenians who took to the streets of Yerevan. And as Garegin and Sose said, at the end their voice was heard, and they expect that the ruling elite will end up in political oblivion.

The other side of the coin

That was the view of the opposition activists, but since every story has two sides, and this one with the latest protests in Armenia is no exemption, I came to the Armenian parliament to hear the other side.

Khosrov Harutyunyan, a Republican Party of Armenia MP /CGTN Photo‍

To learn about the position of the current ruling party, I’ve met long-time Republican Party MP Khosrov Harutyunyan. We spoke in his office, under the portrait of deposed leader Serzh Sargsyan. Harutyunyan sees this transition not as a defeat of his party but as a huge victory for democracy in Armenia and he sees no similarities with the events in Ukraine from a few years ago.

“There is absolutely no comparison.” Harutyunyan said.

“Even the Russians don’t see any similarities. This is an Armenian internal process which was not generated by any foreign influential players. Absolutely not, by anybody. It is exclusively an Armenian internal process. That’s why this process is going in a very peaceful manner, because everybody, authorities, opposition and civic society understand what price we would have to pay if this wasn’t peaceful.”

He added that if the opposition wants to have their leader as the new prime minister, they have to come up with the program and solutions, what according to him, opposition lacks at this moment. But the most important thing, as Harutyunyan claims, is that all these changes are happening in a peaceful and democratic manner, something that people of Armenia apparently desperately need.