These five cities top U.S. solar use, plus Europe’s new nuclear race

Source: danramarch / Flickr

By David Callaway, Callaway Climate Insights

As the 52nd Earth Day approaches this Friday, it’s time to briefly put aside concerns about the Ukraine war and its impact on fossil fuels worldwide and take stock of some of the milestones in renewable energy we’ve seen recently.

Yesterday, we told subscribers about new milestones in U.S. and China wind energy, as capacity surges (summary and link below). Today, we look at solar. A new report showing 10-fold increases in solar usage in the past eight years in the U.S. highlights the cities which are seeing the biggest benefits.

Not surprisingly, most of them are sunny weather cities. Honolulu leads the list, followed by Vegas, San Diego, Albuquerque, and San Jose, according to the Environment America Research and Policy Center. But New York City and Washington D.C. also rank high, as well as Burlington, VT.

At a time when fossil fuel interests and some utilities are going after solar incentives to homeowners at state levels, and attacking renewable initiatives in Congress, it’s encouraging to see these achievements. As with rising wind capacity, what seem like small milestones now will only grow from here, as will the profits of the investors behind them.

More insights below . . . .

Earth Day this year heralds several firsts for clean energy, despite fossil fuss

. . . . This year’s Earth Day arrives during the worst geopolitical conditions for global warming — i.e. war — and the biggest push for more oil and grant production since the oil shocks of the early 1970s when the environmental day of action was started, writes David Callaway. But despite the gloomy news and a rapidly rising global temperature almost sure to violate the Paris Agreement of 2015, there are some reasons for hope. Small milestones in renewable energy usage in the U.S. are starting to add up quickly. as they already are in Europe, and China, of all places. . . .

Read the full story

Callaway Climate Insights Dublin Climate Summit May 12

Announcing the Dublin Climate Summit, our signature conference of the year, coming May 12 in Dublin, Ireland and featuring the Irish Prime Minister, or Taoiseach, Micheal Martin; the EU’s Paschale Donohoe; Blackstone’s Jean Rogers; and — just announced today, New Zealand Climate Ambassador Kay Harrison. Many others from The City of London, Wall Street, Silicon Valley and Ireland’s business community will also be there. The event is free: Attend in person or stream live. We’d love to see you there. Check out the list of speakers and the agenda, find out more information, and register for the Dublin Climate Summit.

Register for free now

Tuesday’s subscriber insights: New nuclear race is on in Europe, U.S.

. . . . They probably won’t say it, but German government officials must be kicking themselves for closing down the nation’s nuclear plants, something planned to be completed this year. Why, because, as the Ukraine war has shown, they are hostage to Russia for fuel, especially natural gas. Perhaps fortunately, the U.S. is trying to save its aging nuclear facilities. Read more here. . . .

. . . . French President Emmanuel Macron, facing a runoff election this weekend vs. conservative Marine Le Pen, went all in on the environment this week, promising France would abandon fossil fuels if he was elected. France is one of Europe’s leaders in nuclear energy use but given that it also imports about 20% of its oil from Russia, fulfilling such an election promise without finding more oil short-term might be difficult. Even with France’s expansive five-year presidential terms. . . .

. . . . China gets a bad rap — deservedly — because of its massive emissions totals, especially from coal. But the plain fact is that it is now leading the world in renewable installations. One factor: With a centralized and authoritarian government, there are few impediments to getting things done. Read more here. . . .

. . . . There will always be jobs for lawyers, something being proven by a growing trend in laws and regulations giving personhood to natural entities such as rivers or living creatures such as types of fish so they can sue for damages caused by polluters. Talk about a new client opportunity. Read more here. . . .

. . . . When it comes to fighting global warming, you have to hand it to the Danes. By a long way, they are the world’s top wind power company per capita. One of their companies, Vestas, is the top wind turbine company in the world. And now a dairy company based there has declared it will pay farmers more for milk from cows that emit less gas. Jokes aside, dynamic pricing based on environmental incentives is an idea whose time has come. Read more here. . . .

Editor’s picks: Drop in capital raises for power sector; stop by the beauty bar for a refill

Grab a refill at the beauty bar

In-store refills seem to be catching on as beauty brands attempt to up their sustainability game. According to digital fashion and beauty publication Glossy, bulk in-store beauty refills have been the standard for niche zero-waste refill stores, particularly in Europe, but the practice is gaining in popularity for major brands such as The Body Shop, L’Occitane and Diptyque. The report says that for brands, “the biggest logistical challenges to the expansion of refilling are space restrictions and regulatory requirements. At its smaller stores, The Body Shop created a wheeled cart for its refills and is working with each country’s regulations.”

Power sector sees big dip in Q1 capital raises

U.S. electric utilities and power producers issued about $23.95 billion in securities during the first quarter, a decrease of $6.79 billion, or 22%, from $30.74 billion during the comparable quarter of 2021, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. The total included $22.94 billion in senior debt, compared with $29.63 billion a year earlier. Florida Power & Light Co., a subsidiary of NextEra Energy (NEE), was the largest issuer during the quarter, with $2.50 billion of debt securities issued. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PCG) came in second with the sale of $2.40 billion of first mortgage bonds in four transactions, according to the report. PG&E last week agreed to pay $55 million to avoid criminal prosecution in connection with deadly wildfires blamed on the utility’s power lines in California.

Data driven: Underground

. . . . As we recognize the upcoming Earth Day celebrations on Friday, our data point this week takes us inside the Earth: Mammoth Cave in Kentucky is the world’s longest known cave system, with more than 400 miles explored, and it’s one of the oldest tour attractions in North America. In 1972, Mammoth Cave was combined with the Flint Ridge to the north — an even longer cave system — and the official name of the system became the Mammoth–Flint Ridge Cave System. The park was established as a national park on July 1, 1941, and became a World Heritage Site in 1981, an international Biosphere Reserve in 1990 and an International Dark Sky Park in 2021. The park comprises 52,830 acres, according to the National Park Service, and it has more than 420 miles of surveyed passageways. For more information and to explore the park, check out the National Park Service website. . . .

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