Archive for the ‘Express 165’ Category

Renewable energy in the air & on the ground close the gap

Posted by Ken on April 23, 2012
Posted under Express 165

The cost of key renewable energy technologies is falling more rapidly than thought, with wind already competitive with fossil fuels in many major energy markets, and solar likely to achieve grid parity with conventional fuels on utility or wholesale costs in the second half of the decade, an HSBC study shows. A Qantas Airbus A330 flew within Australia this month powered by a biofuel derived from used cooking oil, split 50:50 with conventional jet fuel. Read More

By Giuseppe Tauriello  in The Advertiser  (13 April 2012):

QANTAS landed its first commercial flight using cooking oil at Adelaide Airport yesterday.

The Airbus A330 landed in Adelaide, from Sydney, about midday yesterday, powered by a biofuel derived from used cooking oil, split 50:50 with conventional jet fuel.

The fuel, produced by Dutch firm SkyNRG, powered one engine of the aircraft and has a life-cycle carbon footprint which is about 60 per cent smaller than that of conventional jet fuel.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said finding a sustainably produced biofuel was an important step in confronting the major challenge of high fuel prices, and supported the aviation industry’s goal of being carbon neutral by 2020.

“The market view is that this price is likely to stay over $US100 per barrel in the medium term,” Mr Joyce said at Sydney Airport yesterday, ahead of the flight.

“We need to get ready for a future that is not based on traditional jet fuel or, frankly, we don’t have a future.”

Joanne Morgan was on board the historic QF1121 flight with her one-year old son Rhys. “I heard on the radio on the way to the airport that there was a flight leaving Sydney, the first flight to use the new fuel,” she said.

“It wasn’t until I got on the plane that they mentioned it and I was like – wow. During the flight they said they were using less fuel on one side of the plane. I was quite happy with the result.”

Qantas’s low-cost subsidiary Jetstar will use the same SkyNRG biofuel on a return trip between Melbourne and Hobart on April 19.

The company has been working with other firms on alternative sources of aviation jet fuel made from algae or household waste.


By Giles Parkinson in Renew economy (20 April 2012):

The cost of key renewable energy technologies is falling more rapidly than thought, with wind already competitive with fossil fuels in many major energy markets, and solar likely to achieve grid parity with conventional fuels on utility or wholesale costs in the second half of the decade.

The forecasts from global banking giant HSBC accord with some of the predictions made by the US, Chinese and Indian governments in recent months, and the outlook within the EU. But HSBC says the cost falls appear to be even more rapid, and will coincide with a carbon price that will become a “global phenomenom” in the second half of the decade.

The HSBC report says the best wind projects are already competitive with conventional power generation in many key markets, and will achieve parity in other markets over time. The biggest change has been in solar, which is moving towards grid parity quicker than expected. “The recent change of tone on this subject from many solar companies suggests that producers are becoming more confident that grid parity is a realistic ambition, given the
scale of system price reductions,” it writes.

And, HSBC notes, despite the fact that nuclear and conventional fossil fuels had historically benefited from huge investments in R&D and ongoing subsidies, the rising costs of fossil prices and nuclear, and the technological advances for both solar and wind, means that renewable subsidies will be progressively cut back to zero “as cost competitive alternative energy becomes a larger part of the energy-generation mix.”

The HSBC report includes capital and operating costs estimates for all the major conventional and renewable technologies, reflecting recent transactions, as well as capital costs, fuel costs and operating and maintenance costs. It does not include solar thermal (due to slow growth) or geothermal (niche market despite interesting cost position) in its analysis.

These graphs from HSCBC show where generation costs were in 2011 and where they are heading. The first graph shows the estimated range of power generation costs (in Euros) for 2011.

While this one shows where HSBC expects power generation costs (again in Euros) to be in 2015 – just three years away. The difference between these and the estimates included in Australia’s draft Energy White Paper, which contends that solar PV will still be twice as expensive in 2035, is startling.

The HSBC report goes on to make some other interesting points:

The capital cost of solar and wind (especially offshore wind) are on the higher side, but the only cost going forward is operating and maintenance cost as the fuel is essentially free.

Wind and solar costs are relatively predictable compared with fossil fuel-driven sources of power generation, as the raw material costs are zero, whereas all fossil fuel-based generation is subject to volatility in the prices of oil, gas and coal.

The least-cost onshore wind is already competitive with conventional technologies at current fossil-fuel prices and using carbon price in the EU. In the US, low gas prices (owing to shale gas availability) are posing a challenge for the competitiveness of wind technology. However, declining wind capital costs will reduce average wind generation costs by 2015, despite the risk of removal or reduction of subsidies. And  in certain parts of Asia, such as India, wind is now close to the electricity sale price being offered by new coal facilities coming on line.

It says offshore wind still has a long way to go to become cost-competitive and the bank is not  expecting any significant decline to capital costs until the latter half of the decade, when technology improvements, larger turbines and higher installation volumes should result in beneficial economies of scale effects.

On solar PV, HSBC says that rooftop systems have reached – or are about to reach – retail grid parity in key markets such as the US, Spain, Germany, India and China, and will achieve wholesalegrid parity in the latter half of this decade.

It noted that coal- and gas-based technologies “look very cheap on a capital-cost only basis”, but in fact the bulk of the ultimate cost of power generation is in the fuel and, to a lesser extent, the carbon costs.

It said nuclear faced a number of potential issues, including increased costs because of new safety requirements and the lack of political support in many countries. In any case, HSBC said, the capital cost of nuclear remains difficult to accurately forecast, given the complexity and scale of new build projects, decommissioning costs were variable and the cost and environmental impact of radioactive waste disposal difficult to quantify realistically

Despite its declining cost curve, or maybe because of it, HSBC warns that renewable technologies will be a difficult environment for investors.

“It seems increasingly clear that subsidies for new renewable capacity will continue to see a decline until they are withdrawn entirely. This cut in support will enforce the industry to become competitive with traditional power generation, presumably at the expense of many present participants who cannot breach such a transition. We therefore expect strong medium-term growth prospects for wind and solar, notwithstanding the current near-term pressures.”

In the near term, however, that poses challenges for people investing in listed solar stocks, even if over the longer term it will become a “mainstream technology” with volumes growing in leaps and bounds.

“Despite attractive solar system prices supporting the longer-term growth story, is it now a question of the survival of the fittest in our view.” It says demand will remain weak in 2012, pressure on margins will grow and industry rationalization will gather steam.


French Business in Asia Steps Up the Sustainability Ladder

Posted by Ken on April 23, 2012
Posted under Express 165

French firms in Singapore are raising the bar on the region’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts by launching a sustainability charter, where companies commit to sharing expertise amongst themselves and with other companies in the region. Veolia was one of them, as was Nexus, which in the same week launched an initiative to enable companies and public institutions to support access to clean energy and water for the poorest populations of developing countries. Read More

ABC Carbon’s Ken Hickson checked out the Nexus Beyond Offsetting event earlier this month and attended  the French Chamber of Commerce launch of its Sustainability Charter and its associated seminar.

By Jenny Marusiak  in (16 April 2012):

French firms in Singapore are raising the bar on the region’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts by launching a sustainability charter.

The new charter, launched at a Friday ceremony by the French Chamber of Commerce in Singapore (FCCS), will commit companies to sharing corporate social responsibility expertise amongst themselves and with other companies in the region.

Some of that expertise involves knowing what to avoid when implementing CSR policies on a global scale, said panelists at the event.

Paris-based senior vice-president of CSR for energy technology firm Alstom, Anne Guérin-Moens, said at the seminar at the Novotel Hotel that trying to address global CSR policies “from the top down” out of the firm’s French headquarters had been a lesson in humility.

She found that “trying to impose the French way was disastrous,” and added that firms needed to listen to the voice of the entire organisation and the voice of the customers.

Signatories included 32 multinational companies, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and non-profit organisations from Europe and Singapore that agreed to work with the FCCS Sustainability Committee to help promote cooperation on CSR practices within the region.

Sustainability Committee co-president Hélène Toury, who is a Singapore-based communications manager at global environmental technology firm Veolia Water, told Eco-Business that French companies have not been as vocal as other European companies concerning their sustainability initiatives and technologies, and the sustainability charter is an attempt to address that.

FCCS is planning a series of voluntary breakfast meetings and other events, and each signatory has pledged to share at least one “best practice” in CSR each year, she added.

Eventually, FCCS plans to extend the network to other chambers of commerce in Singapore and elsewhere in Asia.

On the same day, FCCS announced a guidebook on CSR for SMEs in the region.

Ms Toury said that the book was a practical guide to help SMEs reach international standards for CSR in small, achievable steps. These steps would be helpful for firms who want to do business with multinational companies that already have strong CSR policies in place, she added.

Joëlle Brohier, a CSR consultant who is co-president of the Sustainability Committee and author of the guidebook, said the guidelines were based on the European Commission’s published CSR strategy and CSR standards such as the new International Standards Organization (ISO) 26000 CSR principles.

Charter signatories Veolia, French food manufacturer Danone, energy technology firm Alstom, insurance provider AXA, semi-conductor manufacturer ST Microelectronics, chemical company Rhodia and logistics firm SDV gave examples at the 175-strong seminar of the types of best practices that sustainability committee members could provide.

The examples included ST Microelectronics’ strategy for dealing with conflict minerals and hazardous chemicals, SDV’s steps toward meeting customer demands for low-carbon emission transport options and Alstom’s efforts to involve its suppliers and 95 thousand employees in its CSR initiatives.

Panellists at the seminar urged multinational companies within the region to approach CSR issues with an open mind.

While some CSR issues such as worker safety and child labour were non-negotiable, reconciling different cultural values was an important step that required flexibility, they said.

French Ambassador to Singapore Olivier Caron said that environmentally sustainable development had become a “major driver” of business opportunities in the region, and applauded the signatories for their “forward-looking spirit”.


Singapore, 12 April 2012

Nexus launched an initiative to enable companies and public institutions to support access to clean energy and water for the poorest populations of developing countries.

An increasing number of organizations are “offsetting” their greenhouse gas emissions, by supporting clean development projects in developing countries. However, carbon finance has often been misused, and has benefited little to the poorest people of developing countries, who are also the most vulnerable to climate change.

For the first time, internationally acclaimed grassroots project developers – Nexus members – directly engage with companies and public institutions on a fair approach to offsetting which increases the impact of the funding on poor populations.

The direct partnership platform – the first of this kind – was launched on April 11th, 2012, during a social event organized by Green Drinks Singapore and the Lien Centre for Social Innovation. Raphaele Deau, Nexus Partnerships Director and Suzanne Chew, Nexus Alliance Director presented views on what carbon finance can do to eradicate poverty and provide sustainable development. The presentation was followed by a debate facilitated by Bhavani Prakash, from Eco WALK the Talk.

On April 13th, Nexus presented the newly launched partnership platform to a business audience at the French Chamber of Commerce in Singapore. In a panel discussion, Raphaele Deau presented how, in the context of a green economy and the road to Rio+20, access to energy and clean water will be central in eradicating poverty and delivering sustainable development. She showcased success stories where private sector engagement upscale the dissemination of pro-poor low carbon technologies.

Nexus-Carbon for Development is an alliance of pro-poor project developers whose shared vision is that the carbon market should tackle both climate change and poverty in a fair and transparent way.  As a global alliance of social ventures, Nexus acts as a peer-to-peer services platform, creating synergies between its members and providing awareness raising, capacity building, carbon project documentation, and carbon asset management.

Nexus-beyond offsetting is the partnership created by Nexus members who join forces to engage companies and public institutions on a fair approach to offsetting. Nexus cooperative delivers offsets through projects that positively impact communities and vulnerable populations, and connects directly with partners seeking high quality carbon offsets.

Nexus members are the most credible social ventures working on disseminating low carbon pro-poor technologies. As of April 2012, these members are: Appropriate Rural Technology Institute (ARTI) in India, Approtech Asia in the Philippines, Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC), Global Environment Institute (GEI) in China, Groupe Energies Renouvelables, Environnement et Solidarités (GERES), headquartered in France, Hivos in the Netherlands, Hydrologic Social Enterprise in Cambodia, IDeA in Sri Lanka, Parikrama Mahila Samiti in India, The Small Scale Sustainable Infrastructure Development Fund, in India and the U.S.A., TerraClear in Lao, The Center for Rural Communities Research and Development in Vietnam, The Centre for Rural Technology in Nepal (CRT/N), The Village Education Resource Center (VERC) in Bangladesh, Yayasan Dian Desa (YDD) in Indonesia.

What is carbon offsetting? Emission-reduction projects in developing countries can earn emission reduction credits also known as carbon credits. These saleable carbon credits can be used by industrialized countries to meet a part of their emission reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol. Institutions, corporations or individuals, totally or partially, substitute a reduction of their own GHG emissions by purchasing an equivalent quantity of carbon credits emanating from a project which reduces carbon emissions somewhere else. This is called carbon offsetting.


Forum with Impact: Social Enterprise and Sustainability to the Fore

Posted by Ken on April 23, 2012
Posted under Express 165

Impact Forum 2012, which will be held in Singapore on the 25 and 26 June, has the theme “Igniting Capital Markets for Social Good™”.

Impact Forum 2012 will be a gathering to celebrate Asia’s leadership position in Impact Investing. It is a global conference focusing on examining the latest developments in impact investing and social enterprise in Asia Pacific.  This event will be a unique opportunity to learn, engage, and deepen experiences and relationships in the Asian impact investing space.

Social enterprise, sustainability and ethical investing are all intertwined as Timothy Loh explains in his article in Singapore’s business times. Read More

By Timothy Loh in Business Times (7 April 2012):

ETHICAL investing, contrary to common perception, can serve both head and heart.

But it has been slow in taking off in Singapore due to factors like the lack of awareness among investors and limited investment options.

Things may begin to change, however, with Singaporeans increasingly catching on to issues of social responsibility.

Says Brandon Lam, senior vice-president and head of investment & treasury products at DBS: ‘Singapore is still a relatively young market for ethical investments. However, there is increasing awareness of social responsibility among Singaporeans, and we have also seen more interest in ethical investments. For investors who wish to make an impact on society or stand by their beliefs, ethical investing is an option that they can explore.’

One barrier is the belief that ethical investing – or investments that are concerned not only with financial returns but also with social and environmental benefits – requires the investor to make some sort of financial sacrifice.

But according to a report by JP Morgan and the Rockefeller Foundation in 2010, ethical investing makes sense financially too.

The report forecast that just a small subset of the sector (consisting of housing, rural water delivery, maternal health, primary education and financial services) has the potential of generating total financial returns of between US$183 billion and US$667 billion over the next 10 years.

Singapore had an early start in ethical investing. Back in 1999, UOB launched the Global UN Women Singapore Fund, which invested in global securities that showed a commitment to the empowerment of women. Companies were assigned scores based on their ‘women-friendliness’ – practices such as equal opportunity in the office and female representation on boards accorded firms high scores, while companies that had a history of sexual harassment and gender discrimination were given low scores.

The fund was one of the first socially responsible funds in Asia, but declined in size and was eventually liquidated in 2008. When contacted, UOB declined comment.

In more recent years, DBS has launched the Mendaki Global Fund, a takaful fund (insurance comprising a pool of funds). Such funds are syariah-compliant and exclude firms that are involved in so-called ‘sin industries’. Originally established for Muslim investors, they have been in existence for some time, but have gained ground recently among non-Muslim investors.

HSBC also launched the HSBC Global Investment Funds Climate Change Fund in 2007, made up of ‘market-leading climate change stocks which are expected to be strong long-term performers in their respective sectors’. Companies in the fund were screened for their commitment to combating climate change. For example, market leaders who changed their business models to reduce carbon emissions were included.

‘We believe that climate change has a real impact on company sales, margins and earnings. Companies that are early adopters can gain significant competitor advantages. This is an interesting and relatively unexplored area in equity markets which makes for a good investment opportunity,’ the bank said.

Robert Kraybill, managing director of Impact Investing Exchange Asia, says there is indeed a market for ethical investments in Singapore.

‘I think (these funds) certainly have the ability to do well as they’re doing good. There is a growing body of academic research that supports the fact that socially responsible investing does as well as, or better than, ‘normal funds’.’

While it is difficult for an individual to screen all the companies in his portfolio for social responsibility, ‘the biggest fund managers are now building teams that do nothing but socially responsible investment research’, Mr Kraybill said.

‘Companies that do that type of research, some based here in Singapore, are also beginning to spring up.’

Ethical investing ‘leads to better financial performance’, but more importantly, it’s about doing the right thing. ‘It’s the ethical thing to do. It’s good for the world, and it’s good for society,’ said Mr Kraybill.

Source: and