Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Berkeley Lab Illuminates Price Premiums for U.S. Solar Home Sales - Largest-ever study quantifies the value of rooftop photovoltaics on homes that sold across eight states and 15 years

A multi-institutional research team of scientists led by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkley Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), in partnership with Sandia National Laboratories, universities, and appraisers found that home buyers consistently have been willing to pay more for homes with host-owned solar photovoltaic (PV) energy systems —averaging about $4 per watt of PV installed—across various states, housing and PV markets, and home types. This equates to a premium of about $15,000 for a typical PV system. The team analyzed almost 22,000 sales of homes, almost 4,000 of which contained PV systems in eight states from 1999 to 2013—producing the most authoritative estimates to date of price premiums for U.S. homes with PV systems.
“Previous studies on PV home premiums have been limited in size and scope,” says Ben Hoen, the lead author of the new report. “We more than doubled the number of PV home sales analyzed, examined a number of states outside of California, and captured the market during the recent housing boom, bust, and recovery.”
More than half a million U.S. homes had PV as of 2014, and the number is growing rapidly. The growth in home PV systems means that the real estate industry will need reliable methods to value these homes appropriately. Further, having greater certainty in those methods will likely facilitate additional growth in the residential PV market.

Hoen is a researcher in the Environmental Energy Technologies Division of Berkeley Lab, who collaborated with researchers from Adomatis Appraisal Services, Real Property Analytics/Texas A&M University, University of California at San Diego, San Diego State University, and Sandia National Laboratories. 

The study also found only a small and non-statistically significant difference between PV premiums for new and existing homes. Additional findings include the existence of a PV “green cache” (home buyers paying a certain amount for a PV system of any size and incrementally more as system size increases) and an apparent sharp depreciation rate for the PV premium in home sales transactions as those PV systems age. The study also finds that market premiums are statistically similar to those estimated using the income and cost approaches, methods familiar to appraisers. This similarity to standard appraisal practices further bolsters the report’s usefulness to real estate professionals and markets.

Additional Information:
Download the new 2015 report, “Selling into the Sun: Price Premium Analysis of a Multi-State Dataset of PV Homes”, as well as a fact sheets, and a summary slide deck here.
To register for a related 1-hour webinar at 4 PM Eastern (1 PM Pacific), January 22nd, 2015 go here: Webinar Registration
Also see earlier LBNL reports on the same subject such as “Exploring California PV Home Premiums” Download the 2013 LBNL Report and “An Analysis of the Effects of Residential Photovoltaic Energy Systems on Home Sales Prices in California” Download the 2011 LBNL Report

First of its Kind Guide Launched to Enable True Valuation of Ecosystems in Some of the World's Smallest and Most Vulnerable Economies

The global net loss of the coral reef cover will cost the international economy an estimated US$ 11.9 trillion, with SIDS especially impacted by the loss.

A new manual that will enable policymakers to calculate the true value of ecosystems for a transition to a green economy across the world's 52 small island developing states (SIDS), was launched on January 26, 2015 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) at a ceremony celebrating the end of the International Year of SIDS.

The manual highlights the strong interdependency between the natural environment and the economy of SIDS and the importance of accounting for the contribution of ecosystem services to human well-being in order to be able to quantify and manage those benefits.

It is revealed, for example, that in the Federate States of Micronesia the contribution of fisheries to GDP amounts to 10 per cent, and in Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Seychelles and Vanuatu the tourism industry accounts for over 50 per cent of GDP. Exports are also largely supported by local ecosystems. Fifty-two per cent of the exports of the Caribbean island of Grenada are nutmeg, tuna, frozen albacore and cocoa beans. While in Trinidad and Tobago petroleum and natural gas represent 54 per cent of exports.

The Guidance Manual on Valuation and Accounting of Ecosystem Services for Small Island Developing States is seen as a timely and critical tool for mainstreaming island ecosystem services in conventional economic decision-making frameworks, and ultimately supporting policymakers' ability to achieve sustainable development.

The guidance manual is being launched at an event to mark the close of what was a momentous year for SIDS and attended by Under-Secretary-General Wu Hongbo, the Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States, and the Champions of the International Year of SIDS.

"Rio+20 emphasized that SIDS have unique vulnerabilities and require special attention during the evolution of the sustainable development agenda in order to achieve the gains required to lift people out of poverty, create green jobs and provide sustainable energy for all," said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

"For example, these 52 nations, home to over 62 million people, emit less than one per cent of global greenhouse gases, yet they suffer disproportionately from the climate change that global emissions cause."

"Fortunately, studies demonstrate that we have the tools and capabilities to head off future developmental setbacks. It is up to the international community to support SIDS - not least through building momentum towards a robust climate agreement - to be agreed in 2015, which will cut emissions and minimize the threat of climate change for these nations," he added.

UNEP's SIDS Foresight Report, launched in 2014, identifies climate change impacts and related sea-level rise as the chief concern among twenty emerging issues impacting the environmental resilience and sustainable development prospects of SIDS - including coastal squeeze, land capacity, invasive alien species and threats from chemicals and waste.

In all SIDS regions, coral reefs, the frontline for adaptation, are already severely impacted by rising sea surface temperatures. The global net loss of the coral reef cover - around 34 million hectares over two decades - will cost the international economy an estimated US$ 11.9 trillion, with SIDS especially impacted by the loss.

In the insular Caribbean, for example, up to 100 per cent of coral reefs in some areas have been affected by bleaching due to thermal stress linked to global warming. Climate threats are projected to push the proportion of reefs at risk in the Caribbean to 90 per cent by 2030 and up to 100 per cent by 2050.

World Environment Day, held in Barbados on June 5th 2014, adopted SIDS in the broader context of climate change as its theme. The event garnered global coverage and helped build momentum towards the Third International Conference on SIDS, which took place from 1-4 September in Apia, Samoa. At the Samoa event, nearly 300 partnerships between governments, businesses and civil society organizations from all over the world were registered to support SIDS, bringing the total value of these commitments to over US $19 billion.

The manual includes many examples of accounting and valuation techniques in action, and is related to The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, which is a global initiative focused on attracting attention to the economic benefits of biodiversity and the growing cost of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation.

For a recap on the year's highlights for SIDS including workshops, an exhibition, tweetathon, google hangout, photo competition, cultural celebrations and others please follow the links below.

See videos here
SIDS Manual Full Report
SIDS Press Releases

United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)
Press Release dated January 26, 2015

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

2015 Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis Conference and Meeting: Advancing the Policy Frontier - March 19-20, 2015
 The Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis (SBCA) is an international group of practitioners, academics and others who are working to improve the theory and application of the tools of benefit-cost analysis. Their Seventh Annual Conference and Meeting will be held at .The Marvin Center at the George Washington University 800 21st St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20052.

View and download the preliminary conference program schedule (subject to change): Preliminary Program

W. Kip Viscusi of Vanderbilt University will be speaking on "Pricing Lives for Government and Corporate Risk Decisions." in the keynote luncheon

SBCA is pleased to offer six professional development workshops on March 18, 2015, prior to the conference. The workshops include:
  1. Benefit-Cost Analysis in the States: Status, Results First, and Options to Increase Usage Among Policymakers
  2. Use of Expert Elicitation to Inform Decision-Making
  3. An Overview of Climate Change, Its Impacts and the Social Cost of Carbon
  4. Estimating the Benefits of Improved Air Quality with the Open Source BenMAP-CE Tool
  5. QALYs in Cost-Effectiveness and Benefit-Cost Analysis
  6. Retrospective Benefit-Cost Analysis
To register online with a credit card, please click here, or to register using a check,  click here
Your organization can sponsor a conference event, for amounts ranging from $1,500 to $3,500.
To sponsor a conference event please look at the event sponsorship form .
To submit a request for advertisement or exhibition table for software books, ... complete a commitment form here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Science and Strategies to Curb Methane Emissions from the Oil and Natural Gas Sector

According to a December 2014 policy brief from the Institute for Policy Integrity
The oil and natural gas sector is the nation’s largest industrial emitter of methane: this primary component of natural gas is a potent climate pollutant up to 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide on a 20-year timeframe.

Currently the United States loses at least 1 to 3 percent of its total natural gas production each year when methane is leaked or vented to the atmosphere during the production, processing, transmission, storage, and distribution of natural gas and oil. This is a waste of a valuable resource, as well as a source of greenhouse gas pollution. Curbing methane pollution is critical to meeting the nation’s climate protection targets, as well as the Administration’s new agreement with China, which commits the United States to reducing its total greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Clean Power Plan is expected to result in increased use of natural gas, as combined cycle gas power plants will likely replace coal-fired power plants in some states. Reducing methane emissions from the oil and natural gas sector would further increase the climate benefits of switching from coal to natural gas.

Recent studies show that EPA can reduce methane pollution from the oil and gas industry by nearly 50 percent, using available, low-cost measures. Because of the commercial value of the natural gas that can be conserved, many of these measures pay for themselves by redirecting natural gas back to productive use as a fuel source for electricity and heating. And even without the resale value of natural gas, these measures can still be cost-benefit justified due to the social cost of methane emissions,4 as well as the health benefits of reduced smog and hazardous air pollutants, which are co-emitted with methane during oil and natural gas production.

This policy brief provides an overview of the science of methane, oil and gas sector methane emissions, the history of federal action, available methane emission reduction opportunities, and potential regulatory pathways to secure methane reductions under the Clean Air Act. Because methane is so potent in the near-term, federal regulation to curb its release can reduce imminent climate effects and lower the overall cost of climate mitigation.
Available Methane Reduction Opportunities

Available, low-cost technologies and practices can be deployed throughout the oil and natural gas lifecycle to capture methane currently lost due to leaks, venting, and flaring. Because methane is the primary component of natural gas, it can be sold for end use—capturing value while reducing climate-forcing pollution.

Recent studies show that substantial reductions in methane and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are achievable at low or zero cost (assuming the captured gas is sold), using available technology:
• A 2014 report by ICF International found that a 40 percent reduction in fugitive methane releases and 44 percent reductions in VOCs and hazardous air pollutants could be attained at a cost of one cent per thousand cubic feet (mcf) of natural gas. Ninety percent of the reductions achievable were described in EPA’s five technical papers released this spring;
• A 2014 report issued by Clean Air Taskforce, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club found that fugitive methane can be reduced by 42 to 48 percent using available methods at an annual cost equal to 1.5 percent of the industry’s annual revenue;
• A 2013 report by the World Resources Institute found that three methane capture and avoidance technologies (plunger lifts, low-bleed pneumatic devices, and leak detection and repair systems) could cut methane emissions across the natural gas system by 30 percent; and
• A 2012 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council identified ten commercially available, low-cost ways for operators to capture methane that would otherwise be leaked or vented from oil and gas production, processing, and transportation systems. Many of these technologies pay for themselves or turn a profit in one to two years, due to the resale value of the captured gas.

The voluntary participants in EPA’s Natural Gas STAR program have also shared information on methane emission reduction technologies and practices, and their revenue-generating potential at different natural gas prices and timelines. Available control measures include:

Leak detection and repair (“LDAR”)
• Process: Infrared cameras and other advanced equipment is used to detect and repair methane leaks from well-pads, processing plants, compressor stations, and distribution facilities.
• Reduction capacity: Approximately 1.70-1.80 million metric tons of methane per year.
• Economics: Using a gas price of $4/mcf, these measures are usually profitable, due to the value of the gas conserved by finding and fixing leaks.

Green completions for oil wells
• Process: Closed-loop systems capture liquids and gases coming out of the well during the initial “completion” stage of production, then route fluids and gases to a tank for separation to enable the sale or reuse of gas.
• Reduction capacity: Approximately 0.26-0.50 million metric tons of methane per year.
• Economics: Green completions cost between $8,700 and $33,000 per well, and can generate between $28,000 and $90,000 per year, per well, in captured natural gas revenue.

Solar Energy Prices See Double-digit Declines in 2013; PV pricing to drop another 3 – 12 percent in 2014

Distributed solar photovoltaic (PV) system prices dropped by 12 - 19 percent nationwide in 2013, according to the third edition of a jointly written report on PV pricing trends from the Energy Department's (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). In addition, 2014 prices are expected to drop another 3 - 12 percent, depending on system location and market segment. Industry analysts expect this trend to continue over the next couple of years, keeping the nation on track to meet the DOE SunShot Initiative's 2020 targets.

"These price drops are consistent with previous annual reductions achieved since 2010, when the Energy Department's SunShot Initiative was established," NREL's David Feldman, a lead author of the report said. "However, the report also indicates that there are significant variations in reported pricing both geographically and across market segments due to a variety of factors, including value-based pricing based on local competition within the marketplace and prevailing electric retail rates. Other factors include differences in specific system configurations such as panel efficiency, mounting structure, and geographic location; and the time lags between commitments and commercial operation for utility-scale systems." 

The report, Photovoltaic (PV) Pricing Trends: Historical, Recent, and Near-Term Projections (2014 Edition)PDF, provides a high-level overview of historical, recent, and projected near-term PV system pricing trends in the United States and examines progress in PV price reductions to help the Energy Department and other stakeholders manage the transition to a market-driven PV industry.  The report shows that the general downward trend in PV system pricing continued in 2013, and is expected to continue through 2016. Other key findings include:
  • Modeled utility-scale PV system prices fell below $2 a watt in 2013, and have continued to decline in 2014, to roughly $1.80 a watt, which is 59 percent below what modeled pricing showed in 2010.
  • There is a difference of roughly $2 a watt between the median reported price of the lowest- and highest-priced states for residential and commercial systems (less than 10 kW in size); a similar price range also exists within individual states.
  • There is a wide-range in analysts' PV pricing estimates, however a number of analysts are now projecting long-term pricing in line with the targets set by the SunShot Initiative for 2020. At these pricing levels, PV is expected to reach widespread grid parity in the U.S. without federal or state subsidies. 

"There is still considerable uncertainty as to how low PV system prices will drop in the next five to 10 years," Feldman said. "However, there appears to be an emerging consensus that the SunShot's price reduction targets are within reach and more and more likely to be realized. We see this reflected in the fact that many of the current projections are far lower than projections made in the recent past by the same sources." 

The report was produced as part of an ongoing collaborative research effort between the two labs focused on solar technology system-level cost analysis and modeling. This briefing draws on several ongoing research activities at LBNL and NREL, including LBNL's annual Tracking the Sun report series, NREL's bottom-up PV cost modeling, and NREL's synthesis of PV market data and projections.
The research was supported by funding from the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, in support of its SunShot Initiative. The SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort that aggressively drives innovation to make solar energy fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources before the end of the decade. Through SunShot, DOE supports efforts by private companies, universities, and national laboratories to drive down the cost of solar electricity to $0.06 per kilowatt-hour. Learn more at  NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy's primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for the Energy Department by The Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
Press Release dated October 20, 2014