While Donald Messes It Up Again, Let’s Make The Planet Great Again

Trump Pulling America Out of The Paris Agreement

Donald Trump is making a mockery of our planet, its future and also the underlying theme of “Make America Great Again”. By pulling America out of the Paris Agreement, he is making America’s outlook on science, technology and green energy “draconian”. The word he used to describe the measures within the agreement itself. After America making exceptional progress in clean energy through solar, wind, tidal and many others, Donald Trump is hell bent on turning back the clock in America. But in doing so, he is completely contradicting what made America a great nation in the past.

History of America Investing In Science & Technology

He refers to making America great “again”, but the reasons for which America was once considered a great nation, is because they invested and championed scientific and technological innovation. There are many examples of this, but one in particular brings us a timeline of how American investment in these areas has brought us to this point in time. Some of America’s most successful and brightest minds, who now publicly lead the calls for investment in clean energy were created through similar scientific and technological investment more than 50 years ago.

I recently read a book called Creativity Inc. In it, author and co-founder of Pixar, Ed Catmull talks about how decades ago in the face of global unrest, tensions with Russia and other global issues that troubled America and allies, the American government decided that it would become great through science, engineering and technology. Ed Catmull himself ended up going back to grad school at Utah and participated in ARPA, the Advanced Research Projects Agency.

“The creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) was authorized by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1958 for the purpose of forming and executing research and development projects to expand the frontiers of technology and science” - Dwight D. Eisenhower and Science & Technology, (2008).

They poured millions of dollars into ARPA and similar initiatives that sponsored post-graduate collegiate programmes such as the one Ed Catmull found himself in. The definition above outlines their focused ambition on science and technology. They also did this, without giving specific direction. Instead, they trusted the budding young minds and leadership skills of scientists and entrepreneurs across America. These were the people tasked with moving America forward. Making it great even.

With Ed Catmull, he ended up making advancements in computer graphics and soon after, we ended up with Pixar. I presume the American government didn’t have computer graphics on the top of their list of priorities, but it became a global leader in a new market. Within this context, but covered in another fantastic book (Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell), the advancements made in computer science through this investment led to an opportunity for 3 men born within 6 months of each other in 1954 and 1955 – Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Bill Joy. The opportunities they had in their late teens was to continue the revolution for America in these areas. The great technology feats of these men have directly led to a lot of technologies we use on a daily basis. You’re reading this on a device using technologies they’ve built or helped shape and more than likely through the internet, a technology that Bill Joy shaped with his UNIX servers.

It’s a long-winded explanation, but of the men I’ve just named above, two are alive and both of them are thought leaders and real champions of clean energy, with Bill Gates strongly advocating solar energy. And that brings us to right now. Donal Trump wants to make “America Great Again” and Emmanuel Macron has hit back with the notion that we need to come together to “Make Our Planet Great Again”.

But outside of this political jousting, we need to listen to our brightest minds, the people at the forefront of present science that are desperately trying to forge a future for the science and technologies that truly will make our planet great.

So while Donald misses the point of what made America a great nation in decades past, we need to look to those who were involved in the advancements of yesteryears breakthrough technologies. Because right now, the technologies we need are in clean energy, sustainable energy systems and beyond.

We will do this with or without the United States of America, but the underlying context of division and “sovereignty” Donald Trump is leading is disappointing and unsettling.

In the face of global climate change fears, just like many other global issues we face today; unity is what we really need.


What Donald Trump Win Means for Climate Change in Ireland

The Climate Change Fallout of a Trump Presidency

With our friends across the Atlantic Ocean flocking to the polls and electing Donald Trump, the planet and the environmental issues that face us both in the present and the future were not important enough for consideration when Americans were deciding which candidate they voted for. Not only is the election of Donald Trump a disaster for environmentally conscious people in America, it is a disaster for climate change globally. After the tentative but progressive COP 21 event in Paris and subsequent agreement, this is not what our planet needed. We needed forward thinking governments, with like-minded leaders to help move the planet forward with an environmentally friendly, sustainable approach to governing. For all of us in not just the solar industry, but beyond, this election result does not bode well.

Could Donald Trump have been any clearer when we called global warming "a Chinese hoax", before definitively stating that he wants to scrap all of the major regulations that US President Obama put in place to reduce carbon dioxide emissions for the USA. With a republican congress, he has the power and ability to pass bills to stop a lot of the progress made in the previous presidency. Anyway, why does this matter to us here in Ireland?

Firstly, we all share the same planet, the same atmosphere and the same melting ice caps. What happens in America affects us all. Not only that, if one of the most powerful western countries in the world scraps their climate change efforts, that doesn’t set a great example for smaller western nations like ourselves. If the USA takes Donald Trump's lead and decides to denounce climate change, you can be sure that R&D efforts will drop, clean energy research will drop and future progress in this regard will be slowed. Unfortunately, Donald Trump openly stated he was going to repeal all federal spending on all of these things, such as solar, wind, nuclear power and electric vehicles. With R&D dropping in America as well as future demand for such, it may see the end of the slowly lowering alternative energy prices around the world, including here in Ireland.
The underlying reality is that a Trump presidency will lead to more coal burning, pollution and more CO2 emissions.

Is all hope for clean energy, solar and Irish renewables lost?

No.

Solar Energy in Ireland Will Continue To Grow and It Won't Be Alone

The reality is, solar power, wind power and electric cars have been getting cheaper and cheaper over the past decade and although that has slowed, these renewable energy pillars have become very affordable here in Ireland, so the American federal government won’t be able to change this anytime soon, bad news on that front would be slow. In which case, you would hope the proliferation of all these technologies would outpace such federal resistance in America.

It is also possible, just like past obstacles, that opposition to a figure such as Trump will help galvanise the next generation of clean energy advocates here in Ireland and abroad. Where there is a will, there is a way and people fighting for and towards Irelands obligations in 2020 and beyond will continue to do so with an eye on the COP 21 agreement, rather than the actions of the 45th US President.

It is undeniable that the landscape has changed with one single leadership change, but the reality is, we must continue our renewable energy efforts here in Ireland and keep working with our own government in order to effect change here in Ireland. The support for solar and other clean energy technologies is continuing to grow. With politics changing to a popularity contest, the more popular climate change becomes in Ireland, the more it will seep into Leinster House.

The Irish solar market is in a very healthy state, can we say the same about external optimism for America today?

No.


Solar Case Study: An 'Eco Pub' Uses Activ8

Andy's Bar & Restaurant Use Activ8 For Solar During Their Energy Efficiency Improvements

Andy's Bar & Restaurant in Monaghan Town featured in the Irish Independent as one of Ireland's first 'eco pubs'. It was great to see the family owned establishment getting national media attention given their environmental efforts in the running of their business. Something we here at Activ8 Solar Energies got to see up close and personal when we installed the solar thermal system on the roof of their premises in early 2016.

Solar panels on Andy's Bar & Restaurant roof
A dreary installation day in February did nothing to curb the enthusiasm of staff and their energy efficiency and environmental efforts.

Energy efficiency through solar and more

The family began their energy efficiency drive after the Monaghan premises was destroyed in a fire. With support from the SEAI and the cross-border Sustainable Together through Environmental Management (STEM) project. The Redmond family began their work by installing better insulation, it was at this point, that they contacted us here in Activ8 Solar Energies in regards to installing a solar thermal energy system to help reduce their heating bills and increase efficiency in this part of their business.

Their solar thermal energy system was installed on the roof of the premises after our standard technical survey that matched system specification with business need while factoring in the relevant conditions and circumstances. The system consists of 9 Atlas Solar Thermal Collectors, a system substantially larger than our standard domestic system. We pride ourselves on fitting the relevant system for our customers needs and the accuracy to which we can do this.

This was followed by other internal efficiencies, which included replacing glass doors on fridges with more energy efficient efficient doors, showing the extent to which Seán Redmond and his team were willing to go to ensure they continued their efforts to make Andy's Bar & Restaurant a more energy efficient, environmentally friendly business. Too many people look toward the government and its agencies for complete project leadership in this area. This case study is an outstanding example of how a business can improve business efficiency, reduce costs through an environmentally driven efficiency project. It really is a win-win situation.


Using Recent UK Renewable Developments as an Irish Solar Case Study

Using the UK as a Case Study for Irish Renewables

Although we may not agree with everything that is done across the Irish Sea, we have to admire the UK's commitment to renewable energy production. Through our sister company, Solar NI, we have been able to play a small part in the recently released figures that showed renewable energy accounting for more energy production than coal, for the first time in history.

The UK are no different to ourselves, in relation to clean energy production targets in 2020 and follow up targets in 2030 arising from the COP21 agreement in Paris of last year. What is different, is the highly incentivised subsidy support in the UK driving technologies such as solar into the mainstream in the past 10 years through numerous government driven schemes. Combine these subsidies with the reduced cost of solar pv and you have an astoundingly competitive electricity and energy production option, in your own home. For free!

With renewables playing such an important role in 2015, out-performing coal in the process, recent news surrounding the future cost of solar and wind in comparison to nuclear has had a direct impact on the development of the Hinkley Plant in the UK. A recent delay on its go ahead has shown that the predictions for renewables combined with their present efficiency has really started to impact the decision making processes at the very top. An unpublished government report in the UK has calculated how large-scale solar pv and wind power will be considerably cheaper to produce than nuclear by the time the aforementioned Hinkley plant is up and running. Figures revealed in a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) in the UK are forecasting large-scale solar power to cost between £50 and £75/MWh by 2025. Nuclear power on the other hand is expected to cost between £85 and £125/MWh by the same date. The UK government has already agreed a guaranteed purchase price of £92.50/MWh with developers of the Hinkley plant for the nuclear power produced.

This is an important development for us here in Ireland, as we look to our counterparts here in Europe for evidence of successful energy strategies. It is also important because of the electricity we import from the UK through the East West Interconnector that ultimately comes from these exact energy sources we have already discussed. In an ideal world, we would become self-sufficient through our own renewable energy infrastructure here in Ireland. The scope for which, with large-scale solar pv cheapening over time, is hopefully starting to prick a few ears at the Department of Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resourcesin Dublin. We can at least take confidence from the success of solar farms in the UK, with the proliferation of such starting to gather pace here in Ireland, a small push from the government in relation to this could really give our own national grid a real shot in the arm. But we wait and see.

On a smaller scale, Part L regulations and the renewable energy aspect of such, has seen a lot of new housing developments take advantage of solar pv to bolster their green credentials while adding value to each property also.

All solar developments in the UK should be closely watched by the Department of Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resources as it provides us with a solid case study in relation to how we should really start to engage with large-scale renewable energy projects with a view to both our 2020 and 2030 targets. We here at Activ8 Solar Energies can speak from experience when we say that the Irish people have been pushing it on a smaller scale for well over a decade. Our 7,000 installations to date prove such.


The Future of Green Energy in The Emerald Isle

Renewed doubt has been cast over Ireland’s ability to meet sustainable EU greenhouse gas targets for 2020 with emissions across the transport and agriculture sectors set to increase over coming years.

 

With emissions attributed to the transport and agriculture sectors set to increase over the coming years, our ability as a nation to meet the specified EU greenhouse gas targets for 2020 has been brought into question once again by the Environmental Protection Agency.

 

Their latest report outlines how full implementation of our current energy efficiency and renewable fuel energy policies will still see Ireland fall short of our targets in 2020, which could result in large fines for non-compliance to what is essentially a commitment to a Europe-wide renewable energy initiative.

 

These targets outlined our responsibility to reduce emissions from sectors such as transport, agriculture, residential and waste by 20% from 2005 levels as part of the non-Emissions Trading Scheme (non-ETS), with the EPA now expecting our reduction to fall between the 6-11% range, well below 20%.

 

When we look at these sectors individually, there have been innovations on a larger scale that can help reduce emissions in this regard, with electric cars in transport, recycling programmes concerning waste emission reduction and renewable energy production in the residential sector, of which the widescale adoption of solar energy solutions such as our very own solar panels plays a significant role.

 

However, for the wider population, our agricultural production is something that the people of Ireland cannot realistically effect or change within the realm of their own homes. We can offset the increase of emissions in this industry by reducing them elsewhere and this may be a viable short term strategy for a new government.

 

Either way, it’s our overall, aggregated efforts that we feel the government can concentrate on in this manner. Our national GDP may be effected if we were to cut down on our herd size and the government is arguing that we can’t afford to cut production within one of our nation’s most valuable industries.

 

What are your thoughts about the balance discussed above? Do you think it’s a good idea to consider taking on board the points of EPA Director General, Laura Burke, when she referred to how “we must break our dependence on fossil energy infrastructures”?

 

These infrastructures run right to our doorsteps, where we depend on fossil fuels for central heating purposes, to heat our homes, heat our water, power our appliances and drive our cars; we’re concerned not only about the cost of our energy, but on the impact it’s having on the environment, and in turn, our future generations’ wellbeing.

 

If the Irish government is serious about finding a solution to break our dependence on fossil fuels, it is important that it helps strengthen the appetite for such change amongst the population by further supporting alternative heating solutions, renewable energy production and our overall green energy efforts.

 

Incentives in this regard such as the Home Renovation Incentive Scheme, Better Energy Homes are working really well at the moment, giving homeowners the chance to avail of grant for solar panels amongst other opportunities in the renewable energy sector.

 

Previous schemes such as the Greener Home Scheme have heralded extremely positive change in homes all around Ireland and only add weight to the argument that government supported schemes can help Ireland offset its overall emissions through residential support. Instead of a help-me-help-you scenario, the power of renewable energy in the residential sector truly becomes a help-us-help-us scenario, one which we can all benefit from, to the detriment of no stakeholders.

 

Green energy in Ireland is more than just an unattainable dream, it is fast becoming a reality and those who embrace it are reaping the rewards, both financially and ethically; it’s time we started pushing for an evolution towards a more sustainable, environmentally-friendly Ireland and we’re excited by the prospect of solar energy play a prominent role in driving this narrative for many bright years to come.


2015: The Warmest Year on Record - How Solar Can Help

It has emerged, in line with the yearly trends, that 2015 was the hottest year that the planet Earth as a whole has experienced since the creation of reliable records in 1880. As a company positioned in the renewable energy business, this brings up a number of questions, issues and general discussion points about how statistics like this effect what we at Activ8 Solar Energies do as a company.

First and foremost, our products help offset climate change, be it through the installation of domestic solar panels or commercial solar PV systems. Either way, we’re helping people generate their own electricity in a renewable, affordable and sustainable fashion.

Coming back to the emerging climate statistics of 2015, the Earth as a whole is getting warmer - that much we know is a fact. Ten of 2015’s 12 months set new all time temperature records. And the 21st Century in particular has been scorching: 15 of the 16 warmest years ever to be recorded have occurred since 2001. The evidence indicates that this warming is primarily created by our activity as a species - that is another uncomfortable fact. We do however, have the natural resources and technological know how available to us to replace our existing and armful practices of energy creation, therefore offsetting our use of fossil fuels and carbon emissions - this again is a fact.

Why opt for Solar Power Now?

Well the Earth is getting warmer and that in itself is a problem. Temperatures are increasing and you are in a  position where you can do something about it whilst generating your own energy and cutting down on the cost of your energy bills. Contrary to popular belief, solar panels do not need direct sunlight to generate energy - they work off both direct sunlight and diffused radiation, meaning it doesn’t need to be a cloudless day to see substantial solar energy production.

The idealistic solution to this global problem is already here. We have an opportunity to use one of the biggest natural resources of energy known to man, the sun, and bend it to our will. By generating renewable and sustainable energy this way, we are using the sun to offset our consumption of fossil fuels and reduce our own carbon emissions.

Now that we have discussed some of the more exemplary reasons as to why going solar is a great move for the environment around us, let us mention another, perhaps even more enticing reason to make the switch over to solar energy: finances.

The sun will continue to produce energy long after we are gone. With that in mind, we are never going to run out of sunlight so the price of it can never rise as the near infinite supply can never be outweighed by demand - simple economics! All you have to do to take advantage of this gigantic source of energy is put yourself in a position where you can harness it and installing solar panels is the way to do this.

An investment in solar is an investment in the future, your future.


Ireland's Commitment to Change at COP21 Summit Challenged

Could Ireland Have Committed to More Change at COP21 Paris?

On Monday of this week, as we got ready for another week of work in the world of renewable energy, our Taoiseach, Mr Enda Kenny, addressed many of the world's leading nations' leaders in Paris at the COP 21 global summit on climate change.

It was a moment in which Enda could have made all of us in the renewable energy industry in Ireland proud. That includes all of our customers and everyone making genuine efforts to source and use energy from renewable and sustainable means. It includes everyone who takes pride in simple things like recycling. It includes a lot of people in Ireland. But he failed to declare Ireland's strong intentions for climate change into the future.

Instead of standing and proclaiming Ireland's willingness to do everything possible so that Ireland would reach its renewable energy targets, he simply didn’t deliver. He cited Ireland's current targets for 2020 as being “unrealistic” and “unreachable”. Although he mainly referred to the difficulties facing the agricultural section in Ireland with regards to carbon emissions, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that incentives have worked in other industries.

You only have to look at the current solar energy grants scheme that has worked very well for our targets, our businesses and most of all, the Irish public who have been able to avail of renewable energy technologies in their home. Looking to agriculture, there is the opportunity to install medium-scale solar PV systems on farm buildings through the TAMS II scheme, but measures such as this should be more heavily supported if Ireland are to be seen as being serious about offsetting the emissions caused by our ever-increasing agricultural production.

The Irish Economy and Climate Change

Getting back to the topic at hand, Ireland is in a strong position currently thanks to our growing economy. Evidence of this was seen in the generous nature of the most recent budget. It would have been possible for the government to increase incentives and really push an agenda of change in relation to climate change and our 2020 targets, with a view to reaching our 2030 targets also.

Unfortunately, this didn’t happen and we, like many others, were left disappointed. But with this week's COP 21 global summit on climate change unfolding, we felt that it was the time for Enda Kenny and his party to show the Irish public its future plans in relation to climate change and a chance for them to showcase to the world how Ireland could once again be a leader of change as it has done in the past.

The only real commitment to come from Mr. Kenny was The €175 million promised over the next five years, which is no more than existing Irish Aid spending repeated into the future.

We, like many others, will continue to drive the renewable energy industry in Ireland and are hopeful that Mr. Kenny scraps the notions that our recession restricted us in this regard. Plenty of poorer nations than Ireland, such as India, have been admirably powering themselves forward through the heavy backing and support of solar power. In fact, Ireland are the 8th highest polluter amongst developed countries in the entire world and we are 4th in Europe [1].

It is time for change, climate change!

[1] "World carbon dioxide emissions data by country: China speeds ahead of the rest" - The Guardian.