Thursday, March 21, 2013

Celebrating a Huge Offshore Wind Victory in Maryland

The winds of change brought some great progress to Maryland this week when the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013 passed through both houses of the legislature. The offshore wind bill has been championed from the start by Governor Martin O'Malley, who stands ready to sign the bill into law.

This is a huge victory that is nationally significant for two reasons. First, it could well be the tipping point that allows us to finally tap the massive offshore wind potential off the East Coast. Second, it will ensure historically underrepresented minority groups and small businesses will benefit from the jobs and investment dollars that offshore wind projects will generate.The bill will help develop a 200-megawatt wind project off the coast of Ocean City by requiring electricity suppliers to buy offshore renewable energy credits.This victory comes after three years of hard work by thousands of activists who know that Maryland can be a national clean energy leader.

"We started this campaign with our allies in 2010 with a town hall meeting in Ocean City, out of which the Maryland Offshore Wind Coalition formed," said Sierra Club Maryland Conservation Organizer Christine Hill.
"Ever since then we've kept up a steady campaign of rallies, more town hall meetings, door-knocking, phone-banking, mailings, letters-to-the-editor, and lobbying members of the legislature, positioning ourselves to win."

What makes this offshore wind bill even more monumental is that it will bring more jobs to historically underrepresented groups. It includes a $10 million development fund targeted to small and minority businesses to assist them in preparing to participate in the offshore wind supply chain and sets up a task force to study the feasibility of incorporating degree programs into Maryland Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

The legislation was championed by various organizations because of this focus on providing key provisions for minority groups. The Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland was a major champion of the task force. We held a rally where over 100 students came out to rally their legislators to incorporate offshore wind degree programs at HBCUs. The NAACP's Maryland Conference also named offshore wind as one of their top priorities this year.

As Christine put it, "It's so great to see our state committed to replacing dirty, outdated fossil fuels that contribute to climate disruption with clean, renewable offshore energy that will create more jobs and safeguard our children's future."

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Turbine firm Windcrop opens Saltash office and aims to create 30 jobs

The company, which is headquartered in Norwich, was started by former Lotus Engineering commercial director John Moore in 2009 to provide small-scale renewable energy to farmers and other landowners.

Each turbine can make savings on the landowners' electricity bill and Windcrop makes its return on investment through the Government's Feed-in Tariff (FiT) – a financial incentive to encourage the uptake of small scale renewable energy.

John Ainsworth, general manager at the Saltash office, expects the branch to eventually employ 30 people within site assessment, planning, installation and operations teams.

Mr Ainsworth said: "My team will all be employed from the local area and we're really looking forward to working with farmers, smallholders and other landowners.

"Our small wind turbines are designed to provide the least amount of concern in the planning process and Windcrop has an in-house planning team who manage this part of the job for our customers.

"We then take care of the entire installation process, as well as the maintenance over a 20-year contract period, making it easy and immediately beneficial for customers in the South West."

Windcrop's small wind turbine also features a patented design which the company says has minimum impact on the environment, because the small masts are mounted onto a unique piling system, avoiding the need for onsite heavy plant or concrete.

Mr Moore, who is still managing director of the firm he founded, said the firm was looking forward to working with an increasing number of South West farmers and landowners interested in investing in, and benefiting from, renewable energy.

He said: "As we continue to expand across the UK we are looking to reach even more forward-thinking farmers and landowners who are interested in using a small piece of unproductive land to generate free electricity.

"The South West is already renowned for its pioneering attitude with regard to green energy."

"Ultimately we will play a key part in helping to meet the government target of generating 15 per cent of all the UK's energy from renewable by 2020."

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Europe recession further slowed global manufacturing

Global manufacturing output rose by merely 1.2 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year compared to the same period in the previous year, the lowest quarterly growth rate in the last three years, according to a United Nations report released on Friday that attributes the slowdown to the prolonged recession in Europe and weaker growth in other industrialized countries.

According to the report by the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the risk of another slowdown looms over developing economies as long as the economic recession persists in industrialized countries.

In industrialized countries, manufacturing output fell by 1.8 per cent compared to the fourth quarter of 2011, while the manufacturing output of developing economies grew by 7.6 per cent compared to the same period of the previous year.

In Europe, the decline in industrial production previously observed in a few countries of the European Union spread across the continent. Industrial production systematically decreased there in all four quarters of 2012, UNIDO reported.

Manufacturing output in the fourth quarter fell by 3.9 per cent in France, 2.9 per cent in Germany, 6.9 per cent in Italy and 1.8 per cent in the United Kingdom.

The severity of the crisis slightly eased in Greece and Portugal where there was a much lower declining rate. However, manufacturing output in Spain dropped significantly, by 6 per cent in the fourth quarter, according to the UN agency.

Growth in North America continued but at a lower rate than in the previous quarter.

In East Asia, manufacturing outputs dropped for the second consecutive quarter, mainly due to a decrease in Japanese exports.

Improved growth in China helped bolster figures in developing countries averting a further slowdown in the rate of manufacturing growth observed during the first half of 2012, UNIDO reported.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

U.K. Q4 Industrial Output Contracts Despite Outgrowing Estimates In December

U.K. industrial production increased at a faster-than-expected pace in December, in line with more recent economic data that suggest the economy might avoid slipping back into a renewed recession. However, the sector recorded a marked contraction in output in the fourth quarter amid wide-spread closure of oil fields in the North Sea, latest data showed Thursday.

Industrial production rose a seasonally adjusted 1.1 percent sequentially, following November's 0.2 percent gain, marking the second consecutive monthly growth, the Office for National Statistics said. The growth rate exceeded the 0.9 percent increase economists had forecast.

"December's industrial production and trade figures added to evidence that the economic picture improved at the tail end of last year," Capital Economics UK Economist Samuel Tombs said.

"But, the fact that the trade deficit for the year as a whole reached a record high underlines that these improvements are coming from exceptionally weak starting points."

Meanwhile, production declined a seasonally adjusted 1.9 percent quarter-over-quarter in the fourth quarter, marking the biggest fall since the first quarter of 2009.

Production by the manufacturing sector advanced 1.6 percent compared to November, when it dropped by 0.3 percent. Economists had expected a more modest growth of 0.8 percent. Output of the mining and quarrying sector rose by 1.2 percent.

"With the manufacturing surveys suggesting that order books are weakening again, largely as result of fading overseas demand, the industrial sector is not out of the woods yet," Tombs added.

Compared to December 2011, overall industrial production decreased 1.7 percent in December after falling 2.4 percent in the preceding month. Manufacturing output dropped at a slower rate of 1.5 percent than 2 percent a month ago.

Economists had forecast a 2 percent annual fall in overall output, and a 2.4 percent drop in manufacturing production.

In a separate report, the statistical office said that the shortfall in U.K.'s merchandise trade fell to GBP 8.9 billion in December from GBP 9.3 billion a month ago.

The results of the latest purchasing managers' survey released by Markit Economics last week showed that the British manufacturing sector expanded further in January, with production increasing to a sixteen-month high. The corresponding survey for the service sector showed that the sector returned to growth in the beginning of the year as business expectations rose to the highest level in eight months.

The British economy contracted 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter after a modest recovery in the previous three months proved to be short-lived. The economy has been under pressure from the government's austerity program and above-target inflation that outpaced wage-growth.

The Bank of England , or BoE, is widely expected to hold fire at today's monetary policy meeting, after keeping the main interest rate steady at 0.5 percent at the December meeting. The central bank is also seen leaving its quantitative easing unchanged at GBP 375 billion.

Although the BoE is expected to retain the current stimulus, economists say the bank will reinvest the redeemed gilts again in the asset purchase program.