Caracciolo F.,University of Naples Federico II |
Depalo D.,Economic Research |
Macias J.B.,Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
Journal of International Development | Year: 2014
This paper presents estimates of the welfare and poverty effects of a price increase in a major food commodity in an underdeveloped country. We use household data from a Zambian survey to estimate a demand system with which various price scenarios can be simulated for the main Zambian staple and its possible effects on different population categories. Our results show that a 50 per cent increase in maize prices could lead to an average consumption decrease of 17 per cent among Zambian households, and overall poverty could rise from 68 to 70 per cent fairly quickly at national level. © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Source
On the internet, every day is April Fools day. I have been meaning to rant about each of these stories, but each on their own do not make an entire post. So I have saved them up for one giant rant-o-rama. Got $850 to spare? Then you can buy a study from Standard & Poors called Economic Research: Millennials Are Creating Unsafe Conditions On U.S. Roads--But Not In The Way You Might Think. It blames young people for the upcoming collapse of American infrastructure. As Richard Masoner of Cyclicious aptly puts it, "roads are becoming more dangerous because you crazy Millennials don’t drive as much." And apparently when you do drive, you buy smaller cars that use less gas. According to S&P, "This, in turn, has curbed revenues from the federal gasoline tax, the primary source of funding for the Federal Highway Trust Fund, which is the backbone of the country's surface transportation infrastructure." It gets worse; those millennials just might crash the entire economy! The Chief Economist of S&P is quoted in Denver Business Journal: So kids, to save America as we know it, get rid of your bikes and your apartments, get out there and buy big heavy gas guzzlers! Move to the 'burbs! Drive 'til you qualify! That'll do it. You probably think this is just an autonomous Google Car. In fact, according to Jason Walsh, Irish correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, it is a threat to your freedom. Writing in CITY AM, an Irish business mag with the tagline "Business with Responsibility", he claims that they are part of the War on the Car™. He doesn't like Tesla's either; he prefers Ladas. Because they are not for effete rich elitists, and "even the worst car has its virtues – and that’s what makes the war on the motorist so depressing for those who love the freedom the car represents and facilitates." He doesn't care how awful and polluting it is, as long as he gets to drive it where he wants when he wants. And seriously, to you millennials who don't bother getting drivers licenses and are destroying the economy, look what you are missing: First they take your steering wheel; then they take your freedom. In America, it often seems that the eleventh commandment is "Thou shall always have free parking." So when the cyclists coveted their neighbor's on street parking spaces, the church objected for all kinds of reasons, including the constitutional, noting in their lawyers' letter: Evidently bike lanes are a substantial burden on the members ability to attend worship services and there is no compelling government interest. Oh, and because the United House of Prayer attracts primarily an African-American audience, they are also racist and discriminatory. Parking expert Richard Willson points at the Island Press that parking is nice and convenient but this is hardly a right, and that there are alternatives. Perhaps it's time for a new religion that rejects the eleventh commandment, and has Donald Shoup as Pope and The High Cost of Free Parking as the bible.
News Article | September 7, 2016
Many know that rooftop PV penetration in Hawaii far surpasses almost anywhere else in the world. Given the state’s 100% renewables mandate by 2045, the pace to explore and quickly implement renewable energy in Hawaii has exposed many challenges and has forced them to the “bleeding edge” of the newest technologies. This forced progress now includes accelerated installation of various forms of energy storage, particularly at the grid-edge. This situation underscores the growing importance of cost-effective and scalable energy storage and its synergy to greater solar generation. Importantly, a draft NARUC Distributive Energy Resources Compensation Manual says: “Energy storage can be used as a resource to add stability, control, and reliability to the electric grid. Historically, storage technologies have not been widely used because it has not been cost competitive with cheaper sources of power, such as fossil fuels. However, given the recent decline in cost as well as improved storage technologies, storage has become an option that is able to compete.” Our answer is focus your study on Hawaii, because of all the locations across the planet, Hawaii is transitioning faster than anywhere else from a huge and risky over dependency on imported fossil fuels, particularly for electricity generation. That was the strategy that our company committed to (PDF) just 4 years ago, and it paid off as Hawaiian Electric began deploying our smart water heater solution about a year ago as its very first residential behind-the-meter real-time energy storage. For perspective, Hawaii is heavily dependent upon oil and gas for its electricity. In past years, total oil imports cost the average person in Hawaii as much as $3000/person/year, but as crude prices dropped by more than half, the money bleeding out of the islands also receded. Hawaiian Electric’s regulatory filings show that its price for low sulfur fuel oil prices dropped from $135.10/bbl in August 2014 to the current $58.44/bbl. For residential customers on Oahu, that collapse in oil prices took their $0.367/kWh electricity rate in August 2 years ago to $0.267 today. In other words, the drop in price of imported oil converted to a drop of $50/month in the monthly electricity bill for an average customer using 500 kWh/month. Not so coincidentally, the incredible rise in oil prices that peaked in 2008, and again in August 2 years ago, spurred a torrent of legislative and regulatory activity in Hawaii. For instance, in 2007, Hawaii became the second state in the nation to set a binding cap on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through Act 234, a policy to reduce GHG emissions statewide to 1990 levels by the year 2020. Hawaii’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) that was established in 2001 was amended during the 2006 legislative session to require that 20% of electricity sales be produced from renewable resources by 2020. In June 2015, Governor Ige signed a bill strengthening Hawaii’s commitment to clean energy by directing the state’s utilities to generate 100% of their electricity sales from renewable energy resources by 2045. As further background, the Hawaiian Islands have 6 electrical grids, and none are connected to any other island. Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) and its subsidiaries, Maui Electric (MECO) and Hawaii Electric Light Company (HELCO), serve about 93% of the state’s electric utility customers. The island of Kauai is served by Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC). Under Hawaii’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), each electric utility company must meet the following percentages of “renewable electrical energy” sales: The PUC stated earlier this year that RPS compliance stood at 23%. KIUC has already spent a total of $350 million to get where it is right now, and plans to get to 60% renewable energy by 2020 and 70% by 2030. Hawaiian Electric plans to get to 46% renewable energy by 2020 and 67% by 2030. It also was recently reported that it will cost $8 billion in infrastructure upgrades alone on Oahu. As mentioned, in the spring and up until September 2014, oil was continuing to push residential electricity bills to highly unsustainable levels. Hawaiian Electric (just like most utilities) periodically updates its Integrated Resource Planning (IRP). Yet in April 28, 2014, in an unprecedented action, the Public Utility Commission (PUC) rejected HECO Companies’ IRP Report and associated Action Plans and issued 4 new orders, including within Order 32052 Appendix A “Inclinations on the Future of Hawaii’s Electric Utilities” which was both guidance and a roadmap to move Hawaii to a grid of the future. The PUC also set a late summer deadline for the HECO Companies to file several new and very exhaustive reports. Among those reports that HECO was required to file: During the 2 years that followed, over a dozen associated PUC Dockets added thousands of pages of studies and documents to support the PUC’s “Inclination” guidelines and goals, yet the key report was always the PSIP. That initial August 26, 2014 PSIP filing (at 1600 pages) was informally rejected by the Commission. Later, after a careful review, the Commission issued Order No. 33320 on November 4, 2015, where it stated that it found several shortcomings in the PSIPs that need to be addressed. The Commission ordered the Hawaiian Electric Companies to file a Revision Plan that month and ordered HECO to file updated PSIPs by April 1, 2016 — which it did. In a June 20, 2016 submittal, HECO told the PUC that it incurred, but never sought recovery for, approximately $5 million in outside consultant costs for development of the PSIPs submitted into August 2014, and approximately $700,000 was incurred in beginning the planning and update work required in late 2015. The outside consultants began their work on the interim and updated PSIPs in late 2015. So, through May 2016, the companies incurred approximately $3,578,632 in PSIP consultant outside services costs and estimated they will incur an additional $2,188,893 from June 2016 through year end. This is a gold mine waiting to be prospected by utilities, because if HECO is correct, the research contained in the Docket has nearly $10 million in consulting evaluations and reports from companies like Energy and Environmental Economics (E3), Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and others contained within the 11,000 pages PSIP Docket alone. In addition, further critical information will be added after the 2 Technical Conferences scheduled by the PUC before the final HECO PSIP is submitted at year end. This is the motherlode, but there are at least another dozen other supporting Dockets that contain thousands of other pages of analysis and rich veins of lessons learned. Part of the reason that those sources are so valuable is the little-known fact that Hawaii was first or among the first to investigate and institute programs, and certainly the first to face some of the expected and unexpected consequences. For instance, Feed-in-tariffs (FIT) as a renewable energy procurement mechanism were initiated in September 2009 and ended in December 2015. However, future revisions or modifications could be addressed either in Docket No. 2014-0192 (DER policies) or in Docket No. 2014-0183 (the HECO Companies’ PSIPs). Hawaiian Electric was also the first to: Hawaiian Electric also proposed a Time-of-Use to the PUC, and a recent working paper by University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization (UHERO) modeled it into 3 different scenarios and said: To maximize the success and benefits of implementing a TOU program, our study underscores two critical considerations. The first is the importance of enabling technologies providing for greater potential load shifting, both in regards to information and automation, and the second is the importance of customer participation in achieving efficiency goals in electricity generation. UHERO’s model results point to the importance of appliances in a residential household’s decision to shift load. The difference in percentage change during TOU periods between the Appliance and Literature Scenarios suggest that although a certain amount of appliance load is potentially switchable, residents are unlikely to switch that amount of their appliance load, especially without enabling technologies. The UHERO paper also included some graphs which we see as pointing to the value of smart water heaters — substantial load with significant usage during the critical late afternoon ramp. This entire first ever deployment – anywhere – of Grid Integrated Water Heaters (GIWH) technology would not have happened without Olin Lagon and his company Shifted Energy. Olin is a software architect with a string of patents who has a long history of social responsibility. Born and raised in Hawaii’s public housing this founder and former director of non-profit Kanu Hawaii is putting his love of technology directly to work. Olin formed Shifted Energy and joined the Energy Excelerator specifically to help leverage GIWH. He is convinced that GIWH is the single most cost-effective and scalable renewable technology that will directly benefit all stakeholders. Working directly with Hawaiian Electric, Olin and the Energy Excelerator helped fund this first deployment in western Oahu and Olin took personal responsibility (“kuleana” in Hawaii) working hands-on over the past year with plumbers and electricians during installation and start up. In July, Olin was honored to participate in Microsoft’s World Partner Conference in Toronto (if interested, see the portion in this clip from 1:20 – 1:54). Our final suggestions to utilities anticipating adding renewables to their power generation mix: Mining these data results in high quality learning outcomes and solid “next steps,” all stemming from the real life challenges, experiences, and solutions ongoing in Hawaii. About the author: Kelly Murphy, Business Development Specialist for Steffes, is responsible for the “go to market” and sales strategies for a patented and cost-effective electric energy storage system known as GETS. HECO selected the GETS System for their very 1st behind-the-meter (non-battery) residential energy storage deployment which began about a year ago. Kelly’s background includes co-founding a venture capital funded energy startup company as well as being a peer reviewer for a landmark DOE study that concluded that renewable generation when combined with flexible systems is capable of supplying 80% of our total electricity energy needs in the US by 2050. Drive an electric car? Complete one of our short surveys for our next electric car report. Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.
News Article | September 9, 2016
In his Taipei office earlier this month, Gordon Yu showed me photos of a Mercedes S350 BlueTec. “We were able to power this car entirely from fuel made from plastic,” Yu said. “It has less emission pollution and costs the same as petro-based diesel.” He pauses for dramatic effect and adds, giddily: “And it has a higher horsepower.” The fuel, called R-One, is made from plastic waste through the use of reactive catalysts and high temperatures. Through a process called pyrolysis, the plastic goes from solid, to liquid, to gas state. The plastic can be sourced from waste landfills and then processed with less sorting than traditional recycling. Taiwan is a leader in innovative recycling and sustainability. The Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research says that 15 percent of the country’s exports are green products and according to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, this sector is expected to generate opportunities exceeding $318 billion by 2020. “Right now Taiwan excels at energy efficiency, pollution control, real on the ground environmental protection technology,” said Nate Maynard, a consultant at the Chunghua Institution for Economic Research, a Taiwan-based think tank. “No energy solution is universally applicable, however plastic to fuel can address major problems in Asia, like trash burning, littering, and a general reliance on diesel fuel.” In Taiwan, the plastic-to-fuel technology is championed by recycling company EVP Group, where Yu works, which can process over twenty tons of plastic per day. While plastic to fuel is an innovation that’s been around for nearly three decades, EVP is the only company worldwide that processes plastic without washing and separating —which saves immensely on costs. “We can process a high yield and we accept the widest ranges of plastic in the world,” Yu said. R-One is always in continuous production. Each day, seven kiloliters of R-One, or “regenerative oil new energy”, can be generated and it has a low sulfur-content at ten parts per million (ppm). For context, in the United States, low sulfur content for highway diesel fuel is 500 ppm. Ultra low sulfur diesel only clocks in at 15 ppm. Sulfur causes acid rain, and sulfur dioxide is a mild greenhouse gas. So low sulfur fuels help with reducing air pollution. R-One also has important economic implications for Taiwan. “The difference with Taiwan and the United States is that Taiwan is importing their fuel. With plastic-to-fuel technology, Taiwan can reduce their dependence on imports, reduce waste, have marginally better air quality, and reduce the public health impact of burning waste,” Maynard said. What’s interesting about Yu and his involvement with EVP is not so much the technology, but his broader vision for these sustainable technologies in Taiwan. He is the managing director of the Taiwan Hsinchu Green Industry Association, an industry group that includes over 40 sustainable technology companies in Taiwan. “When people ask what business I am in and I say sustainability, no one understands that here in Taiwan,” he said. “So I say cradle-to-cradle instead and then they understand.” (Cradle-to-cradle refers to a regenerative design system that mimics nature. Waste is recycled back into the production cycle and made into products of value.) Making of the glass violin. Video courtesy of Gordon Yu Yu also serves as the CEO of Etouch Innovation Company, a member of the industry association, which produces products like egg cartons made with recycled fibers, and violins fashioned with leftover glass from smartphones. “It’s such a beautiful instrument,” he said of the recycled glass violin. “It has such a unique sound.” The core philosophy of the green industry association is to use waste as a resource and process it as efficiently as possible into a viable, commercial product. And Taiwan has long been an innovator in sustainable technology. “Taiwan’s rapid progress in sustainability keeps me optimistic,” Maynard said. “In several decades they have developed world class recycling systems which in turn created a whole branch of other industries using recycled products.” Yu has lofty goals, such as creating an ocean-based fueling station that converts plastic waste to R-One. “This would mean cheaper cargo and less plastic in the ocean.” Read More: From Trash to Punk: The Underside of China's Spectacular Urban Growth Other companies and products under the Hsinchu Green Industry Association include Taiwan’s largest recycling association, a business that makes fabrics out of recycled plastics, biodegradable diapers, building bricks made out of plastic, phone cases made with rice husks, and sandals fashioned out of agricultural waste. But Maynard is skeptical they will be able to make it long term. “It’s hard for green business in Taiwan to get the investment they need due to a short-sighted investment culture,” he said. “People don’t understand the risks of these kinds of products and hesitate to invest. This in turn leads to challenges with internationalization or localization, I see a lot of great ideas that fail to really take hold.” Yu, however, is not deterred. “Taiwan has always been an innovative country,” he says. ”It’s been recycling for a long time. In Chinese culture, reusing and recycling is in our genes. This is a Buddhist way of thinking.”
News Article | January 19, 2016
A record 78% of hiring managers anticipate more hiring in the first half of 2016 compared to the second half of 2015, according to the latest report from career site Dice. That means there are plenty of openings to fill that accommodate a range of seekers from entry-level to executive. CareerBuilder reports that over 100 occupations in the U.S. currently have more job postings than actual hires month over month. Combined, these two factors make it a great time to be looking for a job. Unfortunately, even that level of demand isn’t making the time to hire a qualified candidate any shorter. For those about to embark on a search, expect it to take a long time. In fact, the average interview process now takes 23 days, up from 13 days four years ago, according to a recent report from Glassdoor Economic Research. Why is it taking so long? Glassdoor’s research indicates that location, the size of the company, and more rigorous screening processes factor into the length of time it takes to get an offer. Ironically, tech jobs—among the most in-demand this year—have longer waits than average. Software engineers can expect their interview process to take more than a month (35 days), according to Glassdoor. App developers and product engineers come in close behind with 28 days of interviewing. If it’s exhausting just reading about the time it takes to be "on" for a potential employer, it’s about to get worse. The researchers of GetVoIP, a cloud communication adviser, did an analysis of the hiring process for a software engineer position at 13 popular tech companies that had at least 100 reviews on Glassdoor to identify trends in the overall experience. Alex Heinz, who does community outreach at GetVoIP, tells Fast Company, "We placed the most emphasis on interviews posted in the past two years (2014—2015), though we realize that the interviews could have been conducted at an earlier date and posted about later." He also pointed out that companies such as HP, Samsung, or Dell might have been interesting to include, but weren’t. "There wasn't enough information available for us to feel confident about their hiring processes," he says. Overall, the analysis uncovered distinct trends in the interviewees’ experience. For example, seven of the 13 companies kick off the process with a screening call, while IBM, Cisco, and Yahoo initiate a phone interview. Only Twitter and Amazon require the applicant to complete an online assessment before moving to a phone conversation. In the case of Amazon, the initial online test is followed up with a second online assessment. Each company saves the on-site interview for the last step—after assessments and phone calls have been completed. Incidentally, only Yelp applicants reported doing Skype interviews. All this phoning and testing takes between two weeks to a month at these companies, so you would think that there’d be plenty of negative feedback from the applicants. Instead, GetVoIP’s analysis revealed that drawn-out processes didn’t influence an interviewee’s experience. "While Cisco, Yahoo, and Uber had the shortest interview process of two weeks, only interviewees at Cisco had an overwhelmingly positive interview experience," writes GetVoIP’s founder Reuben Yonatan. Likewise, easy interview processes don’t always translate to a positive experience, and a more challenging one didn’t necessarily lead to more disgruntled reviews. Despite the dustup over Amazon’s corporate culture this summer, those who went through the interviewing process reported overwhelmingly positive experiences (49% of reviews were positive, while only 15% were negative, and the rest were neutral) even though it was rated one of the most difficult to get through. Uber had similar results (51% positive) even though the company and its leadership have also been criticized recently. IBM scored high marks for giving candidates an overall good experience. The company got 69% positive ratings and only 5% negative. The company that drew the most negative feedback among applicants? Twitter, with 46% thumbs down. After that, it’s a tie between Apple and Uber both at 26%. Yonatan admits that the data is specific to software engineers, but is a good indicator of how different the hiring process is today in a variety of industries. Fast Company recently reported that location is no longer a deal breaker to qualify for a position, thanks to video resumes and interviews. Says Yonatan: "Today, there are multiple rounds of phone/Skype screenings and test projects before you even qualify for an onsite interview."