Covers environment, transportation, urban and regional planning, economic and social issues with a focus on Finland and Portugal.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Photovoltaics Status Report 2008: 60% increase in solar panel production

On December 11, the European Commission's Joint Research Centre has released the latest Photovoltaics Status Report. According to JRC, this scientific study combines analysis of up-to-date international manufacturing and market implementation data throughout 2007 with subsequent strategic and political developments up to September 2008.

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Preliminary findings demonstrate the next key facts:
  • an increase in the yearly growth rate of solar photovoltaic production, averaging 40% over five years and then peaking at 60% in 2007;
  • a €5.7 billion turnover in Germany in 2007 with in excess of 100,000 houses installing solar panels;
  • world electricity production with PV systems is ca 10 Billion KWh, of which half comes from the EU. Solar energy still accounts for only 0.2% of total electricity consumption in Europe. Yet, the net effect is 4 million fewer tonnes of CO2 being released;
  • incentive schemes and technical advances are having a positive downward impact on photovoltaic costs. Market value is estimated to reach €40 billion by 2010 with lower prices for consumers.

Joint Research Centre predicts that more than 15TWh of electricity will be generated in 2010, what is equivalent to 0.5% of the EU 27 total net production of electricity in 2006 (the same as Slovenia's total electricity consumption). This prediction is sustained on photovoltaic growth scenario for Europe based on 2001 to 2007 data, an analysis of European policies and assessment of current investments.

Other projections are that by 2012 China will account for 27% of worldwide solar cell production capacity (approximately 42.8 GW), followed by Europe with 23%, Japan with 17% and Taiwan with 14%.

Photovoltaic (PV) solar energy is one of 14 different energy technologies that the European Commission's Joint Research Centre is currently assessing within the context of the SETIS (Strategic Energy Technology Information System), which is a key input to Europe's current energy policy. The Joint Research Centre, through the SETIS provides independent, validated and reliable information on energy technologies.This ranges from research on hydrogen fuel-cells and solar to nuclear energy.

The JRC comprises 2,750 staff across seven research institutes in 5 EU Member States (Belgium, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain), including the Institute for Energy in Petten, North Holland.

Second JRC, the last edition of the Photovoltaic Status Report 2007 was downloaded 150,000 times.

You can get a free copy of the new Photovoltaic Status Report 2008 at: [PDF]


PV Status Report 2008
Research, Solar Cell Production and Market Implementation of Photovoltaics
September 2008
Arnulf Jäger-Waldau
European Commission, DG Joint Research Centre,
Institute for Energy, Renewable Energies Unit

Photovoltaics is a solar power technology to generate Electricity using semiconductor devices, known as solar cells. A number of solar cells form a solar "Module" or "Panel", which can then be combined to solar systems, ranging from a few Watts of electricity output to multi Megawatt power stations.
The unique format of the Photovoltaic Status Report is to combine international up-to-dateinformation about Research Activities with Manufacturing and Market Implementation data of Photovoltaics. These data are collected on a regular basis from public and commercial studies and cross-checked with personal communications. Regular fact-finding missions with company visits, as well as meetings with officials from funding organisations and policy makers, complete the picture.
Growth in the solar Photovoltaic sector has been robust. Yearly growth rates over the last five years were on average more than 40%, thus making Photovoltaics one of the fastest growing industries at present. Business analysts predict that the market volume will increase to € 40 billion in 2010 and expect rising profit margins and lower prices for consumers at the same time. The PV Status Report provides comprehensive and relevant information on this dynamic sector for the public interested, as well as decision- makers in policy and industry.

Images(except the first) and data Source: PV News, Photon International and JRC analysis


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Municipality of Moura and 3 companies want to invest €40M in new solar thermal power station

The Municipal Council of Moura and three companies, two Portuguese and one German, want to build a solar thermal power plant in that municipality of Alentejo region, a predicted investment of 40 million euros.

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Alentejo is a region with low population density, occupying almost 33% of the area of Portugal and having only 5.2% of its inhabitants. For an effective regional development of Alentejo, it is critical to achieve the Alqueva Multi Purpose Project (Empreendimento de Fins Múltiplos do Alqueva) in its whole potential - agro-industry, agriculture, irrigation, tourism and renewable energies. This can be a great opportunity to develop the potential of Alentejo in the production of electricity from renewable sources, with emphasis on solar photovoltaics and now, solar thermal. The production will be carried out by centralized power plants, the Alqueva Hydroelectric Plant, small hydro plants, mini PV power plants and micro-generation.

The functional specialization, as a mechanism for creating competitive territories and stable employment, migth be a solution in the particular case of the Moura city and surrounding territory, by the promotion of a regional cluster in the area of solar power and innovation. In the context of the Regional Development strategy, the Moura Project has two main “tracks”: Moura Solar Factory (MFS), Moura Technological Park and the micro-generation Program. Now, a new track is in its initial development phase - a new solar thermal power plant.

It is worthy of remark that the known 46 MWp (62 MWp in the posterior 2nd phase) single-axis tracking system centralized photovoltaic plant in Moura (Amareleja parish), promoted by the local municipality and Acciona Energia (Spain), is expected to be completed by the end of 2008. This plant will have the highest power so far installed in the world with this technology. The installation of 46 MWp power represents an investment of approximately 250 million euros.

A 7.6 million euros PV panel manufacturing plant (MSF) will provide panels for the second stage of the Amareleja power station construction. The factory, located also in Amareleja (Baldio das Ferrarias), is being constructed by Acciona and became operational in December 2007. Its future production will be targeted at the international market, with a capacity of producing 24 MW of solar panels annually.

Actually, the new project is expected in a memorandum of understanding already signed between the Municipal Council, the German company SKY Energy and the Portuguese TOM, Lda. e Lógica ( this one from the Municipality) , which aims with concerted efforts to create the necessary conditions for building the plant.

The new solar thermal power station, which will have 10 MW of installed capacity, will be installed in an area of about 15 ha. The selection of this area should be completed in January 2009.

By the end of August 2010, it will be defined the financial structure of the plant construction, for later project presentation to the Ministry of Economy.

The construction of the plant, estimated the Mayor José Maria Pós-de-Mina, should start as soon as the relevant permits and allowances are issued and it is guaranteed a tariff that allows the project viability.

Image: Moura (Amareleja) Photovoltaic Power Station / by Luis Alves


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Lisbon municipality sells energy generated by solar panels

The Lisbon Municipal Council may gain 160,000 euros/year through the sale ( to the electricity operator EDP - Energias de Portugal) of electricity generated from solar photovoltaic panels installed in primary schools and municipal buildings located in municipal neighborhoods (bairros municipais).

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The micro-generation project, presented yesterday, is taking first steps, but expectations are optimistic. "The return on investment is assured and in eight or nine years, the Municipal Council will make money," said the Mayor of the municipality.

It is estimated that each micro-plant produces 5,110 KW/year, representing a saving of two tonnes of carbon dioxide per system.

Second Gebalis, the municipal company that manages municipal neighborhoods in Lisbon, the systems already installed on the roof of 23 buildings (22 for housing and one for services, the Gebalis headquarter) will bring in the municipality 80,000euros/year - an important contribution to mitigate the damages from the municipal company, that spent 1,026,000 euros with electricity bills of its “bairros”, last year.

However, it’s still necessary to amortize the investment of around 500,000 euros made in systems, which are not yet producing electricity.

For now, the micro-generation is only a reality in the School 117 (Bairro da Flamenga, Marvila), which served as a pilot project and is selling energy to the grid since October - on 14 August 2008 it was officially certified the first installation of photovoltaic micro-generation in a school of Lisbon. Simultaneously, the installation of a exploitation unit of solar thermal energy will allow energy savings of about 70% and economic savings of 80%.

School 117 will be followed by seven other primary and pre schools, whose systems are already installed and approved. With the micro-generation working on eight schools, it is expected an earning revenue of 26,000 euros/year through the sale of energy.

If everything goes well, other 23 schools will join the project. In that case, the gain will reach 75,000 euros/year.

The municipality has spent 25,000 euros per school (200,000 in total) in the installation and certification of the PV solar panels.

In fact, the integrated systems in buildings (BIPV) have a great potential and can lead to a creation of a sustained market (the installation of 1.5 kWp systems in new buildings could result in an annual potential of 60 MWp).

Some benefits include the creation of jobs associated with market promotion and evolution of PV. The investment in the area of photovoltaic systems can create companies of manufacturing, engineering, installation and maintenance and employment with a particular focus at the local level.

Manufacturing: 7 jobs per MW produced.
Engineering and Installation: 30 jobs per MW installed.
Maintenance: 2 jobs per MW installed.

To ensure its 2010 objective for power generation based on renewable energies - 45% of total electricity consumption - Portugal must implement the next two points, with respect of solar power and micro-generation :

Solar energy: construction of the world's largest photovoltaic plant (the Moura plant) and ensure link to micro-generation policies. The Moura Photovoltaic Power Station represents about 30% of the objectives of photovoltaics in Portugal (national target is 150 MW).

Micro-generation: program for installing 50,000 systems until 2010, with incentives to the installation of water heating systems based on solar energy in existing houses. This program can create new business opportunities for installers, industry and energy service companies, stimulating the market of renewables. The micro-generation program is mainly oriented to electricity consumers, small businesses and communities. The special regime applies exclusively to renewable sources (solar PV, wind, hydro, biomass and fuel cells) with the maximum of interconnection power by application limited to 3,68 kW. This program is under the DL n.º 363/2007, 2 November.

Image: Solar Building XXI, INETI - Instituto Nacional de Engenharia, Tecnologia e Inovação, Lisbon / by anabananasplit, some rights reserved


Sunday, November 30, 2008

The world’s largest photovoltaic power station [VIDEO]

After writing several articles and making two photographic reports related to Photovoltaic Solar in Portugal (visit the links below), on Expresso Multimédia I found this interesting video, which give us a different visual perspective from the "giant" Moura PV power station.

Related articles: (Alentejo: Solar Region)

  • “Photovoltaic Solar in Portugal”
  • “Moura (Amareleja) Photovoltaic Power Station”
  • “Moura Renewable Energies Project“
  • The world’s largest photovoltaic power station [PICS]
  • Serpa (Brinches) Photovoltaic Power Station [PICS]
  • allvoices

    Monday, November 24, 2008

    Renault-Nissan electric cars arrive at Portugal in 2011

    Portugal Tecnológico 2008 in Lisbon - Nissan Denki (Japanese for “electric”) Cube Concept

    The Portuguese government and the Renault-Nissan alliance signed the final agreement “Zero Emission Mobility”, under which Portugal will create a national recharging network for its project of electric cars, that will be built across the country over the next 3 years.

    Portugal will have 320 charging stations for electric cars in 2010.That number will reach 1300 at the end of 2011.

    Read more

    The final agreement took place four months after the government and Renault-Nissan attended the signing of a memorandum of understanding on the project, in order to Portugal becomes one of the first world markets (and the first European) where will be introduced the models of Renault-Nissan electric cars, with release scheduled for the beginning of 2011. French carmaker Renault and its Japanese partner Nissan have been working on the development of a battery powered car with a 160 Km range.

    The Portuguese Prime Minister, José Sócrates, announced incentives to electric vehicle purchasers, including an income tax credit for individuals and corporate tax reductions for fleet purchases. The government also wants that 20% of public fleet vehicle purchases be zero-emission, from 2011. Other measures, such as reduced parking rates, preferential access and financing subsidies are being studied further.

    Portugal is a global leader in renewable energy. The next step is to make Portugal a pioneer in zero emission mobility. Electric vehicles offer major benefits to our society by reducing imports of fuel, improving energy security, reducing CO2 emissions and offering a reliable and secure alternative towards sustainable mobility, said the Prime Minister.

    Portugal Tecnológico 2008 in Lisbon - Nissan Denki (Japanese for “electric”) Cube Concept

    These measures were announced in Lisbon, at Portugal Tecnológico 2008. Nissan’s Denki Cube was on display at the exhibition. This concept vehicle features the same lithium-ion battery technology that will power Nissan’s new electric vehicles.


    Wednesday, November 19, 2008

    Google Maps Portugal and Google Transit Lisboa

    Yesterday, Google Portugal announced two services in the Portuguese language: Google Maps and Google Transit for Lisbon (Lisboa). After Vienna, the Portuguese capital is the second European city to receive this service. Now, it’s possible to get Google information of how to travel in Lisbon on public transport, a service provided by Google Transit.

    Read more

    We are satisfied with these news, because one year ago Google announced the launch of Google Transit trip planner in Europe, having only information for some places and transport companies. Nowadays, over 70 agencies in 10 countries make their information available in Google Maps.

    When the project was only available in some selected cities, not located in Europe, we published a simple plan for a trip across Europe, between Lisbon and Helsinki, to observe which of the transit agencies’ schedules might be integrated to increase the Google database. This year, Google Transit was developed in partnership with Metro and Carris, companies where is available all the information relevant to public transport in Lisbon, such as the location, travel time and ticket prices.

    To plan a trip, you can simply click on the "Get directions " link. Then, it’s only necessary typing the start and end address in the "Get directions" boxes to get the results.

    Google believes this is an important step in encouraging people to use public transit. The company hopes that folks will decide to leave the car at home if they can easily discover a transit stop next to a business as they're searching for it, or if they realise it's easy to take a train as they plot their journey from point A to point B.

    In a yesterday press conference, Inês Gonçalves, Google Portugal responsible of marketing, said:

    "It’s obvious that we want more cities, now it depends on the partners"
    "Google Maps is not only put a map online, it’s to get a location where the language is understood, and with local content."

    As we notice, on November 2007, Google established in Lisbon to concentrate on online publicity, trying to attract investments from Portuguese companies.

    Yesterday, Paulo Barreto, chief executive of Google Portugal, said that "since a year ago that we operate directly in Portugal, our priority has been to adapt products to Portuguese."

    Companies can also advertise for free on Google Maps through a Local Business Center, a service now available in beta Google Maps PT or in Google Maps for Mobile. In addition, there is also accessible the Google Maps API that will help developers, webmasters and designers to incorporate the functionality of Google Maps on their websites.

    The world integration of the public transit schedules (in different transport modes) will surely be a great challenge to improving the schedule-based service. Indeed, IT and modern real-time logistics are crucial keys for the design of the future public transport.

    So, to increase the integration of their schedule-based services, the agencies should have a public transportation data for their cities, and get it included in the Google Transit trip planner. The Google Transit Partner Program describes how to share agencies information on Google Maps. For participating the agencies should provide a transportation service that is open the the public, and operates with fixed schedules and routes.

    Related articles:


    Tuesday, November 18, 2008

    Kaisla Arts and Crafts

    Kaisla shop gallery (Kaisla kauppa galleria) is a rectangular two-story old house with solid red-brick walls and interior open spaces, nicely situated at the port of Korpilahti, Central Finland (Korpilahden satama, Keski-Suomi), which offers the Päijänne lake beautiful landscape. The first floor has the arts & crafts shop function, revealing many pieces of local artists and the second floor is a single room gallery for artworks exhibition.

    Read more

    Last summer - in a particularly rainy and thunderstorming August (elokuu) in that Finnish region - my friend Haukka and I visited Kaisla. However, this time we’ve noticed there an open book with more than thousand signatures. What would be that? Talking with the kind hosts, they told us that it was a petition against the transformation of Kaisla shop gallery into a restaurant-bar, a decision of the Korpilahti municipality, the building owner. Signing the petition was a little contribution to support an arts and crafts collective that, like many others, have been caught in a web of market interests.

    It’s good to notice the context of this situation. In fact, after the February decision for the extinction of the city of Jyväskylä (Jyväskylän kaupunki), the rural Jyväskylä (Jyväskylän maalaiskunta) and the Korpilahti municipality (Korpilahden kunta) - merging the three into one new municipality, established on the current areas of the abolished authorities (New Jyväskylä would be born on January 1 2009) - it took place the June confirmation by the Finnish government (Valtioneuvosto).

    Either the “extinction” of Kaisla – yes, because the house is an intrinsic part of the arts and crafts project - is political or technocratic, it would be lamentable, in the future, not to find there beautiful handcrafted art pieces, like those of Ulla Huttunen and Arto Salminen, among others.

    Kaisla shop gallery (Kaisla kauppa galleria), Finland/ Google Earth

    Images: Luis Alves /


    Monday, November 10, 2008

    Bloggers Unite : Refugees United - "World is Witness"

    Bloggers UniteBloggers Unite

    Here is my contribution: a "pipe" from the feed of the “geoblog” World is Witness.
    World is Witness, a new “geoblog” from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's Genocide Prevention Mapping Initiatives, in partnership with Google Earth, documents and maps genocide and related crimes against humanity. The initial entries are from a Museum visit to Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to learn about the legacies of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, and the most recent entries are from a Museum visit to South Sudan and a return visit to the Congo.


    Wednesday, October 29, 2008

    Korpilahti Municipality (1867-2009)

    The struggle against the isolation may have stimulated the strong identification of the Finnish people with their municipality (kunta), although the identification with their nationality (kansalaisuus) be considered generally more important.

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    One of the special features of the Nordic countries is their decentralized organization and thus the proximity of the government to the citizens. Indeed, the municipalities are the State, since they collect most of the tax revenues. Traditional institutes of the authoritarian state, such as the army, police and judiciary, are on a more distant level to the normal citizen in his everyday life.

    This strong phenomenon of identification seems to be present in the municipality of Korpilahti (Korpilahden kunta). Located in the province of Western Finland and in the region of Central Finland (Keski-Suomi), Korpilahti has a population of approx. 5,000 inhabitants, and additionally approx. 4,500 inhabitants in the summer, when they visit their summer cottages (kesämökki).

    Under the developing reform of municipalities, on October 30 2006, a local referendum took place in Korpilahti. It was questioned the merger with other “neighbouring” municipality, the city of Jyväskylä (then, Jyväskylä, with its 83,582 inhabitants, didn’t have common borders with Korpilahti). The result was a “No” victory, with 52.0% (1055) of votes against the merger and 42.1% (1303) in favour.

    Later, on November 13 2006, the municipal council of Korpilahti (Korpilahden kunnanvaltuusto), counteracting the non-binding referendum outcome, decided in favour of the merger with the city of Jyväskylä, from January 1 2009 - 17 councillors voted in favour of the union, while 10 were opposed. The municipal government (kunnanhallitus) would have the task of preparing the accession to later approval of the council.

    New Jyväskylä

    On February 18 2008, the City of Jyväskylä, the rural municipality of Jyväskylä and the municipality of Korpilahti, by their respective municipal councils, decided that New Jyväskylä would be born on January 1 2009. New Jyväskylä will be the seventh Finnish largest municipality with a population of nearly 130,000 inhabitants, about half of the Central Finland region (Keski-Suomen maakunta) population and it represents an urban development pole of the “channel” New Äänekoski (Uusi Äänekoski) - New Jyväskylä (Uusi Jyväskylä) - New Jämsä (Uusi Jämsä).

    Hello Finland: Globalization does not require municipal amalgamation

    An interesting article of Andrew Sancton, professor of political science specialized in local government at the University of Western Ontario, alerts for the disadvantages of the municipal amalgamation. This perspective can be applied to the Finland “Project to restructure municipalities and services” and very particularly to Korpilahti, with the aggravation of the popular will manifested in local referendum hasn't been respected:

    - Indeed, it’s not proved that city-regions with fewer municipal governments representing larger populations are better off those with more governments representing smaller populations.

    - Reducing the number of municipalities has nothing to do with reducing the size of government. Reducing the number of local politicians can only have one result: insuring that a higher proportion of local councillors are full-time politicians.

    - Gigantic municipal service-providers pose the same problems of gigantic corporations monopolies: higher fares, lower service levels; lack of choice.

    - It is consensual that some municipal functions are generally more efficient when they service larger numbers of urban residents ... It makes no sense for each municipality in the same metropolitan area to establish its own separate water-supply system. But this does not mean they all need to merge into one."

    Besides the structural solution of municipal amalgamation [1] adopted in this case, there are other types of alternative solutions to territorial fragmentation, which can be divided into two categories: structural solutions, depending either on amalgamations or on intermediate levels of single or multi-purpose authority and cooperative solutions (inter municipal cooperation), leaving basic local authorities with functional responsibilities. A semi-amalgamation model is an avalaible solution as well. It combines small municipalities into larger units for administration and service provision, but leaves some form of representative body in existence in the original settlements. (Davey; Division of reponsibility between levels of power)

    In fact, the sizes of local authorities vary enormously, being the optimum size hard to define and almost impossible politically to achieve. [2]

    Democracy and Efficiency

    In Finland, the municipal reform was subject of intense debate. A large number of small municipalities is seen as undesirable in public service provision and proposals were submitted for mergers imposed by the state. In the past, the ex-Minister for Regional and Municipal Affairs Hannes Manninen committee has proposed a municipal two-tier system, in which municipalities would have different powers. Otherwise, the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities (Kuntaliitto) has supported a system with municipalities having at least 20,000-30,000 inhabitants. (current average is approx. 4,700).

    High levels of government efficiency strengthen the democratic legitimacy of governments. But also legitimacy allows greater efficiency. In the process of the municipal amalgamation nowadays taking place in Finland, it would be unthinkable that the final decision of the Finnish state would be contrary to the local popular will democratically expressed in municipalities where mergers had a “negative” referendum, especially since Finland is a signatory of the European Charter of Local Self-Government /Strasbourg, 15.X.1985.

    Article 5 – Protection of local authority boundaries
    Changes in local authority boundaries shall not be made without prior consultation of the local communities concerned, possibly by means of a referendum where this is permitted by statute.

    In addition the Act on Municipal Division, 1 § states:

    (...) The municipal division is changed by legislation, or by decision made by the Council of the State or Ministry. (...) Only voluntary changes to municipal division are possible.(...)

    But then again the reality overcame the fiction. On 12 June 2008, in Helsinki, the Finnish government (Valtioneuvosto) took the extinction decision of the city of Jyväskylä (Jyväskylän kaupunki), rural Jyväskylä (Jyväskylän maalaiskunta) and Korpilahti (Korpilahden kunta), as well as the creation of the new municipality of Jyväskylä, on the current areas of the abolished authorities.

    The Project to Restructure Municipalities and Services (Kunta - ja palvelurakenneuudistus)

    Started in 2005, the Project to Restructure Municipalities and Services had the objective of creating a solid financial structure to assure the future organisation and provision of services supplied by the municipalities.

    Actually, Finland is in the implementation phase of the reform. In the next year - with municipal elections already realized - many new laws come into force. In previous years other reform phases passed, including the preparation of basic bills on legal reforms. During the period 2010-2011 will occur the execution of the legislation and the follow-up of the reform.

    October 26 Municipal Elections

    On October 26, more than 10,000 municipal councillors were elected to local councils across Finland - one more decisive step of the municipal reform. The dominant issues of these municipal elections covered the restructuring of the public services of health care, education and child care. However, the electoral outcome is not expected to influence the center-right coalition government (SiniVihreä Koalitio) policy.

    The over 60% voter turnout in these local elections might have been caused by the electorate interest in the dozens of municipal mergers that will come into effect from the beginning of 2009. Electors of small merged communities, like Korpilahti, had keen interest to elect their representatives on the new expanded municipal councils.

    It is true that Finland's municipal elections, in general, represent well the principles of “grassroots” democracy. But not this time in the case of Jyväskylä October 26 elections - in fact, the new municipality will be founded on a democratic “deficit” from the beginning. And that will be the burden of responsibility of the new Jyväskylä council for the next four years. In reality, as a municipal autonomous institution, Korpilahti lost its self-government by extinction, in exchange for a few representatives on the new council and some promises of investments.

    Last Sunday, the traditional competition between the three big Finnish parties had a first-ever national win for the National Coalition Party (Kokoomus), but in New Jyväskylä the Social Democratic Party of Finland (Suomen Sosialidemokraattinen Puolue) is still the most voted.

    [1] The amalgamation model means abolishing small municipalities and merging them into new basic units of local government with some minimum population size. This model is often used in Nordic countries, where minimum populations are generally around 5,000 (averages between 10,000-30,000 inhabitants)
    [2] Publications in which these arguments have been well discussed:
    - The Size of Municipalities, Efficiency and Citizen Participation (Council of Europe, 1995).
    - Consolidation or Fragmentation: the Size of Local Governments in Central and Eastern Europe, edited by Pawel Swianiewicz, (LGI/OSI, 2002).

    Andrew Sancton, Globalization does not require amalgamation, Institute for Research on Public Policy - Montreal, Quebec.

    Davey, Kenneth; Division of reponsibility between levels of power, 2003.

    Project to restructure municipalities and services (Kunta- ja palvelurakenneuudistus), Ministry of the Finance, 2007.



    Sunday, October 19, 2008

    Serpa (Brinches) Photovoltaic Power Station [PICS]

    Beginning of Autumn. At the end of a warm day - half an hour before the sunset and after having rolled across the spacious Alentejo’s plains - we finally get to the little village of Brinches. Next to a roundabout we find a rural road, which takes us through hills covered by vineyards and olive trees, typical of this soft landscape.

    Read more

    At one “corner” of the solar power station, we meet two men (a dog and some cows as well) who are contemplating the cloudy final of the day, uncommon this time of the year in one of the Iberian zones with the highest levels of solar radiation. In fact, these two men were the land owners, having rented their terrains to the GE Energy Financial Services, the project investor. What is very interesting in the Serpa project is the integration of clean power generation with the local agriculture.

    They wonder about the huge quantity of energy daily injected in the electricity grid, as well as the fact the power plant being remotely controlled. The distance between the two PV power stations of Amareleja and Brinches is around 49 Km. During the construction there were many workers, but now the attentions are more focused on the “rival” Moura, the world's largest, after having dethroned Brinches this year.

    Aerial view of Serpa solar power plant /

    Brinches, Serpa, Portugal / Google Earth

    Specifications of Serpa photovoltaic power station

    Location: Portugal, Alentejo region, district of Beja, municipality of Serpa, parish of Brinches

    Area occupied by power station: 60 ha

    Installed rated power: 11 MWp

    Annual electricity generation: > 18 GWh (equivalent to the consumption of
    8,000 homes and farms in the region)

    PV surface area: 34 ha

    Number of PV panels: 52 000 (Sanyo, Sharp, SunPower and Suntech)

    Solar tracking system: “PowerLight PowerTracker System”

    Saving of more than 30,000 tons/year in greenhouse gas emissions compared to equivalent fossil fuel generation

    Investment : 62 million euros

    Conclusion: operational since January 2007

    Project participants:
    GE Energy Financial Services (Investor)
    Power Light Corporation (Project and Construction)
    Catavento, S.A. (Promoter and Asset Manager)

    Photos by Luis Alves /
    (except the last two images)

    This article is the part 5 of the article: “Alentejo: Solar Region”.

    “Photovoltaic Solar in Portugal” - part 1 of the article: “Alentejo: Solar Region”
    “Moura (Amareleja) Photovoltaic Power Station” - part 2 of the article: “Alentejo: Solar Region”
    “Moura Renewable Energies Project“ - part 3 of the article: “Alentejo: Solar Region”The world’s largest photovoltaic power station [PICS] - part 4 of the article: “Alentejo: Solar Region”


    Tuesday, October 14, 2008

    Blog Action Day 08 - "Don't pay for a failed system!"

    Accumulation by Dispossession
    Increasing inequality within nations and increasing wealth gap between rich and poor countries -
    here are the consequences of decades of “neoliberalism”.

    Processes of accumulation:
    • the commodification and privatisation of land and the forceful expulsion of peasant populations
    • conversion of various forms of property rights (common, collective, state, etc.) into exclusive private property rights
    • suppression of rights to the commons
    commodification of labour power and the suppression of alternative (indigenous) forms of production and consumption
    • colonial, neocolonial and imperial processes of appropriation of assets (including natural resources)
    monetisation of exchange and taxation (particularly of land)
    slave trade
    usury, the national debt and ultimately the credit system as radical means of primitive accumulation.

    The US financial meltdown - Part 1: What really happened
    Roots of the economic crisis in overaccumulation, financialisation and ‘global apartheid’
    By Patrick Bond
    Click HERE to view the slideshow

    Blog Action Day 2008 Poverty from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.


    Monday, October 6, 2008

    777 - Turbo-Capitalism's Failure

    Dow closed at 10365.45, dropped 777.68, the largest drop ever in history - Sept. 29, 2008 (black Monday) / By faungg , Some rights reserved

    Markets have inefficiencies, because of their inability to correct the negative externalities of industrial outputs (production) and industrial inputs (depletion of non-renewable resources). Failure to calculate the costs to nonparticipants in transactions and failure to allocate resources efficiently, represent market failure definitions.

    Externalities represent cases of market failures. A person (or company) who makes choices that affect other people not accounted for in the market price – like the pollution costs often unaccounted for in industrial greenhouse gas emissions- is creating an externality.

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    Besides the externalities, non excludability and non rivalry are other common forms of market failure. To be efficient, markets should trade simultaneously both excludable and rival goods, and shouldn’t have externalities. In the market perspective, there are four types of goods: private goods (R,V), common goods (R, non-E), club goods (non-R,E) and public goods (non-R and non-E). [R-rival, E-excludable]

    Excessive costs of excluding potential beneficiaries from the consumption of a rival natural or human-made resource, represent an inefficient market allocation - non excludability. Hence, "common" goods are defined by a property right regime in which only a collective body could exclude others from accessing rival resources, thereby allowing the capture of future benefits.

    Stable “common property” regimes – suitable to the local level - must be based on certain principles which prevent the overexploitation of a resource system. However, these regimes are not the solution to large scale overuse , such as air pollution. In those situations, environmental regulations (economic impact estimated by cost-benefit analysis), quotas on pollution (tradeable emissions permits), taxes on pollution and adequate definition of property rights, might be preventive solutions to correct negative externalities.

    Public goods are another type of market failure, because the market price doesn’t catch the social benefits of public provisions. For example, both social protection and environmental protection are inherently public goods, since their provision, in case of non-congestion, is non-rival and non-excludable, either protecting people from the risks of unemployment and illness or from environmental risks, like climate change.

    If a public service faces problems of congestion or overuse, it will be a non-excludable but certainly a rivalrous good, making it a “common-pool resource”.

    Privatization of public goods doesn’t change their intrinsic non-excludable, social and environmental characteristics. Nobody has the right to exclude people from protection, i.e., to prevent people who have not paid for the service, from receive its benefits .Most of public goods, like most of non-rival goods , are intangible, less fitted for an efficient private market.

    Scarce, rivalrous, but also vital resources (like water) cannot be excludable. Water priced on a private market it would be the receipt to a humanitarian disaster, as the recent global market failures may prove.

    With respect to local public services provision, the Finnish health care system is one of the most decentralized in Europe (as well as the other Nordic countries), with most of the Finnish people being generally satisfied with their national health care system. Local municipalities (Finnish: kunta) are the center of the system, largely public, where the private sector has little relevance today (only about 4% of Finnish doctors have a purely private activity) and the state has little intervention, defining goals and orientations. However, although the public health care and education, Finland has an advanced and competitive market economy.

    According to Robin Hahnel (ecological economist), four environment related basic defects of a market economy can be enumerated: overexploitation of “common property” resources; overpollution; too little pollution cleanup; overconsumption. [ Hahnel (2005), pp66-72]

    The view considering that markets are unable to correct negative externalities is in contradiction with the free-market environmentalist perspective. This perspective considers that both lack of ownership incentives to care for the property and multiplicity of ownership, represent the cause of overexploitation. In this point of view, pollution occurs because the property owners’ rights have not been totally respected and the legal authorities have inclination to favor big industry, public and common property over individuals and consumer organizations.

    That approach also argue that resources are renewable and the market, by way of supply and demand, regulates consumption by adjusting it according to supply.The absence of sufficient incentives to create a potential “market” in a private economy, causes loss of efficiency, according to this view.

    We can say that intrinsic characteristics of some type of goods, like the non-excludable goods (common goods and public goods), imply the design of sustainable social-environmental-economical systems, different from the private “markets”. See 1990 Ostrom's work about how people using real common property resources have worked to establish self-governing rules to reduce risks [Ostrom, E. 1990. Governing the Commons. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press]

    Bailout of US financial system / Green Recovery / Low-Carbon Economy

    These previous considerations are also appropriated for the financial markets, specially for institutions which utilize them. The recent dramatic intervention of the Federal Reserve, aimed at bailing out Wall Street with a US$700 billion plan, was a spectacular representation of market failure. In fact, the market took multiple decisions that would affect millions of tax-payers, who weren’t accounted for in the finance market price.

    "Markets have inherent and well-known inefficiencies. One factor is failure to calculate the costs to those who do not participate in transactions. These 'externalities' can be huge. That is particularly true for financial institutions. Their task is to take risks, calculating potential costs for themselves. But they do not take into account the consequences of their losses for the economy as a whole. (…)
    The unprecedented intervention of the Fed may be justified or not in narrow terms, but it reveals, once again, the profoundly undemocratic character of state capitalist institutions, designed in large measure to socialise cost and risk and privatize profit, without a public voice. “
    Noam Chomsky,

    The actual "turbo-capitalist" crisis, whose end and global consequences are unpredictable, could constitute an opportunity to the construction of a new alternative economic model firmly based on the environmental, economic and social domains, with new concepts of “growth” - not just a “green“ recovery based on this capitalist model, but a effective Low-Carbon Economy model.

    However, a future green recovery may be compromised. The actual situation of financial collapse, with the state injecting hundreds of billions in the financial capitalist system, doesn’t assure the future application of funds on the environmental and social areas. It may even deflect these funds from many necessary and urgent investments in those areas.

    Past Friday, 3 October 2008, the US House of Representatives voted in favour of a financial rescue plan after rejecting an earlier version. The approved package is aimed at buying up the bad debts of failing financial institutions on Wall Street, having the Treasury $700 billion to buy “toxic” mortgages, securities and related assets, that have undermined the US financial structure. But the deep causes of the US financial market collapse still continue unknown, and therefore this massive intervention probably cannot reach them.

    So far “toxic” products are the justification for the financial market failure. However, financial products are increasingly designed trough technological innovation, which has replaced experienced professional traders by computers running software based on algorithmic trading, trying to simulate human behavior, deciding on timing, price and the final quantity of the orders. Although many claim an increased market efficiency with “robo trading” the last events could contradict it, and thus we could be in presence of a global technological (in)adaptation.

    On September 29 2008, the Dow Jones lost 777.68 points, the largest one day point loss in its history, following news that the US House of Representatives had failed to pass the $700 bn bailout bill. Only after the Monday's 777-point stock-market slump the political class started to see the extension and deepness of the crisis. The “shock” and the claims from worried November potential voters motivated the Friday morning vote change. The bill that establishes the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 - previously approved by the Senate, on October 1 2008 - was sent to the House, and on Friday, October 3, the House voted 263-171 to enact the bill into law.

    Wikipedia article, Environmental economics

    Related articles:
    From the US housing bubble to the (proposed) bailout of US financial system
    Fed eyes Nordic Model


    Monday, September 29, 2008

    From the US housing bubble to the (proposed) bailout of US financial system

    The bursting of the US housing bubble and the high default rates on "subprime" and adjustable rate mortgages, marked the beginning of the subprime mortgage crisis (2005-2006).

    In the end of 2006, foreclosures accelerated in the US, causing a global financial crisis through 2007 and 2008. On August 9 2007, the so-called “credit crisis” became obvious, when a liquidity crisis emerged caused by investors’ loss of confidence in the value of securitized mortgages. This motivated the massive capital injection into financial markets by the Fed and the ECB. On 17 July 2008, major banks and financial institutions around the world have reported losses of about US$435 billion.

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    In the initial phase of the crisis, the companies affected were those directly involved in home construction and mortgage lending, such as Northern Rock and Countrywide Financial. Financial institutions which had engaged in the securitization of mortgages, such as Bear Stearns, were badly damaged. In late summer of this year, the crisis aggravated with the Federal takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It was the start of repercussions in the general availability of credit to non-housing related businesses and to larger financial institutions not directly connected with mortgage lending.

    Recently, there was a new aggravation of the crisis, with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and the sale of Merrill Lynch to Bank of America on September 14, and the bailout of American International Group by the Fed on September 16.

    On September 20, the U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson proposed the Troubled Asset Relief Program (the proposed bailout of U.S. financial system). As originally proposed, the plan would give absolute and un-reviewable authority to purchase up to US$700 billion of mortgage backed securities from financial institutions for the purpose of stabilizing the market.

    On September 23, the three pages plan was presented by Paulson and Bernanke to the Senate Banking Committee who rejected it as not acceptable. As of September 26 2008, consultations over amendments to the plan are on-going.

    “Creative destruction” vs bailout of US financial system

    It is important to refer the possibility of an economic crisis at global level this year, like the following indicators hint at: - high oil prices, which drive to both high food prices and global inflation; the previously described credit crisis, which leads to the bankruptcy of several large and well established investment banks; increased unemployment.

    It’s often adopted one simple rule considering that “a recession occurs when real gross domestic product (GDP) growth is negative for two or more consecutive quarters”. However, this simplistic rule fails to register several official (or NBER defined) US recessions. The National Bureau of Economic Research defines a recession more broadly as "a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales."

    Concerning US, and because of the recent financial “disasters”, there is a great probability of economic recession and the probability of a severe economic recession has come up.

    There are various strategies for moving an economy out of a recession: ”Keynesians” defend government deficit spending to trigger economic growth; ”Supply-side” supporters recommend tax cuts to promote business capital investment.; ”Laissez-faire” economists advise the government to remain "hands off" and not interfere with natural market forces.

    Past week, according to Democrats, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will not bring the plan to rescue the financial sector to votes in Congress, unless it gets substantial Republican support.

    Other sources of the U.S. press indicate that, according to one GOP lawmaker, some House Republicans are saying privately that they prefer " let the markets crash" than approve the massive bailout.

    “For the sake of the altar of the Free Market system, do you accept a Great Depression?", the member questioned.

    House Republicans consider that the president is “trying to tear up the Constitution” by committing the federal government to such a massive intervention in the US financial system.

    As we can observe there is a confrontation between an option of a massive state intervention in the financial market system, and the “free-market” view (“"hands off" and not interfere with natural market forces”).

    Both tactics will probably have serious costs for the economy. The first could induce to a not so intense recession, but very extended in time - a probable economical stagnation for many many years with more government oversight.

    The second could be more intense, but perhaps it allows a more rapid capitalist recovery. However, before that, it could led to a severe recession or depression – the “neoliberal” recovery preceded by the so-called “creative destruction”.

    Is known that, besides a rapid increase of transnational mobility of capital, a wave of deregulation of financial markets swept over the world, since the last decades. Corporate pressure has intensified on governments to adopt neoliberal “reforms” that regularly produced state spending.

    This process has been a form of “creative destruction”, weakening and breaking institutions, social welfare, health care, education and culture. And history shows that governments have been generally powerless to fight the unavoidable and damaging capitalist ‘business cycles’.

    Although unstable and unfair, the capitalist system has evidenced a capacity to reform itself to survive economic business cycles. However, these ‘business cycles’ stimulated by corporate greed and maintained by deception of the people, cause huge human and environmental costs.

    Having as background the worst global financial crisis in decades, we can also attend to a media spectacle, stage of confrontation between complementing capitalist factions, questioning what really happened and what can be done to maintain alive this economic and social model:

    “A good functioning financial system has its rules!”; “We have deregulated the system. Now we must regulate.” “We should learn from mistakes!”; “Financial institutions should be managed by serious people|, not adventurers”; “Central banks should protect major banks and financial institutions - investors need to be protected”; “It´s important to avoid panic selling and allow the markets to stabilise.”


    “This is not real capitalism.”; “We don’t need protectionism”; “The banking system is very regulated. More competition is needed”; “Why the state allowed this housing bubble burst?”; “We need only a modernisation of regulation, not more regulation”

    In fact, one of the institutions of the capitalist system, the private property, whose integrity is crucial for its survival, shows signs of imploding, particularly in the financial sector. The social power of the private property of finance industry is being dissolved and, for survive as a system, it needs urgently to be replaced by new market forces and new administrators in the financial institutions. For the more well positioned “classes”, this is a opportunity to achieve capitalist power. The social classes that are being pushed down, may not have the required organization and the will to confront and challenge the ruling class in the labour market.

    There are also signs showing that some sectors of the capitalist class are not very worried with the spectre of an economic recession. It may be, because that would be an opportune scenario for creating the conditions for the workers to accept, by submission, the continuation of the current unsustainable economic model, based on exploitation of the material and human resources of our planet – more of the same: more oil, more war, more unemployment, more social injustice, more environmental disasters.

    In the middle of one alarming economic crisis it will be more easy to use of the “strategy of fear”, exploiting the population feelings of social and economical insecurity, creating problems and then appearing as the protective solution. To overcome this, people need to take conscience of social and economical reality, and, against the logic of competition and exclusion, get the collective liberation from political fear, which should be an individual liberation, at the same time.

    Wikipedia article, Economic crisis of 2008
    "Creative Destruction' – The Madness of the global economy",

    The Panic - Scenes in Wall Street Wednesday Morning, May 14 / drawn by Schell and Hogan, 1884 (LOC) / By , Some rights reserved

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    Fed eyes Nordic Model

    Published on OVIMagazine