The SEI Solar Sisters String Band rocks out at Solar Battle of the Bands! And other Intersolar updates

In case you missed it… The SEI Solar Sisters String Band made their public debut performing at the 2018 Solar Battle of the Bands! This was a very historical moment for Solar Energy International (SEI). The Solar Sisters String Band proudly represented the SEI Team and our 60,000+ students and alumni from all over the world. What a night!

Check out this video of our SEI ladies warming up at sound check before the big show:

We’re so proud of the solar sisters! Stay tuned for future performances.

Intersolar North America

SEI represented last week at Intersolar North America in San Francisco with a team of 12 at our booth and conducting trainings. Training topics included: PV Systems and the National Electric Code, Large-Scale PV: Considerations and Installation Case Studies, and Practicas Recomendadas por Expertos en la Industria y el NEC 2014. If you missed us at Intersolar, check out our online class schedule and enroll in an online training to start your solar education anywhere, self-paced.


The post The SEI Solar Sisters String Band rocks out at Solar Battle of the Bands! And other Intersolar updates appeared first on Solar Training – Solar Installer Training – Solar PV Installation Training – Solar Energy Courses – Renewable Energy Education – NABCEP – Solar Energy International (SEI).

from Raymond Castleberry Blog


IER Sues Treasury Department for Public Records of Immediate Public Interest


WASHINGTON – Today the Institute for Energy Research filed an open records lawsuit against the Department of the Treasury relating to continuing efforts in Washington to quietly advance the “climate” industry. This Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, seeks certain, specific records relating to the “climate risk disclosure” campaign begun in 2012 by various activist groups including Ceres and Rockefeller Financial Asset Management and led by disgraced former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. That agenda, if implemented, would have immense economic and legal consequences.

In order to educate the public on this matter IER requested correspondence of the Director of the Office of Energy & Environment Peter Wisner over two specified periods during 2017 and 2018, which mention particular terms including “Bloomberg task force,” “G20,” “Task Force on Climate-Related Disclosure,” “climate risk disclosure,” and/or “climate financial disclosure.”

As IER noted in the FOIA request, “This request is made to inform the public about an issue of great public interest, particularly the effort of government employees and outside activist networks’ coordination to advance a government policy — ‘climate risk disclosure’ — that would have tremendous economic and legal consequences.”

Treasury was required by law to demonstrate by June 28 that it intends to process the requests, yet failed to do so even after invoking a ten-day extension. Chiefly, Treasury has failed to provide any responsive records and otherwise has failed to meet its statutory obligation under FOIA. Instead, the agency merely acknowledged receipt of the request.

IER President Thomas J. Pyle stated, “Thanks to previous open records requests, we know that the campaign for ‘climate risk disclosure’ began in 2012 by pressure groups, Wall Street interests, and activist politicians led by Mr. Schneiderman. Now we understand that senior Trump administration officials are possibly working to advance this campaign.

“IER intends to educate the public on what role Treasury officials are playing in assisting the move to impose activist-demanded ‘confessions’ by publicly traded companies of their causation of serious, man-made global warming, seeking penance at the hands of a ‘climate’ securities tort bar, and elected officials eager for large settlement funds to politically distribute.”

Attorney Chris Horner, of the public interest law firm Government Accountability & Oversight (GAO), filed the suit on behalf of IER, and has written extensively on the issue, including earlier this year in a Wall Street Journal letter:

“The effective goal [of the climate risk disclosure campaign] is to coerce ‘confessions’ in energy-related interests’ public filings that catastrophic man-made global warming is a real problem of which they constitute a significant part, that their reserves are in fact worth little to nothing and their previous filings and other statements constitute actionable misdeeds, possibly fraud.”

IER looks forward to resolving the Treasury Department’s public obligations sooner rather than later but intends to fully pursue its rights to review these records in an effort to educate the public about the role of public officials in this ideological campaign with implications for the United States economy.


For media inquiries, please contact Erin Amsberry

The post IER Sues Treasury Department for Public Records of Immediate Public Interest appeared first on IER.

from Raymond Castleberry Blog

The Local SEO’s Guide to the Buy Local Phenomenon: A Competitive Advantage for Clients

Posted by MiriamEllis

Photo credit: Michelle Shirley

What if a single conversation with one of your small local business clients could spark activity that would lead to an increase in their YOY sales of more than 7%, as opposed to only 4% if you don’t have the conversation? What if this chat could triple the amount of spending that stays in their town, reduce pollution in their community, improve their neighbors’ health, and strengthen democracy?

What if the brass ring of content dev, link opportunities, consumer sentiment and realtime local inventory is just waiting for you to grab it, on a ride we just haven’t taken yet, in a setting we’re just not talking about?

Let’s travel a different road today, one that parallels our industry’s typical conversation about citations, reviews, markup, and Google My Business. As a 15-year sailor on the Local SEO ship, I love all this stuff, but, like you, I’m experiencing a merging of online goals with offline realities, a heightened awareness of how in-store is where local business successes are born and bred, before they become mirrored on the web.

At Moz, our SaaS tools serve businesses of every kind: Digital, bricks-and-mortar, SABs, enterprises, mid-market agencies, big brands, and bootstrappers. But today, I’m going to go as small and as local as possible, speaking directly to independently-owned local businesses and their marketers about the buy local/shop local/go local movement and what I’ve learned about its potential to deliver meaningful and far-reaching successes. Frankly, I think you’ll be as amazed as I’ve been.

At the very least, I hope reading this article will inspire you to have a conversation with your local business clients about what this growing phenomenon could do for them and for their communities. Successful clients, after all, are the very best kind to have.

What is the Buy Local movement all about?

What’s the big idea?

You’re familiar with the concept of there being power in numbers. A single independent business lacks the resources and clout to determine the local decisions and policies that affect it. Should Walmart or Target be invited to set up shop in town? Should the crumbling building on Main St. be renovated or demolished? Which safety and cultural services should be supported with funding? The family running the small grocery store has little say, but if they join together with the folks running the bakery, the community credit union, the animal shelter, and the bookstore … then they begin to have a stronger voice.

Who does this?

Buy Local programs formalize the process of independently-owned businesses joining together to educate their communities about the considerable benefits to nearly everyone of living in a thriving local economy. These efforts can be initiated by merchants, Chambers of Commerce, grassroots citizen groups, or others. They can be assisted and supported by non-profit organizations like the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA) and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR).

What are the goals?

Through signage, educational events, media promotions, and other forms of marketing, most Buy Local campaigns share some or all of these goals:

  • Increase local wealth that recirculates within the community
  • Preserve local character
  • Build community
  • Create good jobs
  • Have a say in policy-making
  • Decrease environmental impacts
  • Support entrepreneurship
  • Improve diversity/variety
  • Compete with big businesses

Do Buy Local campaigns actually work?

Yes – research indicates that, if managed correctly, these programs yield a variety of benefits to both merchants and residents. Consider these findings:

1) Healthy YOY sales advantages

ILSR conducted a national survey of independent businesses to gauge YOY sales patterns. 2016 respondents reported a good increase in sales across the board, but with a significant difference which AMIBA sums up:

“Businesses in communities with a sustained grassroots “buy independent/buy local” campaign reported a strong 7.4% sales increase, nearly doubling the 4.2% gain for those in areas without such an alliance.”

2) Keeping spending local

The analysts at Civic Economics conducted surveys of 10 cities to gauge the local financial impacts of independents vs. chain retailers, yielding a series of graphics like this one:

While statistics vary from community to community, the overall pattern is one of significantly greater local recirculation of wealth in the independent vs. chain environment. These patterns can be put to good use by Buy Local campaigns with the goal of increasing community-sustaining wealth.

3) Keeping communities employed and safe

Few communities can safely afford the loss of jobs and tax revenue documented in a second Civic Economics study which details the impacts of Americans’ Amazon habit, state by state and across the nation:

While the recent supreme court ruling allowing states to tax e-commerce models could improve some of these dire numbers, towns and cities with Buy Local alliances can speak plainly: Lack of tax revenue that leads to lack of funding for emergency services like fire departments is simply unsafe and unsustainable. A study done a few years back found that ⅔ of volunteer firefighters in the US report that their departments are underfunded with 86% of these heroic workers having to dip into their own pockets to buy supplies to keep their stations going. As I jot these statistics down, there is a runaway 10,000 acre wildfire burning a couple of hours north of me…

Meanwhile, is pointing out,

“According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, since the end of the Great Recession, small businesses have created 62 percent of all net new private-sector jobs. Among those jobs, 66 percent were created by existing businesses, while 34 percent were generated through new establishments (adjusted for establishment closings and job losses)”.

When communities have Go Local-style business alliances, they are capitalizing on the ability to create jobs, increase sales, and build up tax revenue that could make a serious difference not just to local unemployment rates, but to local safety.

4) Shaping policy

In terms of empowering communities to shape policy, there are many anecdotes to choose from, but one of the most celebrated surrounds a landmark study conducted by the Austin Independent Business Alliance which documented community impacts of spending at the local book and music stores vs. a proposed Borders. Their findings were compelling enough to convince the city not to give a $2.1 million subsidy to the now-defunct corporation.

5) Improving the local environment

A single statistic here is incredibly eye opening. According to the US Department of Transportation, shopping-related driving per household more than tripled between 1969-2009.

All you have to do is picture to yourself the centralized location of mainstreet businesses vs. big boxes on the outskirts of town to imagine how city planning has contributed to this stunning rise in time spent on the road. When residents can walk or bike to make daily purchases, the positive environmental impacts are obvious.

6) Improving residents’ health and well-being

A recent Cigna survey of 20,000 Americans found that nearly half of them always or sometimes feel lonely, lacking in significant face-to-face interactions with others. Why does this matter? Because the American Psychological Association finds that you have a 50% less chance of dying prematurely if you have quality social interactions.

There’s a reason author Jan Karon’s “Mitford” series about life in a small town in North Carolina has been a string of NY Times Best Sellers; readers and reviewers continuously state that they yearn to live someplace like this fictitious community with the slogan “Mitford takes care of its own”. In the novels, the lives of residents, independent merchants, and “outsiders” interweave, in good times and bad, creating a support network many Americans envy.

This societal setup must be a winner, as well as a bestseller, because the Cambridge Journal of Regions published a paper in which they propose that the concentration of small businesses in a given community can be equated with levels of public health.

Beyond the theory that eating fresh and local is good for you, it turns out that knowing your farmer, your banker, your grocer could help you live longer.

7) Realizing big-picture goals

Speaking of memorable stories, this video from ILSR does a good job of detailing one view of the ultimate impacts independent business alliances can have on shaping community futures:

I interviewed author and AMIBA co-founder, Jeff Milchen, about the good things that can happen when independents join hands. He summed it up,

“The results really speak for themselves when you look at what the impact of public education for local alliances has been in terms of shifting culture. It’s a great investment for independent businesses to partner with other independents, to do things they can’t do individually. Forming these partnerships can help them compete with the online giants.”

Getting going with a Go Local campaign, the right way

If sharing some of the above with clients has made them receptive to further exploration of what involvement in an independent business alliance might do for them, here are the next steps to take:

  1. First, find out if a Go Local/Shop Local/Buy Local/Stay Local campaign already exists in the business’ community. If so, the client can join up.
  2. If not, contact AMIBA. The good folks there will know if other local business owners in the client’s community have already expressed interest in creating an alliance. They can help connect the interested parties up.
  3. I highly, highly recommend reading through Amiba’s nice, free primer covering just about everything you need to know about Go Local campaigns.
  4. Encourage the client to publicize their intent to create an alliance if none exists in their community. Do an op ed in the local print news, put it on social media sites, talk to neighbors. This can prompt outreach from potential allies in the effort.
  5. A given group can determine to go it alone, but it may be better to rely on the past experience of others who have already created successful campaigns. AMIBA offers a variety of paid community training modules, including expert speakers, workshops, and on-site consultations. Each community can write in to request a quote for a training plan that will work best for them. The organization also offers a wealth of free educational materials on their website.
  6. According to AMIBA’s Jeff Milchen, a typical Buy Local campaign takes about 3-4 months to get going.

It’s important to know that Go Local campaigns can fail, due to poor execution. Here is a roundup of practices all alliances should focus on to avoid the most common pitfalls:

  1. Codify the definition of a “local” business as being independently-owned-and-run, or else big chain inclusion will anger some members and cause them to leave.
  2. Emphasize all forms of local patronage; campaigns that stick too closely to words like “buy” or “shop” overlook the small banks, service area businesses, and other models that are an integral part of the independent local economy.
  3. Ensure diversity in leadership; an alliance that fails to reflect the resources of age, race, gender/identity, political views, economics and other factors may wind up perishing from narrow viewpoints. On a related note, AMIBA has been particularly active in advocating for business communities to rid themselves of bigotry. Strong communities welcome everyone.
  4. Do the math of what success looks like; education is a major contributing factor to forging a strong alliance, based on projected numbers of what campaigns can yield in concrete benefits for both merchants and residents.
  5. Differentiate inventory and offerings so that independently-owned businesses offer something of added value which patrons can’t easily replicate online; this could be specialty local products, face-to-face time with expert staff, or other benefits.
  6. Take the high road in inspiring the community to increase local spending; campaigns should not rely on vilifying big and online businesses or asking for patronage out of pity. In other words, guilt-tripping locals because they do some of their shopping at Walmart or Amazon isn’t a good strategy. Even a 10% shift towards local spending can have positive impacts for a community!
  7. Clearly assess community resources; not every town, city, or district hosts the necessary mix of independent businesses to create a strong campaign. For example, approximately 2.2% of the US population live in “food deserts”, many miles from a grocery store. These areas may lack other local businesses, as well, and their communities may need to create grassroots campaigns surrounding neighborhood gardens, mobile markets, private investors and other creative solutions.

In sum, success significantly depends on having clear definitions, clear goals, diverse participants and a proud identity as independents, devoid of shaming tactics.

Circling back to the Web — our native heath!

So, let’s say that your incoming client is now participating in a Buy Local program. Awesome! Now, where do we go from here?

In speaking with Jeff Milchen, I asked what he has seen in terms of digital marketing being used to promote the businesses involved in Buy Local campaigns. He said that, while some alliances have workshops, it’s a work in progress and something he hopes to see grow in the future.

As a Local SEO, that future is now for you and your fortunate clients. Here are some ways I see this working out beautifully:

Basic data distribution and consistency

Small local businesses can sometimes be unaware of inconsistent or absent local business listings, because the owners are just so busy. The quickest way I know to demo this scenario is to plug the company name and zip into the free Moz Check Listing tool to show them how they’re doing on the majors. Correct data errors and fill in the blanks, either manually, or, using affordable software like Moz Local. You’ll also want to be sure the client has a presence on any geo or industry-specific directories and platforms. It’s something your agency can really help with!

A hyperlocalized content powerhouse

Build proud content around the company’s involvement in the Buy Local program.

  • Write about all of the economic, environmental, and societal benefits residents can support by patronizing the business.
  • Motivated independents take time to know their customers. There are stories in this. Write about the customers and their needs. I’ve even seen independent restaurants naming menu items after beloved patrons. Get personal. Build community.
  • Don’t forget that even small towns can be powerful points of interest for tourists. Create a warm welcome for travelers, and for new neighbors, too!

Link building opportunities of a lifetime

Local business alliances form strong B2B bonds.

  • Find relationships with related businesses that can sprout links. For example, the caterer knows the wedding cake baker, who knows the professional seamstress, who knows the minister, who knows the DJ, who knows the florist.
  • Dive deep into opportunities for sponsoring local organizations, teams and events, hosting and participating in workshops and conferences, offering scholarships and special deals.
  • Make fast friends with local media. Be newsworthy.

A wellspring of sentiment

Independents form strong business-to-community bonds.

  • When a business really knows its customers, asking for online reviews is so much easier. In some communities, it may be necessary to teach customers how to leave reviews, but once you get a strategy going for this, the rest is gravy.
  • It’s also a natural fit for asking for written and video testimonials to be published on the company website.
  • Don’t forget the power of Word of Mouth Marketing, while you’re at it. Loyal patrons are an incredible asset.
  • The one drawback could be if your business model is one of a sensitive nature. Tight-knit communities can be ones in residents may be more desirous of protecting their privacy.

Digitize inventory easily

30% of consumers say they’d buy from a local store instead of online if they knew the store was nearby (Google). Over half of consumers prefer to shop in-store to interact with products (Local Search Association). Over 63% of consumers would rather buy from a company they consider to be authentic over the competition (Bright Local).

It all adds up to the need for highly-authentic independently-owned businesses to have an online presence that signals to Internet users that they stock desired products. For many small, local brands, going full e-commerce on their website is simply too big of an implementation and management task. It’s a problem that’s dogged this particular business sector for years. And it’s why I got excited when the folks at AMIBA told me to check out Pointy.

Pointy offers a physical device that small business owners can attach to their barcode scanner to have their products ported to a Pointy-controlled webpage. But, that’s not all. Pointy integrates with the “See What’s In Store” inventory function of Google My Business Knowledge Panels. Check out Talbot’s Toyland in San Mateo, CA for a live example.

Pointy is a startup, but one that is exciting enough to have received angel investing from the founder of WordPress and the co-founder of Google Maps. Looks like a real winner to me, and it could provide a genuine answer for brick-and-mortar independents who have found their sales staggering in the wake of Amazon and other big digital brands.

Local SEOs have an important part to play

Satisfaction in work is a thing to be cherished. If the independent business movement speaks to you, bringing your local search marketing skills to these alliances and small brands could make more of your work days really good days.

The scenario could be an especially good fit for agencies that have specialized in city or state marketing. For example, one of our Moz Community members confines his projects to South Carolina. Imagine him taking it on the road a bit, hosting and attending workshops for towns across the state that are ready to revitalize main street. An energetic client roster could certainly result if someone like him could show local banks, grocery stores, retail shops and restaurants how to use the power of the local web!

Reading America

Our industry is living and working in complex times.

The bad news is, a current Bush-Biden poll finds that 8/10 US residents are “somewhat” or “very” concerned about the state of democracy in our nation.

The not-so-bad news is that citizen ingenuity for discovering solutions and opportunities is still going strong. We need only look as far as the runaway success of the TV show “Fixer Upper”, which drew 5.21 million viewers in its fourth season as the second-largest telecast of Q2 of that year. The show surrounded the revitalization of dilapidated homes and businesses in and around Waco, Texas, and has turned the entire town into a major tourist destination, pulling in millions of annual visitors and landing book deals, a magazine, and the Magnolia Home furnishing line for its entrepreneurial hosts.

While not every town can (or would want to) experience what is being called the “Magnolia effect”, channels like HGTV and the DIY network are heavily capitalizing on the rebirth of American communities, and private citizens are taking matters into their own hands.

There’s the family who moved from Washington D.C. to Water Valley, Mississippi, bought part of the decaying main street and began to refurbish it. I found the video story of this completely riveting, and look at the Yelp reviews of the amazing grocery store and lunch counter these folks are operating now. The market carries local products, including hoop cheese and milk from the first dairy anyone had opened in 50 years in the state.

There are the half-dozen millennials who are helping turn New Providence, Iowa into a place young families can live and work again. There’s Corning, NY, Greensburg, KS, Colorado Springs, CO, and so many more places where people are eagerly looking to strengthen community sufficiency and sustainability.

Some marketing firms are visionary forerunners in this phenomenon, like Deluxe, which has sponsored the Small Business Revolution show, doing mainstreet makeovers that are bringing towns back to life. There could be a place out there somewhere on the map of the country, just waiting for your agency to fill it.

The best news is that change is possible. A recent study in Science magazine states that the tipping point for a minority group to change a majority viewpoint is 25% of the population. This is welcome news at a time when 80% of citizens are feeling doubtful about the state of our democracy. There are 28 million small businesses in the United States – an astonishing potential educational force – if communities can be taught what a vote with their dollar can do in terms of giving them a voice. As Jeff Milchen told me:

One of the most inspiring things is when we see local organizations helping residents to be more engaged in the future of their community. Most communities feel somewhat powerless. When you see towns realize they have the ability to shift public policy to support their own community, that’s empowering.”

Sometimes, the extremes of our industry can make our society and our democracy hard to read. On the one hand, the largest brands developing AI, checkout-less shopping, driverless cars, same-day delivery via robotics, and the gig economy win applause at conferences.

On the other hand, the public is increasingly hearing the stories of employees at these same companies who are protesting Microsoft developing face recognition for ICE, Google’s development of AI drone footage analysis for the Pentagon, working conditions at Amazon warehouses that allegedly preclude bathroom breaks and have put people in the hospital, and the various outcomes of the “Walmart Effect”.

The Buy Local movement is poised in time at this interesting moment, in which our democracy gets to choose. Gigs or unions? Know your robot or know your farmer? Convenience or compassion? Is it either/or? Can it be both?

Both big and small brands have a major role to play in answering these timely questions and shaping the ethics of our economy. Big brands, after all, have tremendous resources for raising the bar for ethical business practices. Your agency likely wants to serve both types of clients, but it’s all to the good if all business sectors remember that the real choosers are the “consumers”, the everyday folks voting with their dollars.

I know that it can be hard to find good news sometimes. But I’m hoping what you’ve read today gifts you with a feeling of optimism that you can take to the office, take to your independently-owned local business clients, and maybe even help take to their communities. Spark a conversation today and you may stumble upon a meaningful competitive advantage for your agency and its most local customers.

Every year, local SEOs are delving deeper and deeper into the offline realities of the brands they serve, large and small. We’re learning so much, together. It’s sometimes a heartbreaker, but always an honor, being part of this local journey.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

from Raymond Castleberry Blog

China Looks to Increase Natural Gas Consumption and Supply

In 2017, China was the world’s fastest-growing natural gas market. Consumption grew by 15 percent—over twice the rate of economic growth—and  liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports grew by 46 percent. In 2013, under the country’s National Action Plan on Air Pollution Prevention and Control, natural gas became a central part of the Chinese government’s plan for fighting air pollution. China’s thirteenth Five-Year Plan (2016–2020) set goals for increasing the use of natural gas, including almost doubling the share of natural gas in China’s energy mix in five years—providing up to 10 percent of China’s primary energy by 2020 and 15 percent by 2030.

In 2017, natural gas accounted for about 7 percent of China’s primary energy consumption. Over two-thirds of the natural gas consumed in China is used in industry and buildings (mainly for heating) with little used in power generation due to China’s staggering coal-fired capacity in that sector. The Chinese economy relies heavily on coal, which produces more particulate matter and other criteria pollutants than natural gas. Transitioning from coal to natural gas can reduce China’s soot and smog. China suffers from serious air pollution problems.

To implement the plan, China first required 28 cities in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region to replace small coal-fired boilers with natural gas–fired units. An estimated 4 million households switched from coal to natural gas. Beginning in December 2017 through 2021, China is targeting the replacement of these residential coal boilers across northern China. These small boilers are particularly bad at producing pollution, since their combustion is very inefficient.

To increase natural gas’s share of primary energy consumption, the Chinese government has undertaken a process of gradual price liberalization. Natural gas prices for nonresidential customers were liberalized beginning in 2015. In 2017, the government announced that third parties would receive access to pipelines and LNG import terminals.

China’s Push to Natural Gas Created Shortages

During the winter of 2017 to 2018, much of northern China experienced significant natural gas shortages. Millions of homes were temporarily left without heat. One provincial capital suspended heating in government offices, hotels, and shopping malls. Natural gas–fueled taxis and buses waited in long lines. Industrial output was scaled back to divert natural gas to emergency heating in homes and office buildings.

Contributing to the shortage were limited storage capacity, over stretched LNG infrastructure, gas pipeline shortages, colder than average temperatures, lack of market-based price signals due to the gas market being semi-regulated, and inadequate coordination among government officials.

At the end of 2017, China’s underground natural gas storage capacity was 11.7 billion cubic meters—about  5 percent of total consumption. This compares to natural gas storage capacity in the United States of 17 percent of consumption and in Europe of 27 percent.  

At the end of 2017, China had 16 operational LNG receiving terminals with 71 billion cubic meters of annual import capacity along the country’s east coast. During the peak winter months of December and January, the average nationwide utilization rate was above 105 percent and utilization at some northern terminals exceeded 120 percent. Although southern terminals operated at utilization rates of around 70 percent, the pipeline infrastructure to move natural gas from southern terminals to northern demand centers was insufficient. Chinese companies dispatched trucks to deliver LNG from receiving terminals in the south to cities in the north at distances of over a thousand miles and at a cost of over $30 per million Btu during the winter peak demand—almost three times the spot LNG price during this time period.

In the second half of 2017, pipeline gas deliveries from Turkmenistan dropped substantially due to stronger-than-anticipated demand growth and cold weather in Turkmenistan, unplanned outages at a gas processing facility, and an attempt to negotiate better pricing terms. Despite China’s attempts to purchase more supply from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, natural gas pipeline imports from Central Asia remained largely flat during the months of peak winter gas demand.

Natural Gas Production

Most of China’s natural gas supply (about 60 percent) comes from domestic production—almost all from conventional wells. China’s natural gas production increased by nine percent in 2017, but could not keep up with the 15 percent annual growth in natural gas consumption.

Unconventional gas—particularly shale gas—has long-term growth potential in China, but its development has been challenging. China’s shale basins are located in mountainous, arid, remote and also highly populated regions, leading to higher costs. China’s shale is also buried deeper and is more fractured, making it difficult and expensive to extract.

According to the Energy Information Administration, China has the world’s largest shale gas resources at 1115.2 trillion cubic feet (31,579 billion cubic meters). Because of the challenges to producing it, the government subsidizes its production, currently at roughly 20 percent of well-head prices.  

The government’s 2020 target for shale gas production was scaled back from 100 billion cubic meters per year in 2012 to 30 billion cubic meters per year in 2014 due to a number of challenges including difficult terrain, high costs, poor geology, and long distances to markets. One energy consultant predicts that only about 17 billion cubic meters per year of production from shale is attainable by 2020, and would require a near doubling of current production in less than three years.

Helping increase efficiency, Chinese firms can now drill multiple wells at a single pad, known as “well factory” drilling and carry out extended horizontal fracturing up to 3,000 meters. Over the past 8 years, the cost of building a well was nearly halved to an average of under 50 million yuan per well ($7.8 million), and drilling speed has improved by two-thirds to 45 to 60 days. China pumped 9 billion cubic meters of shale gas in 2017—about 6 percent of the country’s total natural gas production.

Source: Forbes

China’s other sources of unconventional natural gas production—coalbed methane and coal gasification—are less likely to materialize over the long run.

Pipeline Imports of Natural Gas

China currently imports natural gas through two pipelines: the Central Asia gas pipeline (from Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan) and the China-Myanmar pipeline. A natural gas pipeline from Russia is currently under construction but is not likely to come on-line until the end of 2019.

In 2017, 39 billion cubic meters of natural gas was delivered by the Central Asia gas pipeline—below the 55 billion cubic meter capacity. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have some potential to increase pipeline gas deliveries to China, but producing more natural gas in those countries will take time. Another potential pipeline from Central Asia, known as Line D, could add another 30 billion cubic meters per year import capacity from Turkmenistan. Construction of Line D began in 2014, but the project was delayed in 2016 and suspended in 2017. If the project is completed, the earliest start of deliveries would be 2023 due to uncertainties around construction and timing, and technical difficulties due to the mountainous terrain.

The potential for increased natural gas imports through the China-Myanmar pipeline is also limited with deliveries falling short of the 5.2 billion cubic meter annual contract volume and the high cost of the gas. The Power of Siberia pipeline connecting Russia’s natural gas reserves in Eastern Siberia with China’s northeastern provinces could start deliveries by the end of 2019.  But the ramp up to full capacity—38 billion cubic meters per year of contracted volume—could take well into the mid-2020s. Also, Russia’s eastern gas fields may have a problem of providing the gas when China needs it most during the cold weather months.

Natural Gas Storage

China has plans to increase natural gas storage capacity from about 12 billion cubic meters today to 15 billion cubic meters by 2020 and 35 billion cubic meters by 2030. Last year, the Chinese government began requiring Chinese natural gas companies to build and maintain storage facilities. Upstream companies are required to build storage capacity equal to 10 percent of their annual contracted sales volume and midstream companies (including city gas distributors) are required to provide storage equal to 5 percent of annual consumption. Companies have several years to meet these requirements.

Plans for increasing natural gas storage rely mainly on state-owned enterprises because the financial returns on natural gas storage facilities in China are low. Regulated city-gate prices suppress the seasonal price signals that could incentivize private companies to invest in gas storage.

Although work is underway to expand China’s natural gas storage capacity, there are geological obstacles that limit its growth. In China, depleted oil and gas fields—the most commonly used geological means of storage—are located deep underground, close to densely populated areas or in mountainous regions, which raises safety risks and technical complexity; and the technical expertise to build new facilities is limited.

If the government targets for both natural gas storage capacity and natural gas consumption are met, storage is expected to reach 6 percent of consumption in 2030, compared to just over 5 percent today.

LNG Infrastructure

Analysts generally expect China’s LNG demand to reach 80 to 147 metric tons per annum (109 to 200 billion cubic meters per year) by 2030—roughly two to four times greater than the 38 metric tons per annum (mtpa) consumed in 2017. In most forecasts, China overtakes Japan (which imported 84 metric tons per annum of LNG last year) as the world’s largest LNG importing country in the mid- to late 2020s.

Five new or expanded regasification terminals are scheduled to come on-line in 2018. Several additional terminals are under construction or expanding capacity, with projected online dates between 2019 and 2021. China’s LNG import capacity could increase by half through the early 2020s. Because only about a quarter of China’s new import capacity is in the northern regions, parallel development of the domestic gas pipeline network is also needed. Plans call for an expansion of China’s natural gas pipeline network by 99,000 kilometers (about 60,000 miles) between 2015 and 2025.


China is expected to become the world’s leading LNG importer over the next decade.  Government natural gas targets imply strong demand growth for at least the next decade—although infrastructure constraints could limit consumption in the short and medium terms.  China is developing its vast shale gas resources to help meet demand.

The post China Looks to Increase Natural Gas Consumption and Supply appeared first on IER.

from Raymond Castleberry Blog

Solar Energy International (SEI) opens its first International Solar Training Center in Costa Rica

With this facility SEI seeks to accelerate and expand access to solar training to Spanish speakers throughout Latin America

CARTAGO, COSTA RICA- Solar Energy International (SEI), an industry leader in solar energy technical training, opened its first International Solar Training Center in Costa Rica through a partnership with CFIA (Federated College of Engineers and Architects of Costa Rica) and CIEMI (College of Electrical, Mechanical and Industrial Engineers).

This new training facility will accelerate and expand access to world-class solar training to Spanish speakers throughout Latin America, building a strong solar industry in the region with qualified workforce in line with SEI’s vision of a world powered by renewable energy. Since the beginning of SEI’s Spanish Program in 2013, SEI has trained over 9,000 Spanish speakers, empowering Latin Americans with solar education, which has increased energy access for their communities.

The Solar Training Center SEI-CFIA is located in the province of Cartago, Costa Rica, inside the facilities of CFIA’s Integral Training Center Uxarrací.

The center is fully equipped with the best tools to construct, commission and test solar electric arrays. It has 3 solar PV systems installed in compliance with the US National Electrical Code (NEC), which allows students to learn about the most up-to-date design and safety parameters. The systems are composed of leading technologies and popular products available internationally for students to build and wire photovoltaic arrays from the roof up.

As it is SEI’s commitment to bring the highest level of safety and training to Latin America, the center is constructed in compliance with OSHA regulations modeling the safest possible working environment for the students’ learning experience. Equipment to teach safest procedures such as harnesses, electric insulating gloves, helmets and protective glasses are available and required for all students.

Industry professionals hired as instructors take SEI’s leading curriculum and apply it for Latin American students to take a hands-on approach to system assembly, wiring and commissioning.  As photovoltaic arrays are modular, they are able to extrapolate the system to much larger sizes and capacities.

Marco Calvo, President of CIEMI Board of Directors said in regard the opening of the new center:
“By partnering with SEI, we are fulfilling the responsibility to offer our community the security that things are being done as they should, with high quality professional standards. From CIEMI we seek to offer solutions to the professionals of the solar industry so that they are able to build efficient, safe and reliable installations. The solar industry is growing in Costa Rica and in Latin America, and we want our workforce to be prepared to occupy the new jobs that the sector generates. We trust in the trajectory of SEI and the quality of its instructors to provide qualified education”.

Matthew Harris, LatAm Business Development Director, said:
“The Costa Rica campus is an invaluable opportunity for SEI to bring high quality PV education to a growing Latin American market. Over 26 years of time-tested and evolving techniques stand behind SEI’s academic and hands-on curriculum. It is SEI’s mission to bring solar electricity to people around the world empowering people, business and communities”

Enrollments to take SEI’s spanish courses in Costa Rica are now open. To learn more, contact the SEI Spanish Program Student Service team at or call +1-970-527-7657 xt. 8.

About Solar Energy International: SEI was founded in 1991 as a nonprofit educational organization with the mission to provide industry-leading technical training and expertise in renewable energy to empower people, communities and businesses worldwide. SEI envisions a world powered by renewable energy. To learn more about the Spanish Program visit

About CFIA: The Federated College of Engineers and Architects of Costa Rica ensures the excellence and decorum of its members, for the development of an efficient, responsible and interdisciplinary professional exercise of engineering and architecture, to contribute to the security and sustainable progress of Costa Rica.

About CIEMI: The College of Electrical, Mechanical and Industrial Engineers (CIEMI) is one of the five colleges that make up the Federated College of Engineers and Architects of Costa Rica. The role of the CIEMI is to regulate the professional practice of all those professional areas of engineering that are attached to this school in Costa Rica and that currently correspond to 28 specialties.

The post Solar Energy International (SEI) opens its first International Solar Training Center in Costa Rica appeared first on Solar Training – Solar Installer Training – Solar PV Installation Training – Solar Energy Courses – Renewable Energy Education – NABCEP – Solar Energy International (SEI).

from Raymond Castleberry Blog

The Rules of Link Building – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by BritneyMuller

Are you building links the right way? Or are you still subscribing to outdated practices? Britney Muller clarifies which link building tactics still matter and which are a waste of time (or downright harmful) in today’s episode of Whiteboard Friday.

The Rules of Link Building

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Happy Friday, Moz fans! Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today we are going over the rules of link building. It’s no secret that links are one of the top three ranking factors in Goggle and can greatly benefit your website. But there is a little confusion around what’s okay to do as far as links and what’s not. So hopefully, this helps clear some of that up.

The Dos

All right. So what are the dos? What do you want to be doing? First and most importantly is just to…

I. Determine the value of that link. So aside from ranking potential, what kind of value will that link bring to your site? Is it potential traffic? Is it relevancy? Is it authority? Just start to weigh out your options and determine what’s really of value for your site.

II. Local listings still do very well. These local business citations are on a bunch of different platforms, and services like Moz Local or Yext can get you up and running a little bit quicker. They tend to show Google that this business is indeed located where it says it is. It has consistent business information — the name, address, phone number, you name it. But something that isn’t really talked about all that often is that some of these local listings never get indexed by Google. If you think about it, is probably populating thousands of new listings a day. Why would Google want to index all of those?

So if you’re doing business listings, an age-old thing that local SEOs have been doing for a while is create a page on your site that says where you can find us online. Link to those local listings to help Google get that indexed, and it sort of has this boomerang-like effect on your site. So hope that helps. If that’s confusing, I can clarify down below. Just wanted to include it because I think it’s important.

III. Unlinked brand mentions. One of the easiest ways you can get a link is by figuring out who is mentioning your brand or your company and not linking to it. Let’s say this article publishes about how awesome SEO companies are and they mention Moz, and they don’t link to us. That’s an easy way to reach out and say, “Hey, would you mind adding a link? It would be really helpful.”

IV. Reclaiming broken links is also a really great way to kind of get back some of your links in a short amount of time and little to no effort. What does this mean? This means that you had a link from a site that now your page currently 404s. So they were sending people to your site for a specific page that you’ve since deleted or updated somewhere else. Whatever that might be, you want to make sure that you 301 this broken link on your site so that it pushes the authority elsewhere. Definitely a great thing to do anyway.

V. HARO (Help a Reporter Out). Reporters will notify you of any questions or information they’re seeking for an article via this email service. So not only is it just good general PR, but it’s a great opportunity for you to get a link. I like to think of link building as really good PR anyway. It’s like digital PR. So this just takes it to the next level.

VI. Just be awesome. Be cool. Sponsor awesome things. I guarantee any one of you watching likely has incredible local charities or amazing nonprofits in your space that could use the sponsorship, however big or small that might be. But that also gives you an opportunity to get a link. So something to definitely consider.

VII. Ask/Outreach. There’s nothing wrong with asking. There’s nothing wrong with outreach, especially when done well. I know that link building outreach in general kind of gets a bad rap because the response rate is so painfully low. I think, on average, it’s around 4% to 7%, which is painful. But you can get that higher if you’re a little bit more strategic about it or if you outreach to people you already currently know. There’s a ton of resources available to help you do this better, so definitely check those out. We can link to some of those below.

VIII. COBC (create original badass content). We hear lots of people talk about this. When it comes to link building, it’s like, “Link building is dead. Just create great content and people will naturally link to you. It’s brilliant.” It is brilliant, but I also think that there is something to be said about having a healthy mix. There’s this idea of link building and then link earning. But there’s a really perfect sweet spot in the middle where you really do get the most bang for your buck.

The Don’ts

All right. So what not to do. The don’ts of today’s link building world are…

I. Don’t ask for specific anchor text. All of these things appear so spammy. The late Eric Ward talked about this and was a big advocate for never asking for anchor text. He said websites should be linked to however they see fit. That’s going to look more natural. Google is going to consider it to be more organic, and it will help your site in the long run. So that’s more of a suggestion. These other ones are definitely big no-no’s.

II. Don’t buy or sell links that pass PageRank. You can buy or sell links that have a no-follow attached, which attributes that this is paid-for, whether it be an advertisement or you don’t trust it. So definitely looking into those and understanding how that works.

III. Hidden links. We used to do this back in the day, the ridiculous white link on a white background. They were totally hidden, but crawlers would pick them up. Don’t do that. That’s so old and will not work anymore. Google is getting so much smarter at understanding these things.

IV. Low-quality directory links. Same with low-quality directory links. We remember those where it was just loads and loads of links and text and a random auto insurance link in there. You want to steer clear of those.

V. Site-wide links also look very spammy. Site wide being whether it’s a footer link or a top-level navigation link, you definitely don’t want to go after those. They can appear really, really spammy. Avoid those.

VI. Comment links with over-optimized anchor link text, specifically, you want to avoid. Again, it’s just like any of these others. It looks spammy. It’s not going to help you long term. Again, what’s the value of that overall? So avoid that.

VII. Abusing guest posts. You definitely don’t want to do this. You don’t want to guest post purely just for a link. However, I am still a huge advocate, as I know many others out there are, of guest posting and providing value. Whether there be a link or not, I think there is still a ton of value in guest posting. So don’t get rid of that altogether, but definitely don’t target it for potential link building opportunities.

VIII. Automated tools used to create links on all sorts of websites. ScrapeBox is an infamous one that would create the comment links on all sorts of blogs. You don’t want to do that.

IX. Link schemes, private link networks, and private blog networks. This is where you really get into trouble as well. Google will penalize or de-index you altogether. It looks so, so spammy, and you want to avoid this.

X. Link exchange. This is in the same vein as the link exchanges, where back in the day you used to submit a website to a link exchange and they wouldn’t grant you that link until you also linked to them. Super silly. This stuff does not work anymore, but there are tons of opportunities and quick wins for you to gain links naturally and more authoritatively.

So hopefully, this helps clear up some of the confusion. One question I would love to ask all of you is: To disavow or to not disavow? I have heard back-and-forth conversations on either side on this. Does the disavow file still work? Does it not? What are your thoughts? Please let me know down below in the comments.

Thank you so much for tuning in to this edition of Whiteboard Friday. I will see you all soon. Thanks.

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from Raymond Castleberry Blog

Electricity Bills in South Australia and Other Australian States Skyrocket

Like many European countries, South Australia is betting on renewable energy for its electricity, closing coal plants in favor of less carbon sources, with the outcome that its residents are becoming energy poor due to skyrocketing electricity prices. The region’s reliance on subsidized, intermittent and unreliable wind and solar power has resulted in skyrocketing power prices. Over 100,000 Australian families had their power cut off last year, and another 100,000 are on payment plans with their power providers, making over 200,000 residents energy poor in one of the most energy-rich nations in the world. 109,000 Australian households had their electricity disconnected last year because they were unable to afford their electricity bills, which included over $3 billion in subsidies for Chinese- made solar panels and wind turbines. Electricity bills include the cost of generating power, transmitting it through high-voltage lines, distributing it to homes and businesses, and government subsidies provided to encourage development of renewable energy.


Retail electricity prices of NEM states

Source: Stop These Things Note: Prices in Australian dollars. One Australian dollar equals 0.74 U.S. dollars.


In Victoria, one of Melbourne’s bayside pubs is rationing its heating and cooling and cutting down on staff because of power bills that have reached $24,000 a month. The pub will have to sell over 120 additional pots of beer each day to keep pace with power bills that have tripled from $8000 a month after last year’s closure of the Hazelwood coal power plant. The closure of the 1600-megawatt Hazelwood plant in March 2017 resulted in the loss of over 20 percent of the state’s generation capacity. The electricity company blames the closure of the Hazelwood plant for the tripling of the pub’s power bill.

In Victoria, average retail household power bills increased almost 16 percent to $1275 compared to a year earlier. Average wholesale prices in 2017 increased 85 percent in Victoria (VIC) and 32 percent in South Australia (SA). Average wholesale prices in New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland (QLD) increased 63 percent and 53 percent, respectively.

Prior to the Hazelwood plant’s closure, the plant’s access to low-cost coal kept power prices among the lowest in the electricity market that supplies eastern Australia. Without the Hazelwood plant, the region became a net importer of electricity in the second half of 2017. To cope with the loss of coal-fired electricity, 500 percent more natural gas was used for power generation in 2017 and renewable energy surged, particularly roof-top solar as consumers looked to alternate sources rather than their power supplier.

Average Annualized Wholesale Electricity Prices, 2014-2018

average annualized wholesale electricity prices 2014-2018

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
Note: Annualized over 12 months ending in February



South Australia, Victoria, and other Australian states are suffering from high electricity prices and potential blackouts because of their unsustainable mix of intermittent renewable energy with insufficient back-up power. Because of high electricity prices and energy poverty, residents with the help of the government are looking towards solar rooftop panels and home storage batteries, which are also costly, to form a virtual power plant and hopefully lower prices.

The United States should learn from Australia’s experience and not be too hasty at turning its generating sector over to intermittent renewable energy. Wind and solar power represent almost 8 percent of the current U.S. generating mix, which so far has not destabilized the grid. But, costly tax credits for wind power have caused negative electricity prices that have resulted in traditional technologies, at times, being uncompetitive.  Wind generators are awarded tax credits equivalent to cash from taxpayers for generating power even when there is no financial need for it. Without the proper back-up power and policies that support it, the United States could end up facing similar cost and unreliability issues and challenges as these Australian states.

The post Electricity Bills in South Australia and Other Australian States Skyrocket appeared first on IER.

from Raymond Castleberry Blog