Category: whwrxp

Judge Suspends Proceedings in Mercenary Trial

first_imgNearly a week after putting  18 men on trial for mercenary activities in neighboring La Côte d’ Ivoire, the men on trial vandalized the entire Criminal Court ‘D.’Judge Yussif Kaba on Monday January 6, suspended further proceedings into the matter.Defending his court’s action, Judge Kaba, said he was suspending the trial on grounds that the defendants’ violent behavior could endanger further proceedings. Judge Kaba said their behaviors poses “insecurity” to free, fair, and transparent deliberation.“This court can’t and should not conduct the trial, where in the mind of the court and the security of the trial is not ensured. We will not put the court in any danger,” Judge Kaba angrily reminded both the defense team and prosecution in open court on Monday.The 18 defendants on Tuesday, December 31 went on the rampage, taking over the facility of the court to the extent that some of them removed their clothes.They even destroyed the circuit bench (Judge’s seat) in the court room.It took the intervention of the police to bring the situation under control on December 31.Prior to the defendants’ behavior, the lawyers (defense and prosecution) were in the process of selecting a trial jury that would help the judge to hear and determine the matter.At Monday’s hearing the defendants were not present in court; only their legal team headed by Cllr. Taiwon Gongole.The lawyers, however, did not accept Judge Kaba’s decision to suspend further hearings in the case that has being ongoing for nearly two years.Giving more details on the defendants’ behavior, Judge Kaba said, “Concerning the facility of the court and the nature of the defendants, the court does not have the necessary security to go ahead with the trial, especially considering December 31 violent incident.”The Criminal Court Judge noted, “I’m of the strong conviction that even the counsels for the defendants were not aware as to what led to the defendants’ violent behavior.”Some onlookers openly said that the defendants, many of whom hailed from Grand Gedeh County, were promised by their lawyers that they were going to be declared free people if they appeared before Judge Kaba on December 31. Judge Kaba continued his justification by saying, “Because of the defendants’ behaviors, it is not possible for this court to conduct an orderly, free, fair, and transparent trial at this time.”“Therefore, the matter is hereby suspended.” Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

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Simi Valley students sending off packages

first_imgAt Santa Susana High, it was turned into a contest called Let’s Give Back, with the winning class getting a pizza party. “Community service is an important part of their education,” said Principal Pam Carter, who was at the post office Thursday. “The kids were very excited about this, and we are thrilled to be able to do it.” Josephson and Cornell said the focus was really on the troops overseas. “They say this really builds their morale,” Josephson said. “It’s so heartwarming to feel we are bringing a little touch from home.” Some of the packages are sent with notes written by elementary and high school children. SIMI VALLEY Students from two high schools converged on a post office last week to mail 250 care packages they helped assemble to reach American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan by Valentine’s Day. “It will be nice if we can get it to them by Valentine’s Day, but it would be good any day of the year,” said Hannah Westerdoll, 16, one of the Santa Susana High School students who joined in the effort. The care package program was organized by For the Troops, a nonprofit organization formed last year by Simi Valley resident Paula Cornell and Janie Josephson of Woodland Hills. “We shipped 209 packages Dec. 19 and got e-mails from soldiers who said they got them Christmas Eve,” said Cornell, expressing confidence many of the packages mailed Thursday would arrive by Valentine’s Day. She said although she and Josephson didn’t know anyone serving abroad personally, they wanted to develop a grass roots, nonpolitical effort to show they cared. “We’re just trying to make a difference,” Josephson said. “We’ve gotten e-mails from guys and gals saying they can’t believe they got a care package from someone who was not related. It’s very gratifying.” Murray Shapiro of Chatsworth, a highly decorated Army veteran who was in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, came out Thursday in uniform when the packages were mailed because his son is involved in For the Troops and he wanted to show support. Shapiro, 83, said he can still remember how happy he was to get the packages of kosher salami, cookies and other gifts he received from loved ones during World War II. “It shows people care,” he said. Cornell said she was motivated to form the For the Troops organization because of her husband Jim’s military background. He served in the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Bronze Star for bravery in 1969. One of the For the Troops volunteers was Toni Choma of Simi Valley, whose husband, Stephen, is a Marine stationed in Iraq. “This is a great opportunity to help as many soldiers as I can,” she said. “They really need it. I know my husband appreciates it.” Sara Liebman, the advisory program coordinator at Santa Susana, said ninth-, 10th- and 11th-grade classes participated in the Let’s Give Back contest to see which class could collect the most items. Students from Simi Valley High’s Key Club also helped put together the care packages. “This will be a pickup for Valentine’s Day,” said Mackenzie Seibert, 15, one of the Simi Valley High students. “It shows that people care for (the troops) and support them back in the states.” The For the Troops wish list includes candy, cookies, nuts, power bars and dried fruit, nonprescription medications, magazines, handheld games, travel-size board games and puzzles, DVDs, CDs, athletic socks, plastic storage bags, ground coffee, beef jerky and AA and AAA batteries. Josephson and Cornell said they are interested in obtaining the names of more local people serving in the armed forces who would appreciate receiving the care packages. Cornell, looking around her garage packed with boxes and supplies for making more packages, said the effort has grown to the point where she and Josephson are looking for a bigger facility to conduct the operation. Information on the organization is available at www.forthetroops.us. eric.leach@dailynews.com (805) 583-7602160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more

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Female WWII POW dies

first_imgLA CANADA FLINTRIDGE – Imogene Kennedy Schmidt, one of the nurses dubbed the “Angels of Bataan” who treated U.S. troops battling Japanese forces in the Philippines during World War II and were prisoners of war for nearly three years, has died. She was 88. Schmidt died March 3 at her home due to complications from a fall, her daughter, Susan Johnson of Bemidji, Minn., said Friday. With Schmidt’s death, only three of the nurses are believed to be alive, said Elizabeth M. Norman, who wrote the 1999 book, “We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan.” “She had a wonderful spirit,” Norman told the Los Angeles Times. “She loved these women she was imprisoned with, and she said she knew them as well as the back of her hand.” Born Imogene Kennedy on Oct. 13, 1918, in Philadelphia, Miss., Schmidt grew up on a farm, one of eight children. She graduated with a nursing degree from the University of Tennessee in 1941, joined the Army and was one of 99 Army and Navy nurses stationed in the Philippines. After Japan attacked in 1942, they found themselves treating casualties in open-air field hospitals on the Bataan Peninsula. Few had seen combat conditions before. When the Philippines fell, they were sent to the rocky island fortress of Corregidor, where they were under nearly constant shelling while working in an underground hospital. In addition to her daughter, Schmidt is survived by a son, Richard Schmidt, two sisters, a brother and four grandchildren. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more

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Experts: schools are underfunded

first_imgCalifornia’s education spending remains below the national average, the studies found. Moreover, districts with higher costs of living – and schools serving more students who are poor, speak little English or need special education – don’t end up with more funding, researchers reported. Despite recent reforms, budget increases and higher standards, California’s schools still struggle with uncertain budgets, inequitable funding, inadequate staffing and low achievement. In tests administered to eighth-graders nationally, California students score seventh lowest in math, third lowest in English and second lowest in science. Researchers stressed that simply pouring in more resources without overhauling the entire system makes no sense. In fact, study sponsors took care to distance themselves from one estimate in the report – that solely by increasing spending without reforms it would cost $1.5 trillion a year to enable all students to reach the state’s testing benchmark – a score of 800 out of 1,000 points on the annual API test. The methodology behind that estimate was flawed, said the researchers, led by a team at Stanford University. Yet, even for the smaller estimates, “the numbers are dizzying,” said Michael Kirst, professor emeritus of education at Stanford and author of one of the reports. Three teams of researchers used different methods to estimate the cost of attaining adequate achievement. Few states have done what California may attempt – totally revamping the way it funds schools. Reform backers say the future of the state is at stake, as employers need highly educated workers, and failing students face bleak economic prospects. Yet education already consumes about 40 percent of the state budget. The ambitious agenda implied in the reports – which were funded by four foundations – buoyed education supporters. State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, said he was initially skeptical of the two-year, $3 million study. But “this is a necessary step to make the case that additional resources and reforms are necessary.” Now the 18,000-page report goes to the Governor’s Committee on Education Excellence, a bipartisan group. Chairman Ted Mitchell, former president of Occidental College, said he hopes to produce recommendations for legislation by mid-fall. The question is whether the governor and the Legislature have the political will to take on major reform that could offend powerful players. The California Teachers Association, for instance, opposes weakening protection for tenured teachers. Previous efforts to level the financial playing field, by taking away resources from tax-wealthy districts, have failed. But in 2008 a window for change may open. A voter-mandated funding formula will give education an additional $7 billion, which may help reform proposals. Mitchell said he’s most worried about being in too much of a hurry to craft a “creative but honest solution.” Added Mitchell: “There aren’t any easy ways out this time.” snoguchi@mercurynews.com (650) 688-7576160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Providing California children with a quality education could easily cost $32 billion more – a 55 percent increase over what the state now spends, according to studies released Thursday. The 22-part “Getting Down to the Facts” report examined how to repair California public education. The 18 studies released Wednesday centered on improving how schools run; those unveiled Thursday focused on financing. One of those studies estimated that education spending needs to increase 40 percent. Yet even that huge jump, it found, would leave half the school districts unable to reach state expectations for achievement. While the studies made the case for overhauling how the state funds and runs education, they intentionally didn’t specify how to increase spending or raise the money. Instead, the reports sketched out possible financial scenarios. Using figures from the 2004-05 school year, one study estimated the state would have needed to increase spending by 53 percent to 71 percent, or $24.1 billion to $32 billion more that year to adequately educate students. On Thursday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who with legislative leaders commissioned the studies, refused to immediately embrace higher spending. “We need to focus on critical school reform before any discussion about more resources,” the governor said in a news release. Part of the problem in coming up with estimates is that “there’s little consensus on the relationship between resources and achievement,” said Jon Sonstelie, professor of economics at UC-Santa Barbara and one of the key authors who investigated school financing. last_img read more

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Assemblyman needs to stop globe-trotting

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREChargers go winless in AFC West with season-ending loss in Kansas CityNunez owes the taxpayers a proper accounting of his trips to Rome, Paris and other locations. He should prove what a European vacation has to do with fixing the state’s roads, schools and prisons and solving other problems. He should explain to the taxpayer why his “office” expenses were at the Louis Vuitton store in Paris instead of a Staples in Pico Rivera. So far the speaker and his staff have mounted this defense: Disclosing the travel is enough. No, it’s not. But those disclosures were telling, even though if they were unexplained: $50,000 in air travel, a $9,000 stay at an exclusive hotel in Spain and a $5,149 meeting with an exclusive wine seller in the Bordeaux region of France. Nunez said he travels so that he can broaden his view and gain perspective on issues that affect the state. Somewhere along the line he lost his perspective on how the middle class lives and, more importantly, what it means to be the highest-ranking member of the Assembly. Assembly Speaker Fabian Nu ez recently told the Los Angeles Times, “There’s not too big a difference between how I live and how most middle-class people live.” No wonder Sacramento is so out of touch with the needs of Californians. One of the most powerful Democrats in the state, Nunez earns $130,062 a year and a tax-free per diem of $170 for showing up to work when the Assembly meets. Something tells us that middle-school teachers, guys who own carpet-cleaning businesses and other middle-class types who earn around $50,000 a year don’t dine in the same Paris restaurants as the assemblyman from Los Angeles. Being out of touch with regular folks isn’t the speaker’s only problem. He spent thousands of dollars in campaign funds traveling the world, staying at luxury hotels, dining in exclusive restaurants and visiting choice locations. He and staff members also declined to explain to the Los Angeles Times how some of that travel and dining pertained to state business – as the law requires. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more

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Council recognised for work on Age Friendly Programme

first_imgDonegal County Council’s Age Friendly programme has earned high praise for its approach to positive ageing.Cathaoirleach, Cllr. Nicholas Crossan, received a charter from the World Health Organisation (WHO) at a special event in Slane Castle in recognition of Donegal County Council’s work on delivering the Age Friendly Programme in Donegal.The Age Friendly Programme is about enabling people of all ages to actively participate in the community, helping people to stay healthy and active even at the oldest ages and providing appropriate support to those who can no longer look after themselves. Donegal was one of 31 local authorities to be recognised in this way by the Word Health Organisation who are leading this initiative internationally.In April this year, Ireland became the first countries in the world to have full membership across all administrative areas to this significant WHO initiative.An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, attended the event which was hosted by Meath County Council and described the Age Friendly Ireland Programme as a really effective way of bringing together a wide range of organisations, businesses and service providers ensuring the interests and needs of older people are being well served.“I commend our local authorities for their hard work in implementing the programme. “That work will help to ensure Ireland is ready to meet the challenges and opportunities presented by the fact that we are living longer.“Ireland may be a small country, but we have shown huge leadership when it comes to positive ageing.“We are well positioned internationally to influence the agenda on Age Friendly communities, and it is gratifying to hear from the World Health Organisation how respected we are as a country for this work,” he added.Pictured at the special event in Slane Castle on Monday recognising Donegal County Councils work on the Age Friendly Programme is Mairead Cranley, Donegal County Council, Cathaoirleach Cllr. Nicholas Crossan, Frank Campbell, Chair of Donegal Older Persons Council, Minister Damian English and Liam Ward, Donegal County Council.Internationally, the world’s population is ageing, and the WHO programme is a response to this demographic trend.Ireland’s population has been getting steadily older since the 1980s. The 65+ age group increased by 19% between 2011 and 2016.This trend will continue, so it is crucial now to plan and prepare for the needs of greater numbers of older people in our communities.Cllr. Crossan commended the work done through the Donegal Age Friendly Alliance.“The Age Friendly Programme has grown steadily in Donegal since its inception a number of years ago with notable initiatives including the Ceol le Cheile intergenerational choir. “Embedding age friendly considerations in the policies and practices of various organisations delivering public services, including the Council, has been to the fore of the Donegal Age Friendly Strategy and I would like to acknowledge the support of the various organisations who work alongside us to drive this initiative.“I would also like to acknowledge the Older Persons Council in Donegal who have been instrumental in influencing, informing and affecting change in this area,” he said.The event in Slane was attended by Alana Officer of the WHO as she formally recognized Ireland’s work in delivering on the aims and ambitions of the WHO Global Network of Age Friendly Cities and Communities, formally acknowledging the membership of each local authority led Age Friendly Programme in Ireland to this network.Minister for Employment Affairs & Social Protection, Regina Doherty; Minister of State for Housing and Urban Development, Damien English; Minster of State for Mental Health and Older People, Jim Daly; and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Helen McEntee were also in attendance.Donegal was represented by Cathaoirleach Cllr Nicholas Crossan, Liam Ward, Donegal County Council, Frank Campbell Chair of Donegal’s Older Persons Council and Mairead Cranley, Donegal County Council.Council recognised for work on Age Friendly Programme was last modified: December 18th, 2019 by Dionne MeehanShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Tags:Age Friendly ProgrammedonegalDonegal County CouncilWorld Health Organisationlast_img read more

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Latest: Chelsea 3 Maribor 0 – Drogba delights crowd with goal for Chelsea

first_imgDidier Drogba’s penalty – his first goal since returning to Chelsea – helped put them in a commanding position in the Champions League Group G clash. John Terry netted the third at Stamford Bridge, where Drogba scored eight minutes after coming on for Loic Remy, who injured himself while scoring the opening goal.The France striker collected Terry’s pass and shifted the ball on to his left foot before firing into the far corner of the net.However, Remy appeared to hurt his groin as he struck the ball and after limping on for a couple of minutes he was replaced by Drogba on the quarter-hour mark.Drogba had last netted for Chelsea when he scored the Champions League-winning penalty in the shoot-out against Bayern Munich in 2012, having also got their all-important equaliser.And he made no mistake from the spot after Ales Mertelj handled as he attempted to block Willian’s ball into the box.Terry’s was a nicely worked breakaway goal, Eden Hazard cleverly finding Cesc Fabregas whose low cross teed up the skipper for a simple close-range finish. Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Zouma, Terry, Filipe Luis; Matic, Fabregas; Willian, Oscar, Hazard; Remy (Drogba 15) Subs: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ake, Salah, Solanke.Follow West London Sport on TwitterFind us on Facebooklast_img read more

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Watford v Chelsea: Pedro in, Fabregas on bench

first_imgPedro has been restored to the Chelsea starting line-up for the Blues’ trip to Watford.The Spaniard comes in for Willian, who is not the squad.It is the only change from the side that beat West Ham on Monday, meaning Cesc Fabregas remains among the substitutes.Chelsea boss Antonio Conte sticks with the 4-1-4-1 formation, with Nemanja Matic and Oscar used just ahead of summer signing N’Golo Kante.Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Ola Aina and Nathaniel Chalobah are also on the bench, alongside Michy Batshuayi and Victor Moses.Watford are unchanged from the side that drew with Southampton on the opening weekend.Hornets boss Walter Mazzari uses the 3-5-2 formation that Conte employed with Juventus and Italy.Watford: Gomes; Cathcart, Prodl, Britos; Amrabat, Guedioura, Behrami, Capoue, Holebas; Ighalo, Deeney.Subs: Pantilimon, Nyom, Doucoure, Anya, Hoban, Zuniga, Vydra.Chelsea: Courtois; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Kante; Pedro, Oscar, Matic, Hazard; Costa.Subs: Begovic, Aina, Loftus-Cheek, Fabregas, Chalobah, Moses, Batshuayi.MATCH PREVIEW: Chelsea look to build on encouraging startSee also:Chelsea boss wary of two Watford dangermenConte’s on a roll and Chelsea should be too good for WatfordPreview: Chelsea head to Watford looking to build on encouraging startWatford v Chelsea: five key battles Follow West London Sport on TwitterFind us on Facebooklast_img read more

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Bafana impress in draw with Morocco

first_img14 October 2013Bafana shared an entertaining and encouraging 1-1 draw with Morocco in a match to celebrate the opening of the new Agadir Stadium in Agadir City, Morocco on Friday evening.The result leaves South Africa still unbeaten against Morocco. In five games between the two countries, the Rainbow Nation has won twice and drawn three times.In the lead-up to the match, coach Gordon Igesund had declared that is was the beginning of a new era, and he was as good as his word, handing three youngsters – Kgosi Ntlhe, Ayanda Patosi and Sibusiso Vilakazi – their debuts, while also featuring Siyana Xulu, Bongani Zungu and Dalyon Claasen, who are also all 23 years-of-age or younger.“I said before we left South Africa that winning is important, but so is blooding in the youngsters. I was prepared to send them in at the risk of losing the match, but we never looked like losing. It is all work in progress,” Igesund told the South African Football Association (Safa) after the match.‘A great mix’“It was a great mix of experienced players guiding the youngsters, but we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves because we still have a long way to go, and I told the players to keep their feet firmly on the ground because it is only one match.“There is no player too young to play in my squad and no player too old to feature either. If these players continue like this, imagine how they will be in a year or so,” he enthused.“The older players still have a huge role to play and will keep playing until such time the youngsters can stand on their own.”Intent rewardedIt was an encouraging performance from Bafana Bafana, who didn’t let the loud home crowd get to them and took the game to the Atlas Lions. Their intent was rewarded early when Tokelo Rantie netted in the ninth minute to take the wind out of the home supporters’ sails.Rantie, who had already forced Moroccan goalkeeper Mohammed Amsif into a save, ran onto a well-weighted through ball from Claasen, who enjoyed a strong outing. The pass split the defence, allowing Rantie to race at goalkeeper Amsif before beating him from the left of the box.Buoyed by the goal, Bafana confidently moved the ball about the park, but Morocco sounded a warning when Younes Belhanda drew a good save out of South African captain Itumeleng Khune and shortly after that the home side’s skipper Mehdi Benatia tested Khune again.Side nettingLerato Chabangu was denied by Amsif before Omar El Kaddouri blasted a shot into the side-netting of the South African goal after a strong run.Four minutes from the break, South Africa almost doubled their lead. Bernard Parker sent Vilakazi clear with a through ball and only a superb stop by Amsif prevented the Atlas Lions from falling into a deep hole.LevelShortly after the restart they were back on level terms when Ed Adoua got onto the end of a Belhandia free-kick to beat Khune.With the crowd back in the game, the home team pushed hard for a winner, but South Africa were determined to deny them. Morocco controlled possession, but Bafana Bafana resolutely repelled their efforts to turn possession into goals.Substitute Abel Taarabt drew a save out of Khune, but Morocco couldn’t fashion a decent opening and the game finished in an exciting draw.“I think it was a great friendly to play and get a feel of Morocco,” Igesund declared after the contest.‘We won over their supporters’“We won over their supporters with our first half performance. The second half was okay, but substitutions slowed the game down, and we lost a bit of shape.“Some of my youngsters were a little bit nervous, but it was a good performance overall. We were unlucky not to go two up. Patosi didn’t disappoint, but was nervous just like Ntlhe.”Summing up his charges’ performance, Igesund added: “They were very surprised with our play. They didn’t expect us to come at them like that and we were unfortunate not to get away with a victory. I must admit though it was a good equaliser from Morocco, and I cannot complain about their goal which was well taken.”last_img read more

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An Interview With a Solar Guru

first_img“The idea that all assets have to be purchased in cash by the user long before they get the benefit of them is an inefficient path to mass adoption,” says David Arfin, Founder and CEO of First Energy Finance, a California-based company that offers products and services to drive the uptake of clean energy technologies. This is a venture that “welcomes the chance to create outside-the-box solutions to traditional energy financing problems”.Certainly Arfin is an out-of-the-box thinker. His claim to fame is as inventor of SolarCity’s SolarLease, an unprecedented solar financing program that jump-started the U.S. residential solar market. In November 2009, SolarLease came top of a list of 20 world-changing ideas in Scientific American to build a “cleaner, healthier, smarter world.” Prior to SolarCity, Arfin co-founded a number of other companies in the software and technology sphere, including GlooLabs, which was acquired by Cisco Systems.Today, Arfin sits on the boards of many clean energy start-ups in sectors from electric vehicles and solar to wind and energy efficiency, active in markets from the U.S. to Latin America to India. He was a special advisor to the US Department of Energy from 2011 to earlier this year. In this exclusive interview with Energy Post, Arfin talks about the essence of his thinking: innovative financing enables customers to pay for clean energy when they benefit from it, not upfront. “We’re still very early in the game to know what the right consumer products are going to look like,” he says, but “a lot of it depends on the regulatory environment”. Arfin plans to do what he did for solar for other clean energy technologies, and he wants to do it the world over, Europe included.Q: How did you get involved in the energy sector?A: I got involved as a consumer actually. In 2006, I had watched Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth and was in the process of getting a new roof on our house. I went out and got three quotes for a solar system to go with it and the economic payback on them was ridiculous. The best of the three was 33 years simple payback. If you want to do it just for the environment then that’s a justification, but it wasn’t good enough for me.So I tried to understand why other people went solar and I started learning about things like the California Solar Initiative, investment tax credits, depreciation schedules, and net metering policy. When I had an understanding of what the drivers and economics were, I had this “aha” moment – if I owned my own solar system it would have a very long payback. However if a business owned it, it could have a very short payback because of the various economic incentives the government provided.To cut a long story short, I ended up connecting with SolarCity just as they were beginning. They liked the idea and they liked me. I joined in 2007 and in 2008 we rolled out the first solar leasing program in the U.S. That enabled homeowners to put solar on their roof with no money down [no upfront payment] and to save money over the period of the lease. It completely transformed the residential solar industry. Now there are gigawatts, not kilowatts, being installed each year. About 98% of SolarCity’s business went from being a direct purchase to a financed system.Q: What was the essence of this financial innovation for you?A: For the homeowner it was a chance to do what they wanted to do – get a solar system – but not have to make a very difficult decision as to what to give up in the short run to be able to do it.Homeowners know they’re going to be using electricity for the rest of their lives. They know they would like to see alternative energy become commonplace, and they know they would prefer paying less than more, of course, for their power. They also wanted to have a reliable partner to build and service the system. For just about everybody, it is a major decision to spend $20,000-$30,000, particularly when they had never bought a solar system before and they didn’t know how it worked. The idea that somebody else would service and monitor it brings a kind of peace of mind.Behind the scenes, we had to do an enormous amount of work to make it easy and transparent for the customer. We also needed to integrate it into the sales process. So when the salesperson was on the phone or at the kitchen table talking to a family about going solar, financing options became part of the same discussion. It wasn’t: “This is how solar works. Now let me give you the phone number of a bank that might be willing to finance this.” We had to make it a user-friendly experience. But we also had to understand the regulatory process for both electricity and consumer finance, how the federal, state, and local incentives worked, attract equity and debt investors, and pull together contracts that were both tight for the financiers and fair to our customers.Q: What is the advantage of this leasing model versus for example a loan or the pay-per-kWh option that SolarCity offers? Wouldn’t a loan work out cheaper in the long-run?A: If you think of who is bearing what risk, with a traditional loan where you have a financial institution lending you money, if you say, “My system didn’t produce the way I thought it was going to produce,” they say, “We’re sorry, but you signed here for the money, we’re not solar experts, we’re a bank.” However, when you get a loan or a long-term service agreement with SolarCity, if the system is not performing then you don’t pay until SolarCity fixes the system.Some of it has to do with customer psychology, too. Some people are happy to do leases or power-purchase agreements. Others want to own things; they want more flexibility in the event that they move, or they view this is as a sound investment.My view is that we started solar leasing in 2008 and it’s been an incredible success. We have hundreds of thousands of American families going solar every year. I also think we’re still very early in the game to know what the right consumer products are going to look like over time. The current deals still have a fair amount of complexity. We’re still at the beginning. There’s a lot of product innovation in progress and that’s going to provide customers with more and better choices.Q: What kinds of future financial innovation can we expect to create even more attractive products for customers?A: There are a lot of moving parts – regulatory, financial, and technological.A lot of it depends on the regulatory environment. I can think of two areas, both related in some way to regulation. First, the way that solar is incentivized and how the payback comes will change. So in the U.S., for example, we have an investment tax credit that has been going strong, but that will be reduced from 30% to 10% at the end of 2016. In Europe, you’ve had feed-in tariffs that have gone up, down, away, and sideways. Second, any movement away from net metering or self-consumption changes the value of distributed generation.At the same time, you have technological innovation such as lower cost structures for installation, storage and batteries, smart meters, demand-side management, and intelligent thermostats and the like.On the financial side it’s also very dynamic and indeed a large cost driver: factors here include what project investors believe about the system’s production over time, and how comfortable they are with the installation, components, installation companies, servicing agreements, and future prices of retail power.The hope here is that entrepreneurs will create or track these changes, then capture and use the data to innovate with new offerings that in turn accelerate clean energy adoption. For me – a serial entrepreneur – this is fun.Q: Are regulations, financing, and technological innovation all still moving in a positive direction for clean energy technologies? Which area is now driving things forward?A: Good question. The technological side is getting better and more sophisticated, in part [because] as storage comes into play we can measure and control more things. There’s certainly innovation there. The regulatory side is a roller-coaster. We’ve seen a lot of dramatic changes to feed-in tariffs – in Italy, Germany, France, England, and Spain – and policy instability creates a bad environment for everybody (whether installer, customer, or financier) that wants to invest.I think a lot of the artificial noise in the system is going to disappear and core economics will drive things more and more. That means: a combination of where the sun is better (so you can produce more solar at the same cost), and where storage is allowed and encouraged through policies (so consumers can use the energy created by solar for more hours in the day and even at night). Then the regulatory environment comes down less to feed-in tariffs and direct subsidies and more to whether a country has intelligent net-metering policies and self-consumption rules that are solar-friendly.Q: How will the innovative financial models you describe cope as subsidies go down? What kind of products are you moving towards?A: It depends. In some areas of the U.S. the reduction of the tax credit will be devastating; in other areas it’ll just mean a little bit tighter margins.I think there will be more ownership by the homeowner of systems in the form of loans that get paid back through the power that you generate, for example. There will be more peer-to-peer lending. Banks require a high return on investment but individuals who want to invest in a solar bond may take a lower return than a bank requires, so I think you’ll see innovation here. You’ll also see innovation on what is called the PACE financing here in the U.S., so that the loan gets paid back together with the property tax bill.I think a huge area of innovation is going to be “community solar.” That’s the idea that a lot of people would like to use solar power, but are not living in a place where they can put it on their roof (either because they’re living in a multi-story building or they have shade or they are renters). You’ll have community solar fields as well as fields located in one area delivering virtual power to another area.In Europe you’ll see that where you have high electricity prices, say in Germany and Italy, you’ll get more and more encouragement of self-consumption, and with that, more storage options. Vendors, installers, and manufacturers will sell integrated solar and battery systems for cash to homeowners. Eventually that will go from straight equipment sales to services agreements. Instead of having to put down €15,000, the customer will agree to a long-term agreement and somebody else will either completely or partially finance that system and the homeowner will capture the benefits over time without having an upfront payment.Last, new types of contracts could even include a pricing guarantee so that the homeowner will always be better off for having adopted the system. It addresses that part of the market worried about making a decision now and later regretting that decision. Today you only have performance and production guarantees. I recently co-founded www.certain.solar to address this need.Q: What is the role of traditional energy companies in this fast-paced world of innovation?A: Ultimately utilities will likely stop fighting these changes and start owning some of these systems, billing for them and making them easier for customers to adopt. They will be the ones who want to control the energy systems on your roof and collect the monthly payments.But they will be rather clumsy about it. It’s hard for a traditional utility that has had a monopoly for 100 years, appears to be fat and happy, to create a culture of fast innovation and to react quickly to changing policies and market conditions. I can’t imagine American utilities going around and aggressively selling a new system. But they will likely partner with installers and nimble entrepreneurs to capture changing markets. These utility guys have been around for a long time. They can afford to take their time and take a lot of losses. They’re not a start-up that has nine months of run rate in the bank.Q: To what extent are these new business models applicable to technologies other than solar, and indeed energy efficiency?A: We want to do to small wind, energy efficiency, geothermal heat pumps – you name it – what we did with small solar. Electric vehicles, charging stations, and batteries can and should be financed.It has traditionally been harder to package energy efficiency home performance contracts. Financiers are less comfortable with them and it is harder to measure energy savings than energy generation. Moreover, homeowners call SolarCity primarily because they want solar; they don’t want a variety of other solutions that SolarCity could carry. Energy efficiency is not cookie-cutter either. With solar you’re putting 4, 6, or 8 kW on a roof. With energy efficiency, each home needs its own audit. You need to look at the appliances, usage patterns, insulation, etc. These audits can be done and are not that expensive, but it involves a more complex set of decisions.Q: What future developments are you most excited about?A: I’ve helped create major change in the U.S. market. I’d like to bring some of the lessons of that model to other markets around the world. We’re at the very beginning. I’m excited about Europe, India, Mexico, Brazil – they all have good sun, place a high value on electricity and have some regulatory stability. I see opportunity all over the place.I’m involved in a company in India called Simpa Networks that is providing small solar home systems with a battery and six light bulbs and a fan to rural farmers. They are getting electricity for the first time. They make payments over a 2 to 3 year period because they can’t afford a $300 system up front but they do already pay for kerosene or diesel. Servicing the bottom-of-pyramid and providing access to electricity will bring a lot of progress – with it, users can charge their cell phones, connect to the Internet, have lights for reading at night, etc.Meanwhile in the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, and France, you may not have quite the same sun but electricity is very expensive, so there is an opportunity to provide renewable energy solutions for less than customers are currently paying. I think it’s a winner.Q: How would you sum up the direction of innovation in financing for clean energy?A: What I like to think about is how you take clean energy systems and better connect, when the customer is benefiting to when the customer is paying. The idea that all assets have to be purchased in cash by the user long before they get the benefit is an inefficient path to mass adoption.It’s as if I get a cell phone I know I will use for the next 30 years. But I don’t pre-pay the bill for 30 years. I pay for it every month, as I’m using it and benefiting from it. The same should be true for electricity: you have these long-term uses and benefits, so to have to come up with all that money up front is a large barrier to adoption.I’m confident the pace for innovative solutions to increase adoption of clean energy assets will increase. We have seen how it has been a game-changer in the U.S. residential solar market and similar models will be replicated by other technologies and around the globe. With his invention of the SolarLease for SolarCity, he revolutionized the US residential solar market. Now, David Arfin, CEO of First Energy Finance, wants to take his business model to other parts of the world, including Europe, and apply it to other technologies, like wind, energy efficiency and geothermal heat pumps. In an exclusive interview with Energy Post, he explains his approach and what future financial innovations he sees coming.This interview is republished from Energy Post with permission.last_img read more

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