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February 17 2014

19:57

February 14 2014

00:43

Refuting the 9 Reasons Why the Keystone XL will be Approved

Despite all of the efforts being made to resist the construction of the Keystone XL, it will likely gain the approval of U.S. President Barack Obama. Supporting evidence for the notion that we will move ahead with the Keystone XL comes from the corporate sector. Powerful corporate interests have considerable resources that often enable them to ascertain the outcome of political decisions well ahead of the general public. Berkshire Hathaway has made a move that indicates that they believe the pipeline will be approved. Berkshire controls BNSF which is comprised of nearly 400 different railroad lines that merged or were acquired. Despite its rail holdings, since the end of 2013, Berkshire has been greedily buying shares of Phillips 66 Pipeline Flow Improver in a stock deal valued at about $1.4 billion.

Will the Keystone XL pipeline be approved? If so, it's for all the wrong reasonsThe logic to move forward will be based primarily on nine major points:

First is the way the question was framed in the State Department’s most recent report. When faced with the choice between pipe and rail, the former is the better option from a total carbon emission point of view. Rail takes far more energy to move oil compared to a pipeline. Oil moved by rail increases greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 27.8 – 39 percent and if the oil is transported to the Gulf of Mexico, GHG emissions would rise to about 41.2 percent. What this assessment does not factor is the issue associated with the increasing exploitation of tar sands oil, which has a far worse emissions profile than conventional crude.

The second issue concerns safety and when presented with the false dichotomy between pipe and rail, the former is once again the better option. As explained by the Manhattan Institute, pipe is the safest way to move oil. While pipe is superior from an environmental safety point of view, this is another false choice, as moving oil by any means is not safe.

Third is the economic argument, moving oil through a pipeline is more cost effective than rail. The State Department has indicated that there will be as many as 42,100 (direct, indirect and induced) jobs from the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. However, a number of independent analysis, including one from Cornell University, have refuted this number. The President himself has rebuffed the economic and jobs benefits of the Keystone XL and he stated that very few permanent jobs would be created. Some have even suggested that the pipeline will have a harmful economic impact due to increased fuel costs. In the final analysis, the costs of climate change will utterly eclipse any short term economic gain.

The fourth rational has to do with political considerations. The Keystone has been a fund raising bonanza for pro-oil Republicans and some Democrats, so this issue is at the forefront of their midterm campaign strategies. As we head into the 2014 midterms, denying the Keystone would be political suicide for many Democrats up for reelection. Despite the President’s go it alone strategy, there is only so much he can do with Executive Orders. He cannot afford to lose control of the Senate or lose ground in the House. However, there are times when a President must lead rather than succumb to the the short-sighted math of political equations.

A fifth reason is President Obama’s “all of the above” energy strategy which he reiterated in his most recent State of the Union address. The President has repeatedly stated that he seeks energy independence and the Keystone XL may be construed as a means of achieving this objective. Climate activists would prefer that he abandoned his all of the above strategy and adopt a “best of the above” approach.

The sixth reason is the demand for oil and heavy bituminous oil in particular. Heavy bituminous oil is critical for operations at U.S. refineries because light crude does not have the carbon content to make anything other than diesel and gasoline. Bituminous oil is used to make a far larger number of products. Currently, heavy oil is being shipped to the U.S. from Venezuela, but those reserves are expected to be depleted in the next five years. What this argument does not factor is that tar sands oil is far more environmentally destructive and demand needs to be curtailed rather than expanded.

A seventh reason arises from the claims that suggest if this oil is not used by the U.S. it will be shipped to China. The fact is that this is not accurate. The Canadian government has not been able to gain approval for the Northern Gateway pipeline which would ferry the bitumen to the west coast for transport to China. Further, the U.S. should not be phased by investment groups invovled in Alberta’s tar sands as they are driven by profits that will be generated from shipping the oil to the U.S, not moving tar sands oil to China.

An eighth reason involves the fact that because oil is already being moved by pipelines across the country, one more will not make a difference, even if it traverses the Ogallala aquifer. Proponents of the Keystone point to the pipelines, gas stations and chemical plants that are already on top of the aquifer. What this assessment ignores is the vast number of massive oil spills that have occurred and the fact that pipelines inevitably spill oil. A pipeline as large and as dangerous as the Keystone XL represents an unacceptable level of risk. At a time when we should be scaling back fossil fuel pipelines, we should not build another simply because this is what we have done in the past.

A ninth factor and perhaps the most salient issue involves the fact that shutting down the Keystone XL would be a blow to the fossil fuel industry, the most powerful and lucrative industry on earth. The fact remains that we cannot be held hostage to an industry that threatens to destroy our civilization. If we are not be able to curb our consumption of petrochemicals, we will not be able to reduce our GHGs. The result will be runaway climate change. Simply put, we cannot afford to ramp up oil production, particularly oil as destructive as that which comes from the tar sands.

As Bill McKibben pointed out early last year,

“Physics…takes the carbon dioxide we produce and translates it into heat, which means into melting ice and rising oceans and gathering storms. And unlike other problems, the less you do, the worse it gets.  Do nothing and you soon have a nightmare on your hands. With climate change, unless we act fairly soon in response to the timetable set by physics, there’s not much reason to act at all.”

McKibben concludes by saying that we cannot afford to wait for President to reign in the fossil fuel industry, “we’re not waiting for him. We can’t.”

While it may be tragically unfortunate, the Keystone will likely win the approval of the President, albeit for all the wrong reasons. Those who understand the environmentally perilous course of expanding Alberta’s tar sands know that the Keystone XL pipeline fails the President’s own climate test, which he outlined in his speech at Georgetown last year.

The large body of climate science clearly tells us that we cannot continue to burn fossil fuels, particularly not oil as destructive as that which comes from the tar sands. It would be far better to shut down the Keystone XL and allow the combination of government regulations and market forces to wean America off of fossil fuels. This could in turn drive massive investment in renewable energy which is both clean and abundant.
——————-
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Shannon Ramos, courtesy flickr

The post Refuting the 9 Reasons Why the Keystone XL will be Approved appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

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February 07 2014

00:47

Record Number of Wind Energy Projects Under Construction

Record growth in wind energy construction after an uncertain 2013

For American wind power, 2013 was the best of times, and the worst of times. On one hand, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) reports that 1.084 gigawatts (GW) of wind power came online in 2013, down fully 92 percent from the 13.131 GW of new capacity brought online in 2012.

Despite yet another expiration of the Production Tax Credit in Congress, there are a record number of wind energy projects under construtionNot surprisingly, we can thank Congress for the precipitous drop in new wind capacity last year due to uncertainty and delay in dealing with the Production Tax Credit (PTC). We can all recall fondly the looming threat of the “fiscal cliff” that ushered in the start of 2013. The PTC was allowed to expire on December 31st 2012, extended the next day and signed back into law on January 2nd. By then the damage had been done for 2013. According to the AWEA when the PTC is allowed to expire the wind energy industry typically experiences a 70 percent to 95 percent drop-off in new installations. 2013 bore out this historical trend.

Originally enacted as part of the Energy Policy Act of 1992, Congress has extended the PTC five times and allowed it to expire 5 time, the last time on December 31, 2013. Given the “off” status of Congress’ on-again, off-again approach to energy governance, you may think things don’t look well for 2014 for wind energy growth. Fortunately, part of the American Tax Payer Relief Act of 2012, enacted in January 2013, allows eligible wind projects under construction before January 1st 2014 to qualify for the PTC.

Now the good news.

In it’s fourth quarter 2013 report, AWEA reports a record 12,000 megawatts (MW) of new wind energy capacity under construction at the end of 2013. Of that, 10,900 MW started construction in the forth quarter. AWEA also reports at least 60 Power Purchase Agreements for nearly 8000 MW were established between utilities and corporate buyers.

Congress and the PTC –  why bad governance must end

Even with a record number of new projects under construction, Congress needs to stop it’s short-sighted policy for the PTC. Not only does it adversely impact renewable energy development, it hampers overall economic growth. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, wind capacity more than tripled between 2007 and 2012, representing an average annual investment of $18 billion. There are now more than 550 manufacturing plants in 44 states producing 72 percent of all wind turbines and components in the United States. That’s a 25 percent increase since 2006. Furthermore, the cost of generating electricity from wind power has fallen by more than 40 percent in just the past three years.

Now it’s time for Congress to act responsibly on behalf of all Americans and offer long term support of the future of America and the new energy economy.

“Our current growth demonstrates how powerful the tax credit is at incentivizing investment in wind energy,” says AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan. “Now it’s up to Congress to ensure that growth continues by extending this highly successful policy.”

Let your Senators know you want action to support U.S. wind energy growth!

Image credit: ClarkMaxwell, courtesy flickr

The post Record Number of Wind Energy Projects Under Construction appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

January 30 2014

22:51

The Perilous Contradictions in the President’s 2014 State of the Union Address

Staying within prescribed climate change limits will be difficult under Obama’s all-of-the-above strategy. Although Obama may be the greenest President in American history he is not doing enough to stave off the worst impacts of climate change. In his State of the Union address, he did talk about the veracity of climate change and the need to further reduce America’s greenhouse gas emissions, however his ongoing support for fossil fuel extraction is dangerous and imperils hopes that we can tackle the issue of climate change before we reach irreversible tipping points.

The President made many laudable points during his address including his desire to increase protections for air, water, land and American communities. He quite correctly explained that, “we have to act with more urgency because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought and coastal cities dealing with floods.”

In his state of the union address, Obama touted his The President touted the growth of solar power saying: “[W]e’re becoming a global leader in solar too. Every four minutes another American home or business goes solar, every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job can’t be outsourced.”

The President has repeatedly stated his desire to put an end to tax breaks for the fossil fuel industry and use that money for fuels of the future (ie renewables). A point which he reiterated in his State of the Union address.

The President also touted his efficiency efforts including efficiency standards for new cars. He went on to suggest that he will be imposing new fuel efficiency standards for medium and heavy weight trucks. However, their is an irreconcilable paradox between efficiency and the expansion of fossil fuel.

The President indicated that he wants to “cut red tape” to help businesses build factories that use natural gas. As he explained, “If [natural gas is] extracted safely, it’s the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change.”

While natural gas could be made far less destructive if we could eradicate (or substantially reduce) methane leaks associated with extraction, it is easier said than done.

The President made the point that the U.S. has reduced its carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth over the last 8 years. He further indicated that he wants to set new standards for power plants which would tighten restrictions on CO2 emissions.

All of the above – Obama can’t have it both ways

While efforts to reduce GHGs are beyond reproach, his overall strategy conceals an irreconcilable contradiction. Reducing GHGs is at odds with increasing domestic dirty energy exploitation. The simple fact is he cannot have it both ways.

Despite pleas from the leading U.S. environmental organizations to stop fossil fuel extraction, President Obama’s State of the Union address indicates that he intends to move forward with his “all of the above” energy strategy.

The reliance on natural gas and oil may undermine efforts to stay within prescribed scientific limits. The first limit concerns temperature increases, the second involves greenhouse gas emissions. If we are to keep warming below the internationally agreed upon upper threshold limit of 2°C, we will need to stop pumping greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. It is widely known that the primary contributors of GHGs are fossil fuels.

This is the conclusion reached by numerous studies including the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which was published late in September 2013. According to the IPCC report, we cannot add more than another 140 gigatons of carbon globally (500 GtCO2).

If we continue to exploit and burn fossil fuels at the current rate, we will considerably exceed these limits. If we burn only 20 percent of estimated available carbon reserves we will have already reached the upper allowable limit of carbon emissions. If the remaining reserves are exploited there will be no way to stop runaway climate change.

We cannot afford to move forward with planned coal projects or the tar sands, nor can we afford President Obama’s “all of the above” energy strategy.

In fairness, President Obama acknowledges the veracity of climate change but he is constrained by the Republicans in congress and the general ignorance of many Americans. We cannot appreciate efforts to engage climate concerns without factoring political considerations. Obama may be advancing domestic fossil fuels for political reasons, not the least of which is the impending midterms. If he loses control of the Senate, his efforts to manage climate change will suffer a serious blow.

A Ceres report titled, “Inaction on Climate Change: The Cost to Taxpayers.” sees political factors as a major part of inaction. “[T]he reason for our collective shortsightedness is that the issue of climate change, and what to do about it, has become politicized in the U.S,” the report said.

Despite his considerable efforts (not the least of which is his climate action plan), the President can be faulted for failing to lead efforts to educate Americans. To create the political support we need to see, Americans need to be apprized of the implications of failing to act. Obama’s State of the Union address focused on education and this could be expanded to include efforts to explain the rationale for action and expose the ignorance of climate denying Republicans who control the House.

More than any other single factor, people respond to economic considerations. The focus on the economy and jobs in the President’s State of the Union speech is a reflection of this understanding. He needs to do a better job informing Americans about the price associated with climate change.

The President can do far more to help Americans apprehend the scope of the costs of failing to stay within the prescribed limits. Failing to heed these limits will result in a massive price tag that will cripple the U.S. (and global) economy and ultimately, irrevocably change life on Earth.

The costs of climate change

Evidence for these costs are not just part of some apocalyptic future, they are with us here and now. According to the the Ceres report, Federal and state disaster relief payouts are estimated to have cost every person in the U.S. more than $300. According to the report, the costs of climate change to taxpayers going forward will get worse and ultimately be “debilitating.” A cogent argument can be made for acting now, as one dollar spent on prevention saves four dollars in damages. From this perspective mitigation efforts are a far better investment than adaptation.

“Continuing to ignore these escalating risks may be more comfortable than confronting the challenges of climate change, but inaction is the far riskier and more expensive path,” the Ceres report concluded.

“[T]he debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did,” the President said.

However, “booming” oil and natural gas production is inconsistent with efforts to combat climate change. Reducing emissions while boosting domestic oil and gas production is a contradictory policy position. At a time when we most need the President to lead, we really got nothing new in this state of the Union speech.

The U.S. cannot simultaneously be a leading producer of fossil fuels and at the forefront of efforts to combat climate change. Selling the facts to the American public will not be easy, but it is necessary.

“The the shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require some tough choices along the way,” the President said. The question is whether he is prepared to make those tough choices.
——————
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: scatteredView, courtesy flickr

The post The Perilous Contradictions in the President’s 2014 State of the Union Address appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

January 27 2014

20:03

Renewables Account for 37 Percent of All New Electrical Generating Capacity in 2013

New electrical generating capacity in 2013

According to the just-released Energy Infrastructure Update report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Office of Energy Projects, 37 percent of all new U.S. electrical generation deployed in 2013 came from renewable sources.

New electrical capacity provides clean power and jobs for AmericansEnergy sources including biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind provided 5,279 megawatts (MW) of new installed electrical capacity in 2013, contrasting with coal, which ramped up only 1,543 MW, or just under 11 percent of total new generation. Oil produced 38 MW of new capacity or just 0.27 percent. Nuclear had no new capacity come online in 2013. Renewable sources of energy coming online in 2013 were three times that of coal, oil and nuclear combined.

Not surprisingly, natural gas provided most new electrical capacity, putting online 7,270 MW in 2013, or a bit more than 51 percent. The balance of new electrical capacity came from waste heat, providing  76 MW or 0.53 percent.

Solar leads renewables

Solar power led the pack among renewables, bringing online 266 new generating “units” for 2,936 MW of capacity. Wind followed with  1,129 MW of new generating capacity from 18 units. Behind solar and wind came 97 new biomass units generating 77 MW, hydro with 378 MW from 19 unites and geothermal with 4 new units producing 59 MW of new electrical generation.

New solar capacity last year grew 42.80 percent over the same period in 2012. In the two-year period from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2013 renewable sources of energy provided 47.38 percent of new  of electrical generating capacity, for a total of 20,809 MW placed into service.

Renewable energy totals for U.S. electrical generation

As a whole, renewable energy sources account for 15.97 percent of total generating capacity* in the United States. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Hydro: 8.44 percent
  • Wind: 5.2 percent
  • Biomass: 1.36 percent
  • Solar: 0.64 percent
  • Geothermal: 0.33 percent

The total from renewable sources is now greater the nuclear and oil combined.

Renewable energy continues to expand in the US, providing more clean energy and jobs – a win-win for the environment and the economy

——————–

* Generating capacity is not the same as actual generation. Actual net electrical generation from renewable energy sources in the United States now totals about 13 percent according to the most recent data (i.e., as of November 2013) provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Thanks to the SUN DAY Campaign:  a non-profit research and educational organization founded in 1993 to promote sustainable energy technologies as cost-effective alternatives to nuclear power and fossil fuels.

Image credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory, courtesy flickr

 

The post Renewables Account for 37 Percent of All New Electrical Generating Capacity in 2013 appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

January 21 2014

22:43

U.S. Solar Trade Group Protests China’s Polysilicon Tariffs

chinawtoChina’s Ministry of Commerce on January 20 imposed punitive five-year duties as high as 57 percent on imports of polysilicon – the raw material for solar photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules – from U.S. and South Korean manufacturers.

An association of U.S. solar energy installers, producers and other businesses that employs some 25,000 Americans, the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM) is protesting China’s trade action, asserting that the Chinese government’s action is in retaliation for the U.S. imposing illegal subsidies and anti-dumping tariffs on imports of PV modules made in China, a complaint that was initially filed by CASM’s founding and lead member, SolarWorld Americas in October 2011.

Trade disputes erupt amid booming solar energy growth

Growing at above-average rates, international trade in solar energy technology and equipment has been booming for well over a decade, supported by a variety of incentives and subsidies offered by governments, including the European Union, the U.S., China and India.

Those subsidies have been the source of a growing number of international trade disputes in recent years, particularly between China, the world’s predominant manufacturer and exporter of solar PV cells and modules, the E.U. and U.S., the two largest importers of Chinese PV cells and modules.

According to CASM, the Chinese government has imposed the tariff on U.S. polysilicon imports “to divide U.S. finished-products manufacturers against polysilicon manufacturing suppliers, punish the U.S. government’s adjudication of SolarWorld’s cases in favor of the domestic industry and increase leverage for all manner of trade issues with the U.S. government.”

In addition, the Chinese government not only continues to illegally subsidize Chinese solar manufacturers, CASM says, it has stepped up its financial support in order to stave off defaults and failures and save jobs in companies that, up until recently, have been among the world’s largest manufacturers of PV cells and modules. According to a CASM press release,

“U.S. solar-panel manufacturers continue to suffer layoffs, bankruptcies and other harms and China keeps propping up its own producers as both industries suffer from China’s steps to designate the industry as a strategic target within its Five-Year Planning Process, support its industry with export-directed subsidies, trigger enormous factory overcapacity, price products below production costs in the U.S. market, harvest U.S.- taxpayer-funded solar incentives and enjoy access to the U.S. market, including military bases, while keeping its borders closed to foreign competitors.”

China’s solar trade action violates international law, according to CASM. “China keeps flooding the U.S. market with state-underwritten solar products that increasingly are cited as the source of sharply higher defect rates,” CASM states. “China’s precipitous industry entry and the ensuing rise in faulty panels came in the wake of America’s decades of pioneering and optimizing the industry.

“China’s retaliation against the U.S. industry violates international trade rules,” Mukesh Dulani, SolarWorld Industries America’s president was quoted as saying. The company, a subsidiary of Germany’s SolarWorld AG, has been the largest manufacturer of PV cells and modules in the U.S. for over 35 years. “Time and time again, these retaliatory cases have been found to be without merit.”

The post U.S. Solar Trade Group Protests China’s Polysilicon Tariffs appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

January 13 2014

23:22

Infographic: Americans Vote for Solar

Americans want residential solar

This infographic from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) underscores how Americans really feel about solar energy. Despite the misleading characterization of solar and cleantech from the likes of 60 Minuets and Fox News, Americans understand the importance of going solar and want more of it.

A recent study by BrightCurrent shows that 91 percent of those with installed solar systems would recommend going solar to their friends. The study also said that residential solar grew dramatically over the past three years, doubling in 2011 and expanding by 60 percent in 2012. According to the research, the biggest challenge for solar is not technology or cost, but how the sector is misrepresented and therefore misunderstood by the general public.

92 percent of American Voters feel it is important we develop and use more solar power

The post Infographic: Americans Vote for Solar appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

January 10 2014

23:36

The Cleantech Revolution and 60 Minutes’ Epic Fail

60 Minutes offers an epic fail on the Cleantech sector as this chart demonstratesOn Sunday, January 5th the venerable TV news magazine 60 Minutes aired a segment called the Cleantech Crash. According to the report, the billions of dollars of government money poured into clean energy has essential come to nothing – or very little at best.

Really? At best the reportage from 60 Minutes was narrow and shallow, misrepresenting the real progress in clean energy development. At worst it represents the sort of biased, agenda-driven pablum that is the hallmark of the likes of Fox News – journalism be damned.

Leslie Stahl appeared intent in focusing on the failures, starting with Solyndra, the poster child of cleantech naysayers, which failed several years ago. That’s just lazy. The fact is that three out of four startups in any sector fail. Stahl gave only a half-hearted effort to point to any successful cleantech ventures with what writer Dana Hull called a “token throw away line about Tesla Motors.”

In fact, since the failure of Solyndra, solar and wind energy has expanded exponentially, with continued growth all but assured, bringing jobs and clean, sustainable energy to the United States.

Stahl apparently didn’t think it important to tell her viewers that the Department of Energy (DOE) Loan Guarantee Program has a 97 percent success rate. Hull reports that Jonathan Silver, who formally directed the DOE loan program, spoke to the segment’s producer for over an hour in preparation for the piece. On Monday, after Cleantech Crash aired, Silver tweeted about his conversation with the producer, saying that “facts did not seem to affect his analysis.”

A U.S. Department of Energy report entitled Revolution Now , published last fall, outlines four “technology revolutions that are here today,” including onshore wind, PV solar, LED lighting and electric vehicles.

In the last five years they have achieved dramatic reductions in cost1 and this has been accompanied by a surge in consumer, industrial and commercial deployment. Although these four technologies still represent a small percentage of their total market (e.g. electricity, cars and lighting), they are growing rapidly.

A big part of the success of these revolutions comes from state and federal incentives.

One can only speculate why 60 Minutes chose to misrepresent the Cleantech sector so egregiously. Clearly they have the resources and expertise to provide sound journalism. Instead they ignored the whole truth in favor of a slanted, misleading report on one of the most promising sectors in the American economy.

Fail

The post The Cleantech Revolution and 60 Minutes’ Epic Fail appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

January 09 2014

19:59

Review of U.S. Energy Efficiency in 2013

Energy efficiency has played a pivotal role in American productivity improvements. In 2013, energy efficiency continued to move forward in the U.S. Driven by cost savings, energy efficiency is good for business and the economy. Improving efficiency increases production and can even lead to a higher quality of material life. Energy efficiency improves the nation’s GDP for each national energy dollar. Perhaps most importantly, energy efficiency is a meaningful part of emissions reductions, which combat climate change and improve air quality.

U.S. energy efficiency continued to improve in 2013 - this map show efficiency state-by-stateDespite progress, there is still a lot of room for improvement in energy efficiency. As reported in Forbes, the U.S. is the global leader in wasting energy with the nation currently wasting more energy than it uses. A total of 57 percent of the energy flowing into our economy is wasted as heat, noise, and leaks, costing U.S. businesses and households an estimated $130 billion per year. In addition to massive cost savings, it is estimated that energy efficiency can also create more than one million jobs in the U.S.

Federal legislation pertaining to energy efficiency has been around for almost 27 years. Existing energy efficiency standards for everything from appliances to commercial products was first signed into law in 1987. Congress and the Department of Energy have subsequently added many new products and updated standards.

According to a 2012 study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), appliance, equipment, and lighting standards will save businesses and consumers more than $1.1 trillion by 2035. By updating existing standards and setting new standards for additional products, consumers and businesses could save another $170 billion.

Climate benefits of energy efficiency

The benefits of energy efficiency extend well beyond cost savings. As indicated in an International Energy Agency (IEA) report, adopting measures to promote energy efficiency can buy the world an additional five years to secure a global climate deal. The IEA also suggests that energy efficiency may help us to keep temperature increases within 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 Fahrenheit) or perhaps even the 2 degrees Celsius upper threshold limit agreed upon by scientists.

Economic improvements

The health of the American economy is being buoyed in part by energy efficiency. This is one of the findings in a new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) titled Energy and Environment Report, America’s (Amazingly) Good Energy News. The report demonstrates that energy efficiency measures are working in America. Although the U.S. economy grew by 25 percent between 1999 and 2012, total U.S. energy use actually declined during this period. The costs of energy services has also declined during the same period according to the NRDC report.

Energy productivity

Energy efficiency was largely replaced by the term energy productivity in 2013, this is due to the growing appreciation that conserving energy is good for the economy. Energy productivity is defined as the amount of economic output possible at a given level of energy supply.

Energy productivity rose to prominence in 2013, due largely to the political advocacy of the Alliance to Save Energy and their Energy 2030 plan, which was put forth by the Alliance Commission on National Energy Efficiency Policy. The plan proposes doubling energy productivity by 2030.

The Obama administration and energy efficiency

The Obama administration embraced energy efficiency in earnest in 2013. President Obama showed his support for energy efficiency in his State of the Union address in which he called for cutting energy waste by half in our homes and buildings by 2030. As outlined in the President’s 2014 budget, energy efficiency is central to the Race to the Top program.

Doubling energy productivity is a key strategy in the President’s Climate Action Plan. The President’s Plan also sets power plant carbon standards, builds a 21st-century transportation sector, reduces energy bills for families and businesses, invests in R&D, and modernizes the grid.

The federal government’s Better Building Challenge has been expanded to include multifamily housing, and incorporate new accelerator programs for building data, performance contracting, and energy performance certification. Govenment agencies have also increased their energy savings performance contracts, which augments efficiency in federal buildings. Another catalyst is the Energy Efficiency and Loan Conservation Program, which provides $250 million for energy efficiency retrofitting projects in rural communities.

A couple of federal government agencies stand out for their promotion of energy efficiency. Both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Gina McCarthy and Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz are energy efficiency advocates.

The Department of Energy (DOE) is taking a leadership role by working on energy efficiency with new publications detailing methods for estimating energy efficiency savings and creating protocols for energy efficiency programs. Moniz has pledged to address appliance and equipment standards as well as establish rules pertaining to efficiency standards in electric motors. As reported by The Hill, the new rules will save up to $23 billion in energy costs over 30 years, as cited by DOE data.

According to Steven Nadel, Executive Director of ACEEE, electricity use and oil for transportation were down nationwide in 2013 as compared to 2011 and 2012 levels. He attributed the decline to utility-run energy efficiency programs, as well as equipment and vehicle standards.

States and cities

Energy efficiency is also moving forward on state and municipal levels. According to Nadel, highlights include utility programs in states like Mississippi and Louisiana, and legislation that was passed in Connecticut and Maine.

ACEEE’s 2013 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard shows that the top 10 states for energy efficiency are Massachusetts, California, New York, Oregon, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Maryland, and Illinois. With Mississippi, Maine, Kansas, Ohio, and West Virginia showing the most improvement.

As explained in the ACEEE Scorecard report, states are continuing to use energy efficiency as a key strategy to generate cost-savings, promote technological innovation, and stimulate growth.  A total of twenty six states have adopted and adequately funded an energy efficiency resource standard (EERS), which sets long term energy savings targets and drives investments in utility sector energy efficiency programs.

Ranked number two by the ACEEE Scorecard, California is one of the best examples of state level energy efficiency efforts. However, action at the municipal level is proving to be another important factor driving energy efficiency. This is particularly true of Minneapolis, Chicago, Boston, Atlantic City, and Dallas.

Business

Driven by cost concerns, the business community has been leading energy efficiency efforts. A growing number of corporations are getting onboard the efficiency train and putting pressure up and down their supply chains to produce economy wide impacts.

According to an article in Greentech Media (GTM), in 2013, energy efficiency became “cooler, sexier and cheaper than ever before — driven largely by innovations in intelligent efficiency such as energy management software, virtual audits and better data crunching abilities.”

GTM solicited the perspectives of efficiency executives in response to the question “What was the most important technology or market development for efficiency in 2013?” These executives indicated that a growing number of large corporations are getting serious about energy efficiency, they also talked about the importance of data, reporting and technology. Here is a summary of their responses:

Clay Nesler, VP of global energy and sustainability Johnson Controls, shared the results of their 2013 global survey of 3,000 facility and energy management executives. Their study showed that 73 percent of organizations surveyed had made internal or public goals to reduce energy consumption, of those, 50 percent implemented more efficiency measures in 2013.

Stephen Cowell, CEO, Conservation Services Group, said that smart devices provided multiple benefits by combining technologies to control equipment, engage customer behavior and link both demand response and efficiency.

Paul Baier, vice president of sustainability at Groom Energy indicated that the widespread acceptance of energy efficiency among senior management was driven by three trends: 1) Execution to achieve publicly stated greenhouse gas reduction goals. 2) Pressure from top customers like Wal-Mart. 3) Increased funding from utilities for behavior change (through demand response) and retrofits (through incentives).

Chuck McKinney, VP of marketing at Aircuity suggested that the availability of building energy consumption information helped to drive the efficiency market in 2013. Swapnil Shah, CEO at FirstFuel, said that in 2013, utilities demonstrated some innovative thinking in energy efficiency. He further indicated that energy efficiency oriented pilot programs were a defining feature of 2013.

Buildings and energy efficiency

Buildings account for 40 percent of all U.S. energy requirements, and a report by the Rhodium Group and United Technologies, entitled “Unlocking American Efficiency: The Economic and Commercial Power of Investing in Energy Efficient Buildings,”  indicates that this translates to costs of almost half a trillion dollars per year. ($432 billion in 2011).

Building efficiency not only saves costs and benefits investors, it actually boosts the economy. Improving energy efficiency in buildings by 30 percent can create a $275 billion market for advanced technology, engineering and design services, and construction activity.

As reviewed in the 2013 State Energy Scorecard, a total of seven states adopted building energy codes in 2013, which require large commercial buildings to benchmark and report on their energy use.

Building efficiency is good business that offers outstanding ROI. It not only increases the productivity of existing assets, it also protects against volatile energy costs. According to the Rhodium Group report, the return on investment is exceptional.  As explained by John Mandyck, Chief Sustainability Officer for United Technologies Climate, Controls & Security in an Energy Manager Today article,

“[I]nvesting…30% improvement in building energy efficiency would have an internal rate of return (IRR) of 28.6% over a 10-year period. An IRR of 28.6% is four times better than average corporate bond yields or average equity performance, and more than double the returns even high-performing venture capital firms.”

As reviewed in the Rhodium Group report, with a five percent penetration rate, U.S. government and utility sponsored programs are just starting to impact on the efficiency finance opportunity.

The financing barrier

Despite the fact that energy efficiency is a valuable investment for almost all companies, a lack of capital and difficulties associted with financing continue to represent challenging obstacles. In addition to addressing the issue of up-front costs, financing can make energy efficiency cash flow positive by spreading out payments over time so that the cost is actually less than the savings cash flow. For qualifying companies there are also a number of utility rebates, tax refunds, credits, and other sources of free money that will improve a project’s financial return.

However, as pointed out by Clay Nesler of Johnson Controls, funding is a perennial barrier to investment in energy efficiency. The specific barriers cited by Nesler include lack of internal capital, competition from other investments and lack of competitive third-party financing options.

Swapnil Shah, of FirstFuel, concurs, reiterating the point that fostering private investment is the most serious hurdle for commercial building efficiency. He sees the absence of standard assessment metrics in energy efficiency as the major problem.

Despite these financing problems, the increasing focus on energy efficiency/productivity in 2013 represents important progress in the evolution of the green economy.

 Next week: Energy Efficiency Outlook for 2014

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Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy

The post Review of U.S. Energy Efficiency in 2013 appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

January 03 2014

16:26

Top U.S. Green Economy Trends and Predictions for 2014

While the overall outlook is good, there is a mixed bag of trends, predictions and problems that will directly impact sustainability, renewable energy, greenbuilding and cleantech in 2014.

Many feel we've turned a corner in cleantech. What are the trends for the green economy in 2014?Sustainability

The year to come may prove a challenging one for sustainability. According to an Ecova report, the growth of sustainability in 2014 will be complicated by increased energy and resource prices. The report titled 2014 Energy and Sustainability Predictions: Findings from Leading Professionals is based on a survey of 500 energy and sustainability professionals.

The combination of cost cutting pressures and environmental disclosure will push firms to develop a total energy and sustainability management strategy to remain competitive and meet resource management needs, says Jeff Heggedahl, Ecova president and CEO.

A total of 70 percent of respondents predicted that water will emerge as the top sustainability initiative in 2014. The report indicates that water is percieved as a significant opportunity for savings and improvement. The survey states that water concerns are second only to energy. Ford’s 2014 Trend’s Report concurs with the Ecova assessment that water will be the priority issue this year as does a Credit Suisse report titled Water: The Next Challenge.

The Ecova report also states that benchmarking regulations will contribute to an increasingly complex environment. However, it further indicates that peer benchmarking is another area where there are opportunities to capture additional costs and energy savings.

Renewable energy

While there is both good and bad news for the U.S. renewable energy industry in 2014, overall, the skyward trend continues. As reported in Renewable Energy World, on December 20 Credit Suisse released a highly favorable report that predicted unprecedented growth for renewable energy in the US.

They attribute their bullish forecasts to a combination of state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) and cost competitiveness of renewables when compared to conventional power generation including natural gas. Their report predicts that renewable energy will meet 85 percent of future power demand growth through 2025. This translates to a forecast of 100 GW of new renewable capacity with wind and solar market share more than doubling from 2012 to 2025, accounting for approximately 12 percent of US electricity generation.

Despite these positive predictions for renewable energy, a new report called America’s Power Plan points to problems associated with outdated utility business models in the U.S. As it stands now, utilities are being rewarded for building and maintaining fossil-fuel plants and this is having a deleterious effect on U.S. renewable energy. The report suggests that these problems can be addressed with the right shift in policy.

Kevin Wedman, Vice President of Power and Utilities, Bureau Veritas North America, believes that the biggest obstacle to the development of utility scale renewable energy comes from the absence of adequate transmission infrastructure to support renewable energy projects.

George Danner of the Business Laboratory indicated that he is concerned about the fact that electric utility companies use dated models to predict demand. While Brian MacCleery, Principal Product Manager, Clean Energy Technology, National Instruments, believes it’s time to reward utilities for switching to renewable energy.

Solar 

At utility scale power levels, economies of scale have driven down the cost of solar. Due in part to these price declines, the Credit Suisse report anticipates that U.S. solar will increase 11 times and account for 20 percent of the growth in renewable energy between 2012 and 2025. Higher efficiency and the declining price of technology has brought solar into the range of price parity with natural gas. The costs of solar are expected to continue falling for the next several years.

Mercom Capital Group, an Austin, TX-based clean energy communications and consulting firm, released its solar industry outlook for 2014. Their report predicts that new U.S. installations will total 6 GW in 2014 adding to the country’s current total of 10.25 GW.

The report says utility-scale projects and leased residential projects have been the main drivers of U.S. growth. With more than $3 billion in solar lease funds to finance installations, third party-financed residential installations have been the catalysts of growth in 2013.

Mercom predicts that in 2014, the U.S. will install more solar power than Germany, India, Italy and the UK. Only China and Japan are expected to install more solar energy than the U.S. in 2014.

Wind

The Credit Suisse report projects that wind power will double and account for about 80 percent of U.S. renewable energy growth from 2012 to 2025. Wind energy is becoming much less expensive and much more effective at harnessing power and making electricity.

One of the unknowns that will directly impact the future of renewables in the U.S. is the fate of the Production Tax Credit (PTC), which expired at the end of 2013. It remains to be seen what Congress will do when it resumes in January. It is important to note that the PTC has been allowed to expire only to be subsequently resurrected many times in the past.

Green Building

Green building in North America will continue its strong growth in 2014. This is but one of a number of predictions made by Jerry Yudelson, an author and leading green building consultant. He attributes this growth to the confluence of commercial real estate construction along with government, university, nonprofit and school construction.

In 2014, the focus will increasingly be on the greening of existing buildings. He anticipates that we will see growing interest in energy efficiency in all types of buildings involving automation for energy efficiency using cloud-based systems. He calls 2014, “The Year of the Cloud.”

He sees zero-net-energy buildings as the next logical step for building design and development. He further predicts that there will be much more competition for LEED, including the Green Globes rating system offered by the Green Building Initiative.

Other trends that he predicts will continue are Green Building performance and disclosure, healthy building products, disclosures and declarations as well as “Red Lists” of chemicals of concern. Solar power use in buildings will also continue to grow alongside water awareness and conservation.

Cleantech

Cleantech is expected to do well in 2014. This is due to a broad cleantech recovery and the rise of crowdfunding. However, electric vehicles may not perform as well as many had hoped and there are some surprises in store for the rare earth elements (REEs) industry. These are some of the salient predictions from cleantech guru Dallas Kachan, managing partner of Kachan & Co., a cleantech research and advisory firm.

Despite some speculation to the contrary, Kachan believes the term “cleantech” will remain through 2013. He succinctly defines cleantech as shorthand for environmental and efficiency-related technology innovation.

The forecasts offered by Kachan & Co.’s 2014 cleantech predictions are far more optimistic than last year’s assessment or the year before. In 2014, they see an overall upward trend in metrics like corporate, private equity and family office investment, venture debt, project finance, mergers and acquisitions, and new innovation.

While Kachan is bullish about cleantech, he is downright negative about electric vehicles (EVs) for 2014. He anticipates slower-than-expected growth of EVs due to improving efficiency innovations for the internal combustion engine and fuel cell vehicles.

Kachan further predicts that REEs will not generate the huge returns that some had anticipated. He also suggests that this will be due to growth in REEs recycling in 2014.

Kachan’s optimistic assessment is in part derived from an earlier report which compares investments in cleantech with other technology booms. Whether we are talking about dot coms, networking, biotech or the PC, there are parrallels that bode well for the future of cleantech. In all of these technological revolutions there were periods of rapid growth that ultimately gave way to corrections, after which we saw more stable growth. This appears to be where cleantech is at in 2014.

As explained by the Kachen report, “we believe the world turned an important corner in cleantech in 2013.”
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Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Artis Rams, courtesy flickr

The post Top U.S. Green Economy Trends and Predictions for 2014 appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

December 31 2013

18:42

2013 A Promising Start for California’s Carbon Cap-and-Trade Program

If California were a nation, its economy would be the twelfth largest in the world. Not only does the Golden State have the largest and one of the most diverse economies in the U.S., it has been at the leading, even cutting, edge of efforts aimed at forging a leaner, cleaner, low-carbon society for the 21st century.

When it comes to government-led efforts to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate and adapt to the potentially devastating effects of rapid climate change, 2013 marked another path-setting year for California. In 2013, its first full year of operation, the value of carbon allowances traded under the state’s pioneering carbon emissions Cap-and-Trade Program totaled $1.1 billion and brought nearly $500 million in much needed revenue to a fiscally challenged state government.

California's first year of its cap-and-trade program is a successSetting a price on carbon pollution

As  News10 ABC reported, California’s climate change law sets annual caps on greenhouse gas emissions for heavy polluters, such as coal-fired power plants, oil refineries, and industrial companies. The carbon/greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions pollution cap will slide lower 3 percent each year beginning in 2013.

Those that cannot reduce their GHG emissions to the cap level or below are required to offset their emissions by investing in cleaner, less polluting operations, such as reforestation projects, or purchase carbon emission offset allowances on the cap-and-trade market. These are offered by companies whose emissions fall below the cap or issuers that have developed projects that effectively offset quantifiable amounts of carbon and GHG emissions.

Auctions of carbon cap-and-trade allowances brought in nearly $477 million for the California treasury in 2013, News10 ABC reported. “Those pollution allowances are selling like hotcakes,” commented political editor John Myers.

California’s carbon cap-and-trade program “brings together the best aspects of regulation and using the market to drive flexible mechanisms,” added Stanley Young of the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Resources Board (CARB).

Making polluters pay for pollution

As CARB explains on its website,

“Market forces spur technological innovation and investments in clean energy. Cap-and-trade is an environmentally effective and economically efficient response to climate change.”

As originally enacted, California’s cap-and-trade auction revenues were earmarked to be invested in efforts to combat climate change. Struggling to balance the state’s budget, the governor and state congress suspended that aspect of the legislation and used them to help balance the state’s budget, however.

With huge budget surpluses projected in coming years, proponents and supporters of the cap-and-trade bill are now urging Governor Jerry Brown and state legislators to repay that money and invest it in the type of projects for which it was originally intended.

“Let’s spend the climate change revenues to reduce the pollution that causes climate change,” Bill Magavern of the Coalition for Clean Air stated in an News10 interview, such as home weatherization or subsidizing solar panel installations for low-income households.

Moreover, even more in the way of cap-and-trade revenue would have come the state’s way had oil companies and other big polluters not been given carbon emissions allowances for free, Magavern noted.

“The oil companies are essentially getting off the hook…I think politics has everything to do with it,” he commented.

Other governments are now looking to emulate and/or link to California’s carbon cap-and-trade market. Quebec looks like it will be the first. An announcement was made back in October that representatives from the respective U.S. state and Canadian provincial governments had signed “an agreement outlining steps and procedures to fully harmonize and integrate the two programs.”

With some luck, opposition legislators in Washington D.C. may finally see the light and hold polluters responsible for the pollution they create and the health and environmental damage that results. Enacting a national carbon emissions cap-and-trade program, or perhaps even a national carbon emissions tax, would be a historic step in that direction.

The post 2013 A Promising Start for California’s Carbon Cap-and-Trade Program appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

December 23 2013

23:50

Infographic: State of Solar 2013

U.S. solar market grows 30 percent in 2013

The infographic prepared by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM research reveals another banner year for solar energy in the United States. The continued growth in solar power is summed up by Shayle Kann of GTM:

“We are on the cusp of an unprecedented shift in the U.S. solar market, and by extension the entire electricity market”

The state of solar power for the US in 2013

Thanks to the EnergyCollective 

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December 19 2013

20:09

All I Want for Christmas is a Price on Carbon

As 2013 winds down, there are promising signs that we may actually see a price on carbon in the U.S. In 2010, the cap-and-trade bill was killed in the Senate by the fossil fuel industry’s ubiquitous misinformation campaigns. However, a confluence of events have renewed hopes that we may yet see carbon pricing legislation that could significantly reduce U.S. carbon emissions.

Implementing a carbon tax is no longer a pipe dream but understood as a coming - and much needed - realityWhy we need a carbon tax

Paying for carbon pollution is the best way to put free markets to work to reign in emissions that cause global warming. There is a virtual consensus among economists who say that putting a price on carbon is the most effective way to fight global warming. The case for carbon pricing is strong, this point has been repeatedly made by the World Bank and a number of economists including a team from the London School of Economics.

According to most analyses, carbon pricing is the most powerful regulatory mechanism we have to bring down emissions without wreaking havoc on the economy. Putting a price on carbon will allow market forces to drive down demand for carbon rich industries like fossil fuels and help to buoy cleaner low carbon technologies like renewable energy.

On a very pragmatic level, carbon pricing could enable the U.S. to achieve the pledges it has made at UN climate talks. This includes carbon emissions cuts of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and 80 percent by 2050.

Corporate juggernauts are onboard for putting a price on carbon

One of the reasons to be hopeful comes from a Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) report which indicates that at least 29 big American corporations are actively preparing for a carbon tax. The companies in the CDP report include powerhouses like American Electric Power, ConAgra Foods, Delta Air Lines, Duke Energy, DuPont, Google, General Electric, Microsoft, Walmart, Walt Disney and Wells Fargo.

What is most surprising is that this list also includes five major oil companies (BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell). While they can hardly be called champions of a low carbon economy, they are, if nothing else, economic realists. They see the writing on the wall, and their actions are a strong indication that they see some form of carbon tax as inevitable.

Make no mistake about it, fossil fuel companies are not embracing the common good, they are acting in their own best interest. Preparing for the expense of a carbon tax is simply good business and for many, it represents a great opportunity. To illustrate the point, ExxonMobil, America’s wealthiest corporation supports a carbon tax because it has a vested interest. As the nation’s biggest producer of natural gas, it would profit from carbon pricing. Such a scheme would inflate the costs to the coal and crude oil industries far more than natural gas.

Republicans may be left out in the cold

Support for a carbon tax from corporate interests including fossil fuel companies could be a real problem for the GOP’s political future. Republican opposition is a salient reason for the failure of cap-and-trade legislation in 2010. The GOP’s climate denial was underscored during the 2012 presidential elections and they continue to beat the climate denial drum to this day. As recently as Wednesday December 11, their ignorance was on display for all America to see. On this day, Republicans in the House of Representatives held sham hearings that called upon climate change denying scientists to reinforce their subterfuge.

Corporate interests are the traditional support base for Republicans, but as they embrace a carbon tax, Republicans will be left out of the cold if the companies responsible for global warming are seeking a carbon tax.

The Koch brothers may be the only friends that the GOP has left. The only U.S. supporters from big oil still onside with climate denial is Koch Industries, who continues to pressure Republicans to stay onboard the denial train. In 2012, all of the GOP’s presidential candidates had ties to the owners of Koch industries. Koch continues to use its various front groups to oppose science and resist any form of carbon tax. However, this oil company has repeatedly been exposed as the nation’s biggest purveyor of misinformation. Koch industries is a pariah even in the dirty and destructive fossil fuel industry. Republicans who embrace Koch may undermine their own election hopes and further tarnish the GOP’s already badly battered brand.

According to the latest research, Americans, including supporters of the Republican party, embrace the veracity of climate change and want government to do something about it. A Stanford University study showed that all states, even traditionally Republican states, acknowledge global warming and would like government to find ways to reduce climate change causing emissions. Recent election and ballot initiatives may also signal a change in American attitudes.

Republicans have effectively painted themselves into a corner. Changing public and corporate attitudes are stranding GOP policy positions. If Republican support is eroded they may not have enough political representation to thwart progress and this could in turn pave the way for carbon pricing.

Carbon trading in place and calls for emissions reduction from U.S. state governments

Carbon trading is increasing around the world with emissions trading schemes now operating in 35 countries, 13 states, provinces and cities. Europe already has the world’s biggest emissions market and China is launching its own schemes. In North America, new additions to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) doubled carbon trading in 2012. There are now 48 schemes internationally and when added to the 7 in China, a total of 880 million people, representing about 20 percent of global emissions will be part of some form of carbon pricing.

As reported by Reuters on December 16, fifteen U.S. states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington) are asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to adopt their carbon-cutting policies.

As part of President Barack Obama’s climate change strategy announced in June, the EPA has been directed to develop federal emissions standards for existing power plants. Now a coalition of states have told the EPA that they would like to see a “system-wide” approach to cutting emissions rather than working on individual power plants.

The Clean Air Act has stipulated that states must develop their own plans to meet EPA standards. States have been asked to provide feedback ahead of a planned June 2014 proposal which is scheduled to be finalized a year later. States that are part of carbon pricing schemes want to make sure that the EPA gives them credit for being early adopters.

Benefits of price on carbon far outweigh cost

The most frequently cited argument against carbon pricing and carbon taxes is the cost. According to the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, the introduction of a carbon tax could cause fossil fuel companies to lose between $9 trillion an $12 trillion in profits by the end of the century. That is because a carbon tax would drive up costs and decrease demand, as the demand was reduced the prices would fall.

However, the Potsdam Research indicates that the cost to fossil fuel companies would be more than compensated for by carbon taxes (or carbon auction revenues). Their analysis reveals that such taxes would generate revenues equaling $21 trillion to $32 trillion by the end of the century. That translates to a net economic benefit of around $20 trillion, in addition to potentially staving off the worse impacts of climate change and providing citizens with cleaner air and water. The profits from carbon taxes could be used for green-energy projects and climate adaptation efforts.

There was a time in the recent past when putting a price on carbon was dismissed as a utopian dream, however, the overwhelming logic is becoming increasingly undeniable, even in the most unlikely places.

The introduction of a carbon tax is unlikely to occur without a political fight, but the weight of the evidence will inevitably triumph over ignorance.

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Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Gustavo Madico, courtesy flickr

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December 10 2013

23:31

EPA Launches 2013 Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on December 5 released its 2013 Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan as it looks to build on four years of efforts to streamline operations, cut expenditures, and reduce waste and the carbon footprint of federal government operations.

The inaugural Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan for the federal government was produced in October 2009 in the wake of President Obama issuing Executive Order 13514 on Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance, which set “aggressive targets for reducing waste and pollution in Federal operations by 2020,” according to an EPA press release.

The EPA launches its Strategic Sustainability Performance PlanThe Federal government’s Green Economy leadership

Strengthening the federal government’s leadership in forging a “greener,” more dynamic economic model, the President this past June launched the nation’s first Climate Action Plan.

Coincident with the release of EPA’s 2013 Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan, the President on December 5 issued a Presidential Memorandum that further reduces federal government waste and pollution by setting a target of more than doubling the amount of renewable energy consumed to 20% by 2020.

The 2013 Strategic Sustainability Plan adds impetus to and seeks to realize the aims of these initiatives, providing “an overview of how the agency is saving taxpayer dollars, reducing carbon emissions, and saving energy.

“Meeting this renewable energy goal will reduce pollution in our communities, promote American energy independence, and support homegrown energy produced by American workers,” the EPA stated.

As the EPA highlighted, in just the past four years, the Obama Administration’s waste, energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives have:

  • Reduced energy use by almost 8 percent; allowing EPA to avoid $1.5 million in utility costs annually. Compared to the 2003 baseline, EPA has reduced energy by more than 25 percent
  • Used renewable energy and purchased Green Power Renewable Energy Credits equal to 100 percent of its conventional electricity use. Use of Green Power, coupled with energy conservation and fleet management efforts, reduce EPA Scope 1 and 2 Greenhouse Gas emissions by nearly half from FY 2008 levels.
  • Reduced annual water use by more than 25 percent – that’s more than 30 million gallons per year.

The principal goals the EPA aims to achieve in the 2013 Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan include:

  • Pursuing reconstruction of key EPA research infrastructure. Projects completed at the Cincinnati, OH, A.W. Breidenbach Environmental Research Center, EPA’s second largest research center, have already reduced energy use by more than 30 percent.
  • Consolidating the Research Toxicology Laboratory in Durham, NC into the Main laboratory at Research Triangle Park, NC. This project will reduce agency rent costs, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and result in a net reduction in EPA space without impacting research capacity.
  • Continuing work on EPA’s award winning water conservation program.

The EPA has published Strategic Sustainability Performance Plans for federal agencies online.

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December 05 2013

00:16

Diversified Renewable Energy Base Emerging in the US Northeast

A mix of renewable energy sources are emerging in the US Northeast

Renewable energy initiatives and investments in the northeastern US are producing results and paying dividends economically, socially and environmentally, according to a report from ACORE, the American Council on Renewable Energy.

Northeast region state governments have been at the leading edge of the drive to craft and implement policies to foster development and use of a distributed, diversified mix of renewable energy resources. With supportive policies in place in nearly every state in the 12-state region, the Northeast ranks second in the US for both solar and biomass power capacity. This progressive policy framework, which includes establishment of the pioneering Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), is driving renewable energy deployment and driving down costs to the point where they are competitive with fossil fuel power, ACORE’s “Renewable Energy in the 50 States: Northeastern Region,” the third in a four-part series of reports on renewable energy conditions and prospects nationwide.

As the ACORE report authors highlight:

“Renewable energy is steadily becoming more cost competitive in the Northeast. Three large utilities in Massachusetts recently signed long-term contracts to purchase renewable energy at less than $0.08 per kilowatt hour, below the cost of most conventional sources. If the contracts are approved by state regulators, they would save customers between $0.75 and $1.00 a month.5 Likewise, if it doubles the amount of wind power it plans to build, the PJM Interconnection could actually reduce wholesale energy market prices and save nearly $7 million per year in the mid-2020s.”

Renewable Energy Resource Diversity: The Northeast’s Strength

“Renewable Energy in the 50 States: Northeastern Region,” ACORE

Heavily dependent on imported energy and affected by retirements of fossil fuel power plants, Northeastern states have good reason to develop and deploy local renewable energy sources, ACORE notes in its latest regional report. Supportive state and local policy initiatives are proving instrumental in helping residents, businesses and the public sector realize the economic, social and environmental benefits that renewable energy resource development, along with greater energy conservation and energy efficiency, offer.

Eleven of the 12 states profiled in the report have instituted renewable portfolio standards (RPS) that mandate power utilities increase their use of renewable energy resources. Vermont, the 12th, has instituted a standard contract program along the lines of a renewable energy feed-in tariff (FiT), the first of its kind in the US, ACORE highlights in its report. Established to spur clean energy and energy efficiency investments across the region and reduce the regional greenhouse gas emissions that are fueling climate change, the RGGI, is also helping fund New York’s $1 billion Green Bank, the report authors note.

With less in the way of large, utility-scale wind and solar farms, the US Northeast ranks lower overall than other regions profiled in ACORE’s “Renewable Energy in the 50 States” series. It’s comparatively strong when it comes to local, distributed renewable power capacity, as well as the diversity of renewable energy resources available, however.

“An array of policies and incentive programs, including feed-in tariffs, renewable energy credits (RECs), green banks, and rebates, support the development of renewable power, heat, and fuels in the Northeast.

“Many Northeastern states have set targets for solar energy generation, which, coupled with financial incentives, are largely responsible for driving more solar power capacity in the Northeast than in the Midwest or the Southeast. In fact, ISO New England, the regional transmission organization serving six Northeastern states, anticipates distributed generation installations within its territory to increase from 250 MW in 2012 to 2 GW by the end of 2021, with generation forecast to be mostly solar power.”

Moreover, most of the states in the region are working to produce clean energy from waste and biomass by  making use of municipal solid waste, wood waste and landfill gas. They’re also looking to produce more and make greater use of biodiesel and ethanol to reduce reliance on petroleum, an area where they have lagged other regions.

“To reduce reliance on expensive heating oil, some states, such as New Hampshire, have set goals for renewable thermal energy use. With the availability of wood waste from the forestry sector, homes in New England use wood for space heating, water heating, and cooking at nearly twice the national rate, and growth in this sector is expected to continue.”

Large-scale hydropower has and will continue to play a large role in the Northeast region’s energy mix. Meanwhile, recent developments suggest that offshore wind power could play a significant role in fueling renewable energy growth.

“The Northeast’s wind power market has grown more slowly than other regions’, but this fact could change soon,” the report authors state.

“Coastal states in the region have identified immense offshore wind power potential, and developers are in the advanced stages of planning what would be the first offshore wind projects in the country. In August 2013, the U.S. Department of the Interior held the nation’s first offshore wind lease sale off the coast of Rhode Island and Massachusetts, the scale of which could support enough turbines to power one million homes.”

“Renewable Energy in the 50 States: Northeastern Region,” ACORE

 

Main and featured image credit: All Earth Renewables

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November 29 2013

19:13

Geothermal Energy can be a Potential Source of Green Energy to Mitigate Global Warming

Geothermal energy has room for growth for US energy production. Overall, growth remains strong for renewable sources of energy production and electricity generation

By Stephen Roshy

Geothermal energy is one of the most exciting and cheap source of green energy. It comes from the heat generated below the surface of the earth. Geothermal energy has great potential as a source to slow down and control the increasing global warming. It is a completely natural source and is environmental friendly. Many countries including the USA, China and Japan have already started using geothermal energy for different purposes.

Geothermal energy for electricity generation

Geothermal energy can be used to generate electricity especially in those regions that are tectonically active. Geothermal energy is produced when wells are drilled down in to a geothermal reservoir that generates hot water, which is consequently converted into electricity that is used to run industrial power plants, etc. The hot water in the reservoir and steam created is the carrier of geothermal energy.

Using geothermal energy to produce electricity is environmental friendly and can help curb global warming to a certain extent. As geothermal energy doesn’t use a lot of water, which is otherwise required to generate electricity, it is a sustainable way of producing electricity for huge power plants and projects.

Geothermal energy reduces carbon footprint

Geothermal energy essentially produces no carbon dioxide, or extremely low levels of it. Carbon dioxide is known to be one of the most considerable gases that stimulate global warming. Global warming has increased with time as industries generate electricity and the waste produces lets off carbon emissions and other gases such as methane and nitrous oxide. Geothermal energy helps to reduce the carbon footprint hence helps to mitigate global warming.

Geothermal energy uses less land

Geothermal energy uses less land to generate energy and electricity with the help of hot water from the surface of the earth. Out of all the sources used for electricity production such as wind, hydro power, nuclear energy, solar energy, natural gas, etc, geo thermal uses the least amount of land per generated power over a period.

The use of geothermal energy has great potential to mitigate global warming as it releases the least or no amount of toxic gases that accelerate global warming and eventually have a negative effect on the habitat of the earth. The increasing use of geothermal energy in America has enabled homeowners to install geothermal heating and cooling systems in order to create a greener environment, mitigate global warming and save on thousands of dollars on bills and costs in the end. Many companies provide geothermal systems for homes to ensure hot and cold water is available at all times. Find out more about the nuts and bolts of geothermal systems.

——————-

Author Bio: Stephen Roshy is a professional writer and he writes quality and informative content on Ground Source Contractors. You can find him on Facebook , Twitter and Google+

 

The post Geothermal Energy can be a Potential Source of Green Energy to Mitigate Global Warming appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

November 19 2013

23:21

Energy, Climate Scientists Call for a Moratorium on Coal-Fired Power Plants

Energy and climate scientists call for a coal moratorium, saying unabated coal is the road to climate catastrophe

Coal Sunrise over Beijing

An international group of 27 prominent energy and climate scientists are calling for a moratorium on construction of new coal-fired power plants, a policy they say has become a global imperative if “climate catastrophe” is to be avoided this century.

Their call comes amid renewed efforts by coal and power utility lobbies “to portray ‘high efficiency low emissions coal combustion’ as a climate solution.” Global carbon emissions are set to hit another new record high this year, according to a report released earlier this week as UN climate treaty negotiators meet in Warsaw. Ironically, taking place at the same time in the Polish capital is the Coal and Climate Summit.

The assertion that coal combustion to produce electricity should be considered a “climate-friendly” power technology flies in the face of the facts, all good judgment, and, needless to say, any semblance of adhering to the “precautionary principle.” Agreeing to it would set humanity and ecosystems around the world firmly on course for global warming of 6°C (10.8°F) , according to the scientists.

That’s three to four times the 1.5-2°C cap (compared to pre-industrial era levels) and climate warming threshold world leaders agreed to at the UN’s climate treaty negotiations in Cancun in 2010.

On the road to climate catastrophe

The world’s known coal reserves contain more than 2,000 gigatons (Gt) of CO2. Burning or combusting these reserves “would dramatically overshoot the remaining global carbon budget of about 1,000 gigatons CO2. This comes on top of oil and gas reserves accounting for more than 1600 gigatons,” the scientists highlight in a press release.

“The current global trend of coal use is consistent with an emissions pathway above the IEA’s 6°C scenario. That risks an outcome that can only be described as catastrophic, beyond anything that mankind has experienced during its entire existence on earth,” the scientists state.

Source:

Source: “New Unabated coal is not compatible with keeping
global warming below 2°C”

“The IEA’s medium-term coal market report (IEA, 2012) projects a further expansion of coal use that is even higher than IEA’s own 6DS scenario for 6°C warming in the long-term,” they elaborate.

“The 6DS scenario assumes around 4°C warming by 2100 (Schaeffer and Van Vuuren, 2012). As the Secretary General of the OECD warns: ‘Without CCS, continued reliance on coal-fired power is a road to disaster. (OECD, 2013)”

Source:

Source: “New unabated1 coal is not
compatible with keeping
global warming below 2°C”

“We are not saying there is no future for coal”, added Professor P.R. Shukla of the Indian Institute of Management, “but that unabated coal combustion is not compatible with staying below the 2°C limit, if we like it or not.”

Following is a short list of the main points of the climate and energy scientists’ statement:

  • Unabated coal is not a low carbon technology
  • Avoiding dangerous climate change requires about 3/4 of known fossil fuel reserves to stay underground
  • Current trends in coal use are harbouring catastrophic climate change
  • To keep global warming to less than 2°C above pre-industrial, use of unabated coal has to go down in absolute terms from now on
  • Alternatives are available and affordable
  • Public financing institutions and regulatory agencies are reining in unabated coal, but more is needed to prevent new unabated coal to be built

False claims, Sustainable energy scenarios

The group of scientists also noted that “false claims about ‘high-efficiency coal’ as a low-emissions technology” were made by the World Coal Association (WCA) in their recently released Warsaw Communiqué. In it the WCA “calls for ‘the immediate use of high-efficiency low-emissions coal combustion technologies as an immediate step in lowering greenhouse gas emissions.”

Contrary to such assertions, Dr Bert Metz, former Co-Chair of the IPCC’s Working Group on Climate Change Mitigation, stated,

“New or retrofitted coal plants without CO2 capture and storage will have a life time of 40-50 years. We need to dramatically reduce emissions over the next 40 years. That is not possible with unabated coal.”

“Alternatives to fossil fuels are already available and affordable. It is therefore up to the coal industry to show that coal-fired plants with CCS can compete with other zero carbon options.”

The scientists welcomed the growing number of prominent multilateral and international financing institutions and regulatory agencies, including the World Bank, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the U.S. Ex-Im Bank, to curtail or “rein in unabated coal.” Much more action is needed, and now, however, they added.

As Professor William Moomaw of the Fletcher School, Tufts University, USA pointed out:

“The trend of future coal use is changing rapidly. The World Bank, US development assistance and the US Import-Export Bank will no longer finance or support new unabated coal power plants internationally, except in rare cases.

“The United States Environmental Protection Agency has proposed carbon dioxide emission standards that rule out unabated coal power plants altogether. The European Investment Bank and Scandinavian countries have taken similar steps.”

Genuinely low-emissions alternative, renewable energy technology are readily available, competitive with fossil fuels, and continue to decline in cost, the scientists highlight. This stands out in stark contrast to trends in fossil fuels, which are increasingly costly in narrowly defined dollars-and-cents terms, and much more expensive over the long-term when their environmental, health and other socioeconomic costs, such as military interventions, are factored into the equation.

In their statement, the scientists lay out a range of alternative energy and emissions scenarios:

Source:

Source: “New unabated1 coal is not
compatible with keeping
global warming below 2°C”

For more on this topic, check out the scientists’ full statement on coal

 

Main and featured image credit: Shel Israel, courtesy flickr 

The post Energy, Climate Scientists Call for a Moratorium on Coal-Fired Power Plants appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

00:07

Coal and Climate – a Tale of Two Summits: UNFCCC Chief Figueres Addresses Coal Conference in Poland

Coal and climate don't mix. UNFCCC chief addresses International Coal Summit in Warsaw, Poland, one of the most polluting countries in EuropeCoal and climate in Warsaw

Perhaps one of the biggest ironies at the ongoing COP19 climate conference is the open acceptance of corporate sponsorship by Poland, this year’s host country for the talks – sponsors that are, as Giles Parkinson points out in RenewEconomymostly fossil fuel companies as Lotos, a Polish oil company and brown coal producer PGE.

In fact, Poland has a rather spotty record on climate, epitomized by the start today of the World Coal Association’s International Coal and Climate Summit - the ”other” climate summit hosted by the Polish government that has called into question Poland’s own role in climate policy and raised the ire of more than a few environmental advocates.

Given that Poland depends almost exclusively on coal for its power production may make it no surprise that Poland would host an international industry “summit” essentially promoting clean coal, but the timing is another issue. In an open letter to UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) executive secretary Christiana Fiqueres Greenpeace called the timing “outrageous”:

“It is outrageous that the World Coal Summit… will take place at the beginning of the second week of the climate negotiations…  We would not like events promoting the most polluting of industries to become associated with solving climate change. While we recognize that the focus of the Coal and Climate Summit is so-called “clean coal”, in our view this ranks among the most desperate of myths spun by the coal industry in a frantic bid to survive.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) also called out the unfortunate juxtaposition in Warsaw between COPO19 and the World Coal Association event:

“The summit’s focus on continued reliance on coal is directly counter to the goal of these climate negotiations,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for UCS, “which is to dramatically reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Every year countries come together at these negotiations to find a global solution to climate change, and yet our host is embracing a chief cause of the problem.”

Coal industry must radically reform

Questionably timed on purpose or not,  UNFCCC chief Figures took the opportunity to address the coal industry directly, saying the industry “can and must” radically reform and diversify to avoid the top-end, worst consequences of climate change.

 ”Let me be clear from the outset that my joining you today is neither a tacit approval of coal use, nor is it a call for the immediate disappearance of coal. But I am here to say that coal must change rapidly and dramatically for everyone’s sake,” Figueres told the assembled coal company CEOs.

Speaking of the latest  Cimate Assessment Report recently published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Fiqeures said:

“The IPCC’s findings have been endorsed by 195 governments, including all of those in which you operate. We are at unprecedented greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere; our carbon budget is half spent. If we continue to meet energy needs as we have in the past, we will overshoot the internationally agreed goal to limit warming to less than two degree Celsius.”

In her speech, Figueres made clear the existential nature of climate change, even for coal companies:

“All of this tells me that the coal industry faces a business continuation risk that you cannot afford to ignore. Like any other industry, you have a fiduciary responsibility to your workforce and shareholders. And by now it is abundantly clear that further capital expenditures on coal can only go ahead if they are compatible with the 2 degree Celsius limit.”

Diversify, keep it in the ground

On the point of leaving coal behind as the best future for humanity, Figueres said:

“Some major oil, gas and energy technology companies are already investing in renewables, and I urge those of you who have not yet started to do this to join them. By diversifying your portfolio beyond coal, you too can produce clean energy that reduces pollution, enhances public health, increases energy security, and creates new jobs.”

“Look past next quarter’s bottom line and see the next generation’s bottom line.” 

Get the full  Figueres’ full speech to the International Coal and Climate

 

Image credit: CEE Bankwatch Network, courtesy flickr

The post Coal and Climate – a Tale of Two Summits: UNFCCC Chief Figueres Addresses Coal Conference in Poland appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

November 12 2013

20:19

Is Phasing Out Fossil Fuel Subsidies Even on the Agenda in Warsaw?

A sunny day in Beijing

A sunny day in Beijing

For all their potential promise, apparent earnestness and gravity – not to mention their possible effects and potential ramifications – it’s hard at times not to be cynical about high-level political negotiations. Such might be felt of the United Nations (UN) climate treaty negotiations which got under way this week in Warsaw, Poland.

People have good reason to be skeptical of the climate treaty process, not because global warming and climate change are based on faulty science or because viable options aren’t in hand, but because governments and societies around the world are so invested in fossil fuels that the thought that political leaders would collectively take aggressive action to phase out carbon and greenhouse gas emissions is nigh unthinkable.

Take, for example, that even as representatives from the 195 UN member nations party to the UN Framework on Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meet to establish the framework of an agreement to reduce global carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimated that G20 governments doled out $523 billion in subsidies to fossil fuel producers in 2011, the latest year such figures are available. What’s more, fossil fuel subsidies are rising, even as the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) just last week reported that global greenhouse gas emissions reached a record high in 2012.

To say such subsidies are counterproductive would be gross understatement. Perverse would be a better modifier. Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies would remove a perverse incentive that stands in the way of leveling the energy markets “playing field,” putting a true cost on carbon in an attempt to address global warming and climate change.

Releasing a report entitled Time to change the game: Fossil fuel subsidies and climate, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) documents “the scale of fossil fuel subsidies and sets out a practical agenda for their elimination in the context of the global goal of tackling climate change.”

Climate treaty negotiators convene in Warsaw

Against the backdrop of devastation in the Philippines caused by Typhoon Haiyan – reportedly one of, if not the largest and strongest, typhoon ever recorded – the 19th Conference of Parties (COP 19) to the UNFCCC is convening November 11-22 in (ironically enough) Warsaw, Poland, a nation with a government that has steadfastly resisted efforts to shift off coal and fossil fuels toward a more diversified energy mix centered on cleaner, renewable alternatives.

Convening at COP 19 in Warsaw over the next 11 days, representatives from the 195 UN member nations that are parties to the international climate treaty (the U.S. included) and the 192 that have signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol (the U.S. excluded) will attempt to hammer out the framework of a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. Full details of a new accord to reduce global carbon and greenhouse gas emissions are to be ready for signing by 2015 to go into effect in 2020.

Trying to make the negotiations as inclusive as possible, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP) has become a major public event. At COP 19 in Warsaw, representatives of 195 UN member nations will be joined by a host of NGOs, civic groups, other public and private sector organizations, the press, and, more than likely, large numbers of demonstrators.

Enhancing the efficacy and credibility of global climate change action

The UNFCCC’s public credibility – not to mention its efficacy – would be greatly enhanced if the national governments party to the international treaty were to take one expedient, cost-effective step: eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, ODI asserts, and they are by no means the first to advocate taking such a step.

Source:

Source: “Time to change the game,” ODI, 11/2013

Straight from the executive summary of “Time to change the game: Fossil fuel subsidies and climate,” here are ODI’s key points:

  • Fossil fuel subsidies are expensive. They were at over $500 billion globally in 2011, and up to $90 billion in the OECD alone.
  • These subsidies are increasing and are a major obstacle to green investment, and seriously undermine attempts to put a price on carbon.
  • In developing countries the majority of benefits from fossil fuel subsidies go to the richest 20 percent of households.
  • Domestic and international support for fossil fuels dwarfs spending on health and education in a number of countries, and outstrips climate finance and aid.
  • Phasing out fossil fuel subsidies in G20 countries by 2020 (and globally by 2025), with proper safeguards for the poor, would enable the triple win of inclusive green growth.

Perverse incentives indeed, and the above is only a short list. According to ODI’s study, “international financial institutions (IFIs) also support carbon-intensive energy systems.

“Over 75 percent of energy-project support from IFIs to 12 of the top developing-country emitters went to fossil fuel projects. There has been no significant shift in this trend: in the last financial year alone (2012-13), the World Bank Group increased its lending for fossil fuel projects to $2.7 billion, including continued lending for oil and gas exploration (Oil Change International, 2013).”

As ODI goes on to state:

“If their aim is to avoid dangerous climate change, governments are shooting themselves in both feet. They are subsidizing the very activities that are pushing the world towards dangerous climate change, and creating barriers to investment in low-carbon development and subsidy incentives that encourage investment in carbon-intensive energy.

“Coal, the most carbon-intensive fuel of all, is taxed less than any other source of energy and is, in some countries, actively subsidized (OECD, 2013a). For every $1 spent to support renewable energy, another $6 are spent on fossil fuel subsidies (IEA, 2013).”

Following, in summary form, are the key actions ODI is urging G20 UNFCCC climate treaty delegates take in Warsaw:

  •  G20 countries use the Warsaw CoP meeting to agree a broad timeline for action
  • G20 governments call on technical agencies to agree a common definition of fossil fuel subsidies
  • G20 governments commit to phasing out all fossil fuel subsidies by 2020, with early action by rich-country members on subsidies to coal and to oil and gas exploration by 2015
  • that governments and donors work together to ensure that measures are put in place to protect vulnerable groups from the impact of subsidy removal.

Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies would be one of the most straightforward, cost-effective and effective steps world governments could take to address the profound threats and rising costs of addressing global warming and climate change. Will they muster the will and toughness to do so? Not likely, but one can at least hope for the best.

The post Is Phasing Out Fossil Fuel Subsidies Even on the Agenda in Warsaw? appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

November 01 2013

14:19

U.S. Solar Industry Breaking Records in 2013

The U.S> solar industry makes great strides in 2013The U.S. solar industry has logged one of the strongest quarters ever and it has already eclipsed last year’s record breaking growth. The U.S. is riding the crest of a solar tsunami that is sweeping around the planet. Declining photovoltaic (PV) prices along with attractive incentives in Asia (Japan and China) are helping to power solar’s global growth in 2013. Around the world solar PV added 30.5 Gigawatts (GW) of new capacity in 2012 and Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that we will see 36.7 GW of additional PV capacity worldwide in 2013. The growth of solar power is so strong that it is outpacing wind energy for the first time this year.

Growth of solar 

In 2012, the U.S. brought more new solar capacity online than in the combined totals of the three previous years. In the first quarter (Q1) of 2013, solar power production was 537 megawatts (MW) of the 1,880 MW of utility power brought online. This represents about 30 percent of the new generation capacity. In Q2 Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) reports that the U.S. installed 832 MW of photovoltaic (PV) solar power which represents a 15 percent increase over Q1. This is the second largest quarter in the history of U.S. Solar. It is worth noting that these numbers reflect only the larger generating facilities and not systems on homes or small businesses.

As of the end of Q2 2013, the cumulative commercial solar deployment totaled 3,380 MW and was located at more than 32,800 facilities across the country representing an increase of more than 40 percent over 2012. According to data from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, as of August 2013, the U.S. had already surpassed the year end totals for utility-scale solar installations in 2012 (1,774 MW compared to 1,476 MW).

The solar electric market will have another record year in 2013, with a projected year end total of 4,400 MW of PV (which represents 30 percent growth over 2012 installation totals) and over 900 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP). Together PV and CSP total energy output is equivalent to the energy required to power 860,000 American homes. Cumulative PV capacity is projected to surpass 10 GW by years end.

Drivers of solar

The most powerful driver of solar growth is declining prices. We have seen an 11 percent decrease in PV over the past year. Over the past two years PV prices have fallen by nearly 40 percent, and over the last three years the average price of solar panels has declined by 60 percent.

Other factors are also at play and they include renewable portfolio standards and renewable energy credits that have forced utilities to add in more solar. Businesses are looking to reduce their environmental impacts and cut energy costs. Across the board solar is being accepted as an increasingly mainstream and less esoteric form of energy.

Solar is an abundant source of energy, if only 1 percent of global landmass were covered in solar panels we could power all of the world’s energy needs. Solar is also a very popular energy source in the U.S. As revealed in a 2012 poll, 92 percent of American voters support developing more solar energy.

Economy and Employment

Solar is not just good for the environment it is also a powerful economic driver. According to the Solar Foundation, as of 2012, 119,000 Americans were already employed in the solar industry, this represents a 13.2 percent increase over the preceding year.

There are a total of 6,100 businesses operating across the U.S. In 2012 the total value of solar electric installations was $11.5 billion, compared to $8.6 billion in 2011 and $6 billion in 2010.

Business

SEIA and the Vote Solar Initiative (Vote Solar) released their annual Solar Means Business report on October 15, they found that some of the biggest corporate entities in the U.S. Are helping to drive the growth of solar energy power production. The top 25 U.S. companies have deployed 445 megawatts of solar capacity, a 48 percent increase from one year ago.

SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch said solar is,  “helping to create thousands of American jobs, boost the U.S. economy and improve our environment.  At the same time, they’re reducing operating expenses, which benefits both their customers and shareholders.”

Solar proves a competitive business advantage for some of America’s largest corporations. However, it is not just well known corporate behemoths like Walmart that are getting in on the action. A restaurant called Pizza Port in California has also installed solar panels into its operation, and the chain of five restaurants and breweries, expects to reduce energy costs by as much as $30,000 annually.

“For years, the promise of solar was always ‘just around the corner.’ Well, solar has turned the corner, and found itself on Main Street, USA. These companies – titans of American business – may have vastly different products, business models, and geographic locations, but they all have something in common: they know a good deal when they see one, and they are going solar in a big way,” said Adam Browning, Executive Director of Vote Solar.

Surprising States

There are several states that are well known solar players, they include California, Hawaii, Arizona, New Jersey, and North Carolina. However, as pointed out by GTM Research, there is a surprising amount of solar power anticipated from unlikely places with “hidden growth opportunities.” They include Minnesota, Virginia, Washington D.C., Louisiana and Georgia. GTM Research projects a total of over 1 GW of solar PV demand in these markets between the second half of 2013 and 2016.

Solar is providing an ever growing amount of energy to utilities, businesses and homes. Despite retrenchments due to oversupply and resultant low prices, U.S. solar will continue to shine well into the future.
——————–
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Lance Cheung, courtesy flickr

 

The post U.S. Solar Industry Breaking Records in 2013 appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

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