Energy and Global Warming News for October 13: California heats up incentives for solar power; China, Japan, S. Korea vow to make climate talks success

California heats up incentives for solar power

California is heating up its push for clean energy, as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger approved a new subsidy for solar power on Monday and joined forces with the federal government to fast-track renewable energy projects.

California has the most aggressive renewable energy goals in the United States, which Schwarzenegger increased last month when he ordered that the state get a third of its electricity from renewable resources by 2020.

FBR Capital Markets analyst Mehdi Hosseini said the new subsidy for solar generation could be “explosive” on top of the existing investment tax credit for installing solar systems.

“This is above and beyond the subsidies that are already in place,” Hosseini said.

Feed-in tariffs set a higher price for renewables, and in Germany, such tariffs have pushed the country to be the world’s market leader in solar power.

China, Japan, SKorea vow to make climate talks success

The leaders of China, Japan and South Korea on Saturday said they would “work closely together” to make crucial global climate talks in Copenhagen in December a success.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak said they would “work closely together… to contribute to the successful achievement of the Copenhagen conference”.

They said that success would be based on “the establishment of an effective post-2012 international cooperation framework on climate change, consistent with the principles of the UNFCCC, in particular common but differentiated responsibilities”.

More than 190 countries will converge in the Danish capital to try to hammer out a treaty to tackle global warming that will succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

Rich nations have pushed emerging giants such as China and India, which had no obligations under Kyoto, to commit to binding action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions that would be in keeping with their level of development.

But Beijing and other developing nations have repeatedly baulked at that request, saying industralised nations should bear the brunt of the responsibility.

At global climate talks in Bangkok this week, several nations — notably the United States, Australia and Japan — floated proposals calling for an approach in which each country would make its own national commitments.

These would be measurable and verifiable, but outside any kind of internationally enforceable compliance regime.

India’s Floods Reveal Climate Change Specter

Indian farmers had been praying for rain after the weakest monsoon season in 40 years had left their crops stricken by drought. But when the rains finally came, forceful and incessant at six times their normal levels, they left behind the worst floods southern India had seen in more than a century.

Weather officials blamed the heavy rains in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh on a low-pressure system over the Bay of Bengal. So far, over 250 people have died in flooding made worse when officials were forced to open dams for fear they might burst. Some 1,500 relief camps have been set up for the estimated 2.5 million people who were displaced as the raging water destroyed entire villages, washing away roads, bridges, crops and livestock.

Although flooding has recently become commonplace in India “” in 2008, over 3 million people were displaced when the Kosi river in Bihar burst its banks “” but this year’s deluge came as a shock because if followed a protracted drought, and a monsoon season branded a dud by the authorities. To experts who’ve tracked the effects of climate change, however, the flooding came as no surprise. In its fourth assessment report in 2007, the Inter- Government Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted that more extreme droughts, floods, and storms, would become commonplace in the future, and that these intense weather conditions would follow in close succession to each other, often in the same areas.

Carbon capture coal tech must be ready by 2019: U.S.

A technology to bury underground the greenhouse gas emissions produced from burning coal must be ready for global deployment by 2017-2019, U.S. energy secretary Steven Chu said on Monday.

Coal is the world’s single biggest source of carbon emissions, at 40 percent. Other sources included burning oil and natural gas, and deforestation and the production of cement.

Chu was optimistic about the prospects for carbon capture and storage (CCS), even though no commercial-scale plant is being built yet anywhere. He said that the United States could have 10 demonstration plants online by 2016.

Most analysts do not expect the technology to be widely available before 2020 at the earliest.

“I believe we must make it our goal to advance carbon capture and storage technology to the point where widespread, affordable deployment can begin in eight to 10 years,” Chu said in a letter to energy ministers gathered in London to promote global collaboration, and where Chu would speak on Monday.

Carbon capture technology is widely considered to be vital because high-carbon coal is one of the world’s cheapest and most available sources of energy, making it unlikely the world can simply stop burning it.

The technology involves trapping carbon dioxide produced from burning the fossil fuel, for example using chemical solvents, and then separating the greenhouse gas and piping it underground for storage in depleted oil wells or acquifers.

But CCS adds about $1 billion to the capital cost of a coal plant and sacrifices about a quarter of energy output, making government support essential for initial deployment at a time when public finances are stretched.

The United States is investing more than $4 billion in the technology, to be matched by $7 billion from the private sector.

Africa wants polluters to pay for climate change

Africa will demand billions of dollars in compensation from rich polluting nations at a UN climate summit for the harm caused by global warming on the continent, African officials said Sunday.

With just two months to go before the UN summit in Copenhagen, officials met at a special forum in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou where they underscored the need for compensation for the natural disasters caused by climate change.

“For the first time Africa will have a common position,” African Union commission chairman Jean Ping told the seventh World Forum on Sustainable Development.

“We have decided to speak with one voice” and “will demand reparation and damages” at the December summit, Ping said.

Experts say sub-Saharan Africa is one of the regions most affected by global warming.

The World Bank estimates that the developing world will suffer about 80 percent of the damage of climate change despite accounting for only around one third of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

“Policy-makers have to agree to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and adhere to the principle that the polluter pays,” Ping said.

In a final declaration, the six African heads of state attending the forum said they supported calls for industrialised nations to cut their carbon emissions by “at least 40 percent” by 2020 compared to 1990 levels.

Solar power outshining Colorado’s gas industry

The sun had just crested the distant ridge of the Rocky Mountains, but already it was producing enough power for the electric meter on the side of the Smiley Building to spin backward.

For the Shaw brothers, who converted the downtown arts building and community center into a miniature solar power plant two years ago, each reverse rotation subtracts from their monthly electric bill. It also means the building at that moment is producing more electricity from the sun than it needs.

“Backward is good,” said John Shaw, who now runs Shaw Solar and Energy Conservation, a local solar installation company.

Good for whom?

As La Plata County in southwestern Colorado looks to shift to cleaner sources of energy, solar is becoming the power source of choice even though it still produces only a small fraction of the region’s electricity. It’s being nudged along by tax credits and rebates, a growing concern about the gases heating up the planet, and the region’s plentiful sunshine.

The natural gas industry, which produces more gas here than nearly every other county in Colorado, has been relegated to the shadows.

Tougher state environmental regulations and lower natural gas prices have slowed many new drilling permits. As a result, production “” and the jobs that come with it “” have leveled off.

With the county and city drawing up plans to reduce the emissions blamed for global warming and Congress weighing the first mandatory limits, the industry once again finds itself on the losing side of the debate.

Transforming Clean-Energy Industry Into a Local One

From his desk at the local electricity cooperative, Bruce Gomm can see the looming black smokestacks of the city’s aging coal-fired power plant. He can also see, on his office wall, framed photographs of sleek new wind turbines. Together, they are a changing world foretold.

Gomm is placing a major bet on wind to produce the electrons that will power his customers’ lights and run their dishwashers. He is at the forefront of a movement called community power, the idea that neighborhoods and towns can install their own renewable power sources and rely less on electricity that flows from distant realms.

As costs of solar and wind come down, the concept’s popularity is looking up, though challenges remain for an industry in its infancy.

Willmar Municipal Utilities invested nearly $10 million in a pair of 256-foot towers to capture the prairie wind here, about 100 miles west of Minneapolis. Gomm calculates that the wind power will cost less than the equivalent in coal-powered energy and, when the debt has been paid in 12 years or so, the electricity will come virtually free for as long as the turbines are standing.

Along the way, Willmar will have reduced carbon emissions and made progress toward reaching a state requirement that Minnesota generate 25 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2025. Gomm, who estimates the turbines will produce 3 to 5 percent of the town’s energy, aims to build more.

“This is the biggest investment Willmar Municipal Utilities has ever made,” engineer Wes Hompe said, standing beneath a huge new turbine outside town. “What makes it worthwhile? This is the future.”

Arizona’s First Wind Farm Wins Award, Brings Together U.S. Interior Secretary Salazar, Energy Leaders and Navajo County Families to Dedicate Dry Lake Wind

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar joined federal, state and local officials, energy industry leaders, ranchers and school children to celebrate Arizona`s first commercial-scale wind power project at the dedication of the Dry Lake Wind Power Project.

Located in Navajo County, the Dry Lake Wind Power Project sits on a combination of private, state and federal lands. Approximately a third of the project is on the private Rocking Chair Ranch, with a third each on Arizona State Land Department and Bureau of Land Management public lands.

“The successful completion of this vital project reflects the concerns we all share – nationally, regionally and locally – about the critical energy challenges facing communities across the United States,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “The partnership that built Arizona`s first commercial-scale wind energy project demonstrates a common desire to reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil by using our domestic renewable resources to meet a larger share of our energy needs. This strategy will also help us reduce greenhouse gas emissions to address climate change, while creating `green jobs` around the nation.”

The project brings a new source of clean, renewable energy to the region while supporting the local economy through property tax payments to Navajo County and job creation. During the peak of Dry Lake`s construction, 200 direct construction jobs were created as well as hundreds of indirect jobs through the supply chain and construction support.

“This project is another example of the incredible potential that clean, renewable energy has for Arizona and our country,” said Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick, who serves Navajo County in the House of Representatives and spoke at the dedication. “The Dry Lake Wind Farm will deliver jobs, help us diversify
our energy sources and lower our utility bills. In these tough times, it is a shot in the arm for District One.”

Dry Lake generates enough power for more than 15,000 homes, which will be delivered to customers of Salt River Project.

“The message this plant sends to Arizonans is as important as the power it generates,” said SRP General Manager Richard Silverman. “Today isn`t only about a power plant, it`s about a more sustainable future for our customers and all of Arizona.”

4 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for October 13: California heats up incentives for solar power; China, Japan, S. Korea vow to make climate talks success

  1. C. Vink says:

    Farmers facing ruin over climate change
    Irish Times, October 12: Climate change is wreaking havoc in the world`s coffee and tea growing regions and the next decade is likely to see many of the areas in which these crops are grown rendered unsuitable for cultivation, according to experts.

    Kashmir’s main glacier “melting at alarming speed”
    Reuters, October 12: Indian Kashmir’s biggest glacier, which feeds the region’s main river, is melting faster than other Himalayas glaciers, threatening the water supply of tens of thousands of people, a new report warned on Monday.

    New fears for species extinctions
    BBC, October 11: Scientists have warned of an alarming increase in the extinction of animal species, because of threats to biodiversity and ecosystems. The threats are posed by pollution, climate change and urban spread.

  2. Wes Rolley says:

    I am sorry that you like Astroturf Governor Schwarzenegger so much. He, and the inept California Legislature, have managed to gather all the photo ops and still are going to deny net metering to many Californians who would invest in solar for their homes. AB 560 died in committee without even a murmur from the Gov.

    Never mistake hype for substance.

  3. Emily says:

    Its great to see such an initiative among our leaders and those of other countries to push importance to solar power. For a lot of people, solar energy will be difficult to get used to, but the benefits are something we can all enjoy. Thanks for the article!

  4. We need to reduce global warming gases as much as possible and as fast as possible and not make a mockery of it by photo opportunity events.
    According to a major article by today’s Sacramento Bee the governor DISapproval rating is the highest of all previous 5 governors, except Davis. The governor has just 27% approval rate. So, to bring his image up he allocates more of the meager resources of the state to unwise causes -photovoltaic, the false image of “free” electricity from the sun.

    If we allocated those funds to conservation, especially attic insulation of buildings built before 1982, (when state regulation dictated energy conservation) we could cut 30 times the amount of GHG that we can cut by PV.

    Some of the calculations are shown below. To read the details see:

    A. Conservation direct Energy Savings:
    1. Heating season- 120 days; natural gas: 3 Therm /day, yearly saving, = 360 Therm/yr saved
    2. during cooling season – 120 days, average use (per PG&E) is 1000 kWh /mo, savings can be half of that: 500 KWh/m x 4 month; verified for a typical area in SMUD Sacramento too.
    Energy saved a year: 360 Therm gas plus 2,000 kWh
    For life of home: electricity: 50yr X 2,000 kWh =100,000 kWh = 95 tons of CO2
    Gas: 360 Therm x 50 year = 18,000 Therm, x 12 pound/T = 108 tons of CO2
    Total reduction: 203 tons CO2
    (With mass contracts this cost could be noticeably reduced.)

    B. PV energy production 25 yrs life less 5 yrs energy payback, net 20 years times 1.3 MWh/ yr
    26,000 kWh x 0.95 KG/ kWh = 25 tons of CO2 for system life

    All electrical comparison for CO2 from Coal power plants, 50% of US and German electricity comes from coal, 80% in China, all major PV producers.

    CO2 reduction by attic insulation 203 tons, 8 to 1 better for conservation
    Cost PV: $6,000/ kW; Conservation: $1500, 4 to 1 better for conservation
    Therefore, attic insulation could be 32 times more cost effective than PV in reducing GHG.

    Another way of saying it:
    Attic insulation can reduce 32 times more CO2 than PV per dollar.