11 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for November 17: South Korea adopts its most strict CO2 cuts for 2020; Concentrated solar thermal goes dry (cooling)
South Korea, Asia’s fourth-largest polluter, said it plans a 30 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 even as a binding global accord on climate change appears unlikely at next month’s summit in Copenhagen.
“South Korea’s voluntary target will stimulate efforts by the global community despite the pessimistic outlook for the Copenhagen meeting,” President Lee Myung Bak said in a statement today. The goal is set at the highest level recommended for emerging economies by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change under the United Nations, according to the statement….
South Korea had outlined in August three proposals: cutting emissions by as much as 4 percent by the end the next decade from 2005 levels; capping them at the 2005 output; or allowing an 8 percent increase by 2020….
The target “basically corresponds to 4 percent cut from 2005,” Choi Seung Kook, secretary general of Green Korea United, non-profit environmental group, said by telephone. “Still, a forecast based on business as usual levels in 2020 is changeable and the target itself falls short of goals of other countries.”
South Korea’s annual emissions may rise to 813 million metric tons by 2020 in the absence of measures to curb carbon output, a committee under the presidential office said Aug. 4. That would be an increase of 37 percent from the 594.4 million tons produced in 2005.
This target will be a true “challenge for South Korean industries, where carbon emissions doubled in the period from 1990 to 2005, the fastest rate in the OECD,” as the WSJ noted. “The steepest cuts will occur in construction and transportation, the government said. In construction, which accounts for 25% of carbon emissions, South Korea is targeting a 31% reduction by what they would have been in 2020. In the transportation sector, which accounts for 17% of emissions, it plans to trim emissions by 33% to 37%.”
Yesterday, after months of pressure from environmental groups and some concerned residents, one solar project developer backed out of controversial plans to buy rights to a billion gallons a year of local farmers’ water.
The water was needed to supply two proposed solar thermal plants in Nevada’s parched Amargosa Valley, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Over the plants’ lifetime, climate change promises to only worsen water shortages in the region.
The decision to switch to more expensive “dry cooling” technology will cut the project’s water demand by 90 percent, the developer, Solar Millennium LLC, said yesterday. The German-backed company is a subsidiary of Solar Millennium AG.
The recent move highlights the tensions surrounding the water consumption of large-scale solar thermal power projects proposed largely on federal and state lands in the West. At about 12 cents a kilowatt-hour of lifetime energy costs, solar thermal power produces cheaper electricity than solar photovoltaic technologies do today.
The problem comes because conventional solar thermal is a water-guzzler.
Like coal or nuclear plants, solar thermal plants yield electricity by generating steam to spin a turbine. In the typical wet-cooling process, water is mainly needed to replace the steam lost to evaporation during the process. Per unit of power, solar thermal can demand the same water as a coal-fired unit, or more, according to a Department of Energy study.
More problematic is where and when the water is needed: high noon in the middle of the most water-stressed region of the country. So concerns about water are bubbling to the surface as federal and state regulators push a glut of solar thermal applications through the review process….
There are alternatives for solar developers, as the Solar Millennium decision indicates. Increasingly, projects are proposing so-called “dry cooling” technologies, which stem water losses by closing the system and using air to cool the steam.
Recently, for example, BLM and the California Energy Commission completed a joint environmental review of BrightSource Energy’s Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, a proposed 440-megawatt project in the Mojave Desert. It is one of nine solar projects now being fast-tracked by BLM, including three other Solar Millennium projects in California.
Though it faces other environmental controversies, water is not one of them. The Ivanpah project, which uses dry cooling, needs 30 times less water than traditional wet-cooling technologies, said company spokesman Keely Wachs. The water it does draw is mostly to wash the mirrors….
For more on dry cooling, see “The secret to low-water-use, high-efficiency concentrating solar power.” The story continues:
Solar Millenium spokesman Keegan said the company’s three proposed California projects, unlike the Amargosa Valley project in Nevada, were all proposed with dry cooling in large part because that’s what California utilities, which have signed power purchase agreements, demanded.
But in other places, it may not be a pressing concern.
“Utilities are still in the mindset that they have more pressing needs today, like dealing with CO2,” said Cara Libby, a project manager at the utility-funded Electric Power Research Institute. “They all know water is going to be important, but it hasn’t really hit their business yet.”
A comprehensive plan to combat threats to global food security was presented Monday during a U.N.-sponsored food security summit in Rome.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said global food shortages were aggravated by climate change and population growth that will see 2 billion more mouths to feed in 2050 — 9.1 billion in all, the United Nations said in a release.
The World Summit on Food Security is being conducted at the Rome headquarters of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. More than 60 heads of state, including Pope Benedict XVI, are attending the summit, but some of the larger countries, including the United States, are absent, Italian news agency ANSA reported.
Ban outlined steps ranging from immediate needs such as food aid, safety nets and social protection, to long-term goals achieved through more investments in agricultural development, better market access and fairer trade for smaller farm operations, the United Nations said.
With the approach of the U.N. Climate Conference in Copenhagen next month, the livestock industry is coming under renewed scrutiny for its contribution to greenhouse gases.
Methane, which is a byproduct of digestion by cud-chewing animals, is a gas 23 times more warming to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. A 2006 report by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization attributed 18 percent of the greenhouse gases produced each year to livestock.
But a more recent report for the World Watch Institute, by Robert Goodland, former environmental adviser to the World Bank, and Jeff Anhang, environmental specialist at the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corp., estimates this figure to be much higher: 51 percent, when the entire life cycle and supply chain of the livestock industry is taken into consideration.
Their report “” “Livestock and Climate Change: What if the key actors in climate change are … cows, pigs and chickens?” “” factors in emissions from the tens of billions of animals exhaling CO2 annually, as well as deforestation for feed production and grazing, which prevents the reduction in greenhouse gases that would normally result from photosynthesis.
In the World Watch report released last month, Dr. Goodland and Mr. Anhang wrote that “livestock (like automobiles) are a human invention and convenience, not part of pre-human times, and a molecule of CO2 exhaled by livestock is no more natural than one from an auto tailpipe.”
A broad group of corporations got together in Washington today to prod policymakers to make the electric-car revolution a reality. The goal? By 2040, 75% of light-vehicle miles should be driven with electric cars, rather than today’s gasoline engines. That, the group says, would essentially end U.S. imports of oil, improving the environment, America’s energy security, and its coffers. (There’s more here and here.)
The Electrification Coaltion groups all sorts of companies that stand to gain, one way or another, from an electric-car revolution. There are utilities (NRG and PG&E); battery types (A123 and Rockwood); Automakers (Nissan); venture capitalists (Kleiner Perkins); and others, such as FedEx.
Whether electric cars remain a plaything of the rich or do to today’s cars what cars did to horses is still a very open question. For some, the combination of better performance and pricey oil makes it a no-brainer. For others, the prospect of expensive batteries and scattered charging stations makes it a chimera.