European legislators and countries struck a deal last night to introduce tough new energy-efficiency regulations for all electricity-using appliances and buildings within the next decade.
Most significantly, the European Union directive will require that nearly all buildings, including large houses, constructed after 2020 include stark efficiency improvements or generate most of their energy from renewable sources, coming close to “nearly zero” energy use.
European countries will also be required to establish a certification system to measure buildings’ energy efficiency. These certificates will be required for any new construction or buildings that are sold or rented to new tenants. Existing buildings will also have to, during any major renovation, improve their efficiency if at all feasible.
Buildings are responsible for about 36 percent of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions, and stricter efficiency requirements have been sought for the past several years as absolutely necessary for the bloc to meets its goal of cutting emissions 20 percent from 1990 levels by 2020. Other regions should take note, said Andris Piebalgs, the E.U. energy commissioner, in a statement.
“By this agreement, the E.U. is sending a strong message to the forthcoming climate negotiations in Copenhagen,” Piebalgs said. “Improving the energy performance of buildings is a cost effective way of fighting against climate change and improving energy security, while also boosting the building sector and the E.U. economy as a whole.”
A second directive agreed on yesterday will expand the scope of efficiency labeling to all consumer products that use energy, eventually covering everything from hot water taps to vending machines.
The United States and China have agreed to cooperate on developing an inventory of China’s greenhouse gas emissions, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday, an initiative that appears be a response to criticism of Beijing’s data collection.
Several senators whose votes are key to passage of domestic climate legislation, including Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), have questioned whether they will be able to trust any greenhouse gas reductions China reports to the international community. China has surpassed the United States as the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases; together they account for roughly 40 percent of the world’s output.
The memorandum of cooperation between China’s National Development and Reform Commission and the EPA calls on the two countries to collaborate in several areas, including “capacity building for developing greenhouse gas inventories.” The two nations have already worked together on monitoring other industrial emissions, such as sulfur dioxide.
“I have to imagine this represents an increased and intensified effort to get China on the path of measuring and reporting its greenhouse gas emissions in a way that’s internationally acceptable,” said Julian L. Wong, a senior policy analyst at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. “” California regulators adopted the nation’s first energy-efficiency standards for televisions Wednesday in hopes of reducing electricity use at a time when millions of American households are switching to power-hungry, wide-view, flat-screen, high-definition sets.
The 5-0 vote by the California Energy Commission is just the latest effort by the state to secure its place in the forefront of the environmental movement.
California represents such a big consumer market that environmental groups hope the new standards will lead manufacturers to make energy-saving TVs for the rest of the nation, just as California’s stringent fuel standards for cars and trucks forced automakers to produce more efficient models for all of the U.S.
“Once again, California is leading the way, and we hope others will follow,” said Noah Horowitz, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The commission estimates that TVs account for about 10 percent of a home’s electricity use. The fear is that energy use will rise as people buy bigger, more elaborate TVs, put more of them in their homes, and watch them longer.
The governors of Virginia, Maryland and Delaware have announced a partnership designed to promote and coordinate the development of wind energy off the mid-Atlantic coast.
Officials in the three states said that by working together, they hope to advance the construction of power lines and advocate jointly for federal legislation that would help pave the way for what many expect will become a critical source of electricity for coastal communities.
In a joint statement last week, the three governors said offshore wind energy would help meet the region’s electricity needs while doing the least harm to the environment. They also highlighted its potential to create jobs. In Virginia, officials estimate, construction of wind farms offshore and on land would create more than 3,000 jobs over the next two decades.
“With our extensive coastline and highly educated workforce, Virginia is particularly well suited to explore offshore wind energy opportunities,” Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) said in the statement. “In these tough economic times, it’s more important than ever that we invest in renewable energy sources that will create jobs and provide cleaner, more affordable energy for our families and communities.”
Portugal’s EDP Renewables plans to invest up to $4 billion in U.S. wind farms through 2012 — projects that would generate up to 2 gigawatts and create 5,000 direct jobs, company officials said today.
“We have an ambitious target, and we have a strong commitment to economic development and environmental improvement in the U.S.,” said Antonio Mexia, chairman of EDP Renewables and CEO of its Lisbon-based parent company Energias de Portugal SA.
Key factors driving EDP’s investment decision are state renewable electricity portfolio targets and federal tax incentives, Mexia and other company officials said during a Washington news conference. To date, EDP has received $109 million via Section 1603 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which provides a cash payment in lieu of a tax credit totaling 30 percent of the qualifying cost of a project.
EDP, which owns Houston-based Horizon Wind Energy LLC, has invested all of its Section 1603 money into two U.S. wind farms. EDP plans to apply for additional stimulus grants, as well as utilize a federal production tax credit, as the company develops new wind farms, Mexia said.
Changing America’s car culture will save citizens money, says a new report that makes the financial case for smart growth policies.
Since the majority of transportation costs are privately borne, the potential to save money is commensurately high, the report says. It analyzed neighborhoods around Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento and San Diego and found that residents of the San Francisco Bay Area saved the most in transportation costs because of their good public transportation system.
Within the Bay Area, residents of the best-connected neighborhoods spent $7,200 less on transportation per year than the residents of the worst-served neighborhoods. In the region, individuals spend $34 billion on overall transportation per year, compared to $4.6 billion spent by public agencies. Of that, most spending is on private transportation — operating and owning vehicles — by a factor of 7-to-1.
Affordable transportation can also offset high housing costs, the report found. While San Francisco has high housing prices, its proximity to public transportation puts it in 11th place in the overall affordability rankings.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, public transportation is also good for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In the Bay Area, households in areas with good transportation and job prospects drive 11,000 fewer miles per year than households in areas with fewer jobs and transportation options.
LAST June in a fjord in southwestern Norway, a 213-foot-tall wind turbine did something large wind turbines normally don’t do: it headed out to sea.
Towed by tugboats, the newly built turbine, with three 139-foot rotor blades and a 2.3-megawatt generator atop the tower, which itself was bolted to a ballasted steel cylinder extending more than 300 feet below the waterline, made its way to a spot six miles off the coast. Once in position it was moored with cables to the seafloor, about 700 feet below.
The project, called Hywind and owned by Statoil, the giant oil and gas company based in Stavanger, Norway, is the world’s first full-scale floating wind turbine. After being hooked up to a transmission cable, it began supplying electricity to the Norwegian power grid on Sept. 21.
“We’ve been baby-sitting the turbine so far,” said Sjur Bratland, asset manager for the project. “The main point for us is not to produce as much power as possible.”
Rather, Mr. Bratland said, over the next two years Hywind will test the feasibility of what some people think may be the next big idea in alternative energy: generating power from the winds over the open ocean, far from land.
“Our real opportunity for ocean energy is deepwater wind,” said Habib J. Dagher, director of the Advanced Structures and Composites Center at the University of Maine, who with an $8 million grant from the federal Department of Energy is organizing a consortium of universities, companies, government agencies and nonprofit groups to develop floating wind turbines in the United States.
White House climate czar Carol Browner downplayed the idea that the absence of a domestic emissions law would hinder U.S. leverage in Copenhagen and said the U.S. could tout major accomplishments heading into next month’s international climate talks.
In wide-ranging remarks at a climate conference in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, she also said President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao made substantial progress in their Beijing discussions this week.
Browner, the senior White House energy and climate adviser, pointed to tens of billions of dollars in “clean energy” financing in the stimulus law, as well as House passage of broad energy and climate legislation. A slow-moving Senate bill has been put off until next year.
She also cited several steps the administration has taken using its existing power, such as EPA and Transportation Department work to create joint vehicle mileage and greenhouse gas standards, as well as Energy Department appliance efficiency standards.
“We think we are in very, very good standing that this president has clearly demonstrated incredible leadership,” she said at a conference hosted by The Economist.
Image Credit: Jetson Green.