The Efficiency Fix For Climate Change by Joe Hogan, CEO of ABB.
Today, like every other day the past few years, mankind will release more than 116 million metric tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Emissions are rising faster now than in any other decade, in spite of our concerns about climate change and without new policies our daily emissions will reach 140 million metric tons by 2020.
As governments struggle to finalize a new, globally acceptable climate treaty, the difficulties are clear.
Yet there are still grounds for optimism, mainly because we already have solutions we can use to build a low-carbon energy supply.
As technological advances have made wind and solar power increasingly competitive, they have become the fastest growing segment of the energy market. There is great interest in offshore wind power, in the Desertec project that involves tapping solar power generated in the Sahara desert, and in similar initiatives in the Gobi and Mojave deserts. This is an encouraging sign that we are moving toward large-scale renewable power production.
But if we’re serious about developing low-carbon power sources, we also need to develop a power system that can deliver them: a flexible and efficient smart grid that will effectively balance our energy consumption with the availability of wind and solar power. The technology is available now, but it needs to be implemented.
We also need to put renewables into perspective. Our only major source of renewable power today is hydro, which supplies 19% of the world’s electricity–less than 3% comes from other renewable sources. Clearly they should be just one part of our overall strategy to combat climate change.
Surprisingly, our best prospect of reducing emissions is one that gets little attention: energy efficiency. Projections by the International Energy Agency show that using energy more efficiently has a greater potential to curb carbon dioxide emissions over the next 20 years than all the other options put together.
Yet out of $112 billion invested in clean energy around the world in 2008, just $1.8 billion was spent on improving energy efficiency, according to a study by the U.N. Environment Programme and New Energy Finance.
The reluctance to invest in energy efficiency is surprising. Investments can usually be recouped through lower energy costs in less than two years and businesses normally leap at such rapid returns. There is clearly something else going on.
A major obstacle is a lack of knowledge about energy-efficient equipment in private households, companies and public authorities, which is further complicated by the variety of available options….
The U.S. began a test program to speed patent reviews for clean-energy technologies so they can be brought to market faster.
The program, announced today by Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, would initially reduce by 12 months the processing time of 3,000 applications for inventions intended to improve the environment and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. The current processing time for such applications is 40 months.
Locke, at a press conference today, said he would like to see the “final determination, yes or no,” ultimately reduced to a year.
Reducing the processing time will allow the U.S. to compete more effectively against countries such as China and India in the development of technologies that cut emissions of greenhouse gases tied to climate change, Locke said. Talks began today in Copenhagen to negotiate measures aimed at reducing global warming.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu, appearing with Locke, announced $100 million in economic stimulus spending to advance inventions in clean fuels, electricity storage and carbon capture and storage.
A Senate Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee will consider nine energy and climate policy bills this week, covering topics from engineering education and wind energy research to carbon capture technology development incentives and biofuels for small engines.
Many of the bills would authorize research spending at the Energy Department, and DOE Undersecretary Kristina Johnson will testify before the Energy Subcommittee. Five of the bills have already passed the House this year.
Among the bills up for discussion is a measure (H.R. 3585 (pdf)) that would guide a DOE solar energy research program and would authorize more than $2 billion for solar research and development projects.
Under the legislation, DOE would appoint a team of experts to develop a long-term solar energy research plan for its transition to commercial use. The panel of experts would direct DOE on a portion of the authorized spending for fiscal 2011-2015.
“The United States has some of the best solar resources in the world, and they aren’t unique to the Southwest,” Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), the bill’s sponsor, said on the House floor in October when the bill passed 310-106. “If our policies and innovation models don’t change, the U.S. is going to transition from importing foreign oil to importing foreign [solar] panels.”
The Senate panel will also consider H.R. 2729 (pdf), a bill that would formally authorize and fund seven National Environmental Research Parks at DOE laboratories. It would provide $5 million a year to each park through 2014, establish a research park coordinator and direct DOE’s Office of Science to lead the program.
“These parks have been providing environmental scientists with unique, undisturbed environments for conducting research since they were first established in the early 1970s,” Rep. Ben Luj¡n (D-N.M.), who introduced the bill, said during a House Science and Technology subcommittee hearing this summer. “[My bill] will provide core funding and an organizational structure to support the important works of these parks” E&E Daily, June 10).
That bill passed in the House 330-96 in July.
H.R. 3165 (pdf) would authorize $200 million in annual spending over five years for DOE’s wind energy research program to focus on several technology areas, including materials and design of turbine blades, offshore applications, and improvement of performance and reliability. It would also authorize a wind energy demonstration program in collaboration with industry. That measure passed by voice vote in the House in September.
Legislation that would authorize nearly $3 billion in DOE spending for advanced vehicle technologies, such as electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cells, medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicles, and non-road equipment is also up for discussion in the subcommittee. H.R. 3246 (pdf) would appoint a full-time DOE director to coordinate research activities at the agency and would expand efforts to develop fuel-efficient commercial truck technologies. The bill passed 312-114 in the House in September.
Also up for consideration is H.R. 957 (pdf)), which would support the training of engineers and architects in energy efficient building design. It would authorize DOE to fund National Science Foundation grants for graduate-level multidisciplinary research programs in energy efficiency. The grants would be geared toward laboratory activities, training courses or design projects. The House passed the bill, 411-6, in April.
The subcommittee will consider four original Senate bills, including S. 2744 (pdf), which would establish monetary prizes to researchers who develop ways to suck carbon dioxide directly from the air. The measure is intended to encourage technology development.
The legislation comes as scientists and engineers are scaling up methods to capture CO2 from industrial sources like coal-fired power plants. The bill from Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) would promote development of additional technologies to scrub the gases directly from the air or to take them from other sources, like oil refineries, that have lower concentrations than power plants and factories.
“If we could capture carbon dioxide emitted by low-concentration sources, or even the atmosphere, it would be a major step toward a cleaner energy future,” Bingaman said last month. “A federal prize to inspire inventive solutions to this technical challenge could help us get there quicker” (E&ENews PM, Nov. 12).
The subcommittee will take up two bills introduced by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), including S. 737 (pdf) that would expand current federal ethanol research and development efforts to include research into making biofuels compatible for use in small, non-road engines, like chainsaws and handheld trimmers.
DOE tests have shown that increased ethanol content in smaller engines can affect performance, is more corrosive and less efficient than traditional gasoline blends.
S. 2773 (pdf), also from Collins, would require DOE to support research and development of offshore wind technologies at universities and other facilities to the tune of $50 million a year over 10 years.
The spending would be geared toward design, demonstration and deployment of advanced turbine foundations; full-scale testing of offshore wind components and systems; assessments of U.S. offshore wind resources, environmental impacts and benefits; and development of advanced blade manufacturing, among other activities.
The subcommittee will also consider S. 1617 (pdf), introduced by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), that would provide federal grants to states that set up loan funds to help small and mid-sized manufacturers improve energy efficiency and produce clean energy technology.
On a day when global leaders have assembled in Copenhagen to address climate change — to ask the citizens and industries of every nation to share in the responsibility of reducing carbon emissions — Mayor Bloomberg is backing away from a key component of a plan that would have reduced greenhouse gas emissions from the city’s buildings.
The New York Times reported that Mayor Bloomberg is changing course because of intense opposition from building owners in the city. It seems that owners, whose buildings are responsible for 80 percent of citywide carbon emissions, do not feel that they should have to contribute to the global effort to avert a climate catastrophe.
“It’s another unfunded mandate, and this is just not the time for it,” said Stuart Saft, chairman of the Council of New York Cooperatives and Condominiums.
Earlier this year, Mayor Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced a wide-reaching package of legislation that would have been the most ambitious effort of any state or local government in the U.S. to retrofit older buildings to be more energy efficient. While many cities across the U.S. regulate the energy efficiency of new buildings, New York was targeting emissions from its relatively old building stock. Forty-three percent of the city’s buildings were constructed before 1939, and significant energy savings — $750 million dollars a year — could be realized city-wide if these buildings were retrofitted with the newest energy efficient windows, boilers, appliances, and lighting fixtures.
The package of legislation, to be voted on this week, still contains important provisions that will result in a greener city. However, it is disappointing that the most ambitious proposal, and the proposal that would likely create the most impact, will be abandoned. The legislation will still require building owners to undergo energy audits. These audits will identify which types of improvements will reap the most savings. The legislation originally included a provision that would require building owners to make any improvements that would pay for themselves in five years through lower energy bills. This is the piece of legislation that would have had the most impact and created the most green jobs. With the opposition of building owners, this provision has been abandoned.
As a result, there is no guarantee that building owners will do what is ultimately in their best interest. It seems that even with energy costs projected to continue rising, building owners do not want to make the types of investments that will lead to lower energy costs in the future.
The chairman of the Council of New York Cooperatives and Condominiums summed up building owners’ short-sightedness: ‘”In this climate? Zero chance,” Mr. Saft said. “No one wants to raise the operating costs of the building.”‘
The city could gain the support of building owners if it can lower the cost of the initial investment, and one way of doing this is to lower the cost of borrowing. Berkeley, California has pioneered a new approach to financing energy efficiency improvements. By using the city’s authority to issue bonds, Berkeley has lowered the cost of borrowing for property owners who undergo green retrofits or install solar power panels, making these improvements much more attractive to property owners.
Another issue is the fact that many building owners will not enjoy all of the cost savings associated with retrofitting their building. These savings will be enjoyed by both the tenants, who will see lower electricity bills, and the owners, who will realize lower heating bills. However, only the owner will need to make the initial investment.
One way of addressing this concern is to come up with a city-wide certification system for green apartment units or office space. If an apartment unit is rated as meeting energy efficiency requirements, it will make the apartment unit more marketable to prospective tenants. These tenants will learn how much they can expect to pay per month in electricity and compare yearly energy costs with other, less efficient apartments.
However, in the end, if long-term sustainability is really a priority for New York City elected officials, and for city residents, what will likely be required is regulation. With an issue like climate change, where short-term costs are necessary for long-term gain, regulation is often the only effective means to enact real change. This is why President Obama is traveling to Copenhagen to call for global regulation of carbon emissions. With New York’s status as a global city, it is vital that our elected officials act like global leaders and make the tough choices that will lead to a sustainable future.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declared carbon dioxide a health hazard today, paving the way for new regulation of emissions from sources such as power plants, factories, cars and trucks.
The decision lets the agency develop rules to govern heat- trapping pollution that many scientists say may lead to irreversible climate shifts. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in Washington that the decision is “overwhelmingly” supported by science.
The move, on the opening day of an international climate summit in Copenhagen, arms President Barack Obama with new regulatory powers that could help forge consensus in efforts to curb global warming. Obama also gains standing when asking other nations to make commitments for a new global climate treaty, said Kevin Book, a Washington-based managing director for analysis firm ClearView Energy Partners LLC.
“It’s exactly what you would want to have in your bag on the way to Copenhagen,” Book said in an interview today. “You can’t go and argue for other nations to make changes if you haven’t made any yourself.”
Obama plans to visit Copenhagen at the close of the talks on Dec. 18, when other world leaders will be there, rather than this week as originally planned.
The EPA decision puts the U.S. on a path to finding “practical” solutions to climate change and giving businesses and investors certainty in investments geared toward clean- energy technology, Jackson said. The rules won’t burden small businesses, Jackson said.
“It also means that we arrive at the climate talks in Copenhagen with a clear demonstration of our commitment to facing this global challenge,” Jackson said.
The Washington-based America Petroleum Institute, which represents oil companies, said today the EPA rules will be “inefficient and excessively costly.” The National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, also based in Washington, said the proposed new rules are based on “selective science.”
“The implications of today’s action by EPA are far- reaching,” Charles Drevna, president of the refiners group, said in a statement. “This is yet another example of federal policy makers failing to consider the long-term consequences of a regulatory action.”
The first regulations under today’s finding will be made final in March and cover emissions from cars and trucks beginning with model year 2012, said David Doniger, policy director for the climate center of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group based in New York. Automakers signed on to that plan, announced in May.
Starting “next spring,” stationary pollution sources such as factories and power plants must begin using the best available emissions control technology when they build new facilities or expand existing ones, Jackson said. The agency has said it would regulate only facilities that produce 25,000 tons of CO2 a year or more.
Jackson dismissed claims by skeptics of man’s contribution to global warming that recently disclosed private e-mails among scientists show a conspiracy to manipulate findings about climate change. Phil Jones, a professor and director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, where the e-mails were stored on a computer, stepped aside temporarily last week pending a review.
“There is nothing in the hacked e-mails that undermines the science upon which this decision is based,” Jackson said. “We know that skeptics have and will continue to sow doubt about the science.”
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs announced on Dec. 4 that Obama will show up for the conclusion of the talks in Copenhagen, when about 100 heads of government are going, and help guide decisions. Earlier Obama had planned to stop by on Dec. 9. “There is progress toward a meaningful Copenhagen accord,” Gibbs said.
The U.S., the world’s second-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, is in the spotlight at the talks in part because lawmakers haven’t approved legislation to set a mandatory limit on carbon-dioxide gas that many scientists say could lead to dangerous climate shifts if left unchecked.
“To have this come out now is another concrete sign that the Obama administration is joining the fight on global warming,” Doniger said of EPA rules.
Rajendra Pachauri, the top United Nations climate-change scientist, said the panel he heads is “transparent and objective,” dismissing allegations by global- warming skeptics that UN data were manipulated.
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded in 2007 that global warming is “unequivocal” and rising human greenhouse-gas emissions were “very likely” the main cause.
E-mails stolen from computer servers of the University of East Anglia in England and posted worldwide on blogs show climate researchers discussed keeping some scientific papers out of the IPCC’s report, which has formed the basis for two years of UN-led climate-treaty talks among 192 nations.
The university has said the e-mails were taken out of context and that allegations about manipulation are unfounded.
Speaking today during the opening session of the global summit in Copenhagen that aims to devise a deal to fight climate change, Pachauri said he had confidence in his panel’s work.
The IPCC’s report is “based on measurements made by many independent institutions worldwide that demonstrate significant changes on land, in the atmosphere, the oceans and in the ice- covered areas of the earth,” he said. The study was subject to “extensive and repeated review by experts as well as governments,” with 2,500 expert reviewers, Pachauri said.
Skeptics of man’s contribution to global warming, including former Senate Environment and Public Works Committee staff member Marc Morano, have cited the e-mails as evidence of a conspiracy to manipulate findings about climate change. U.S. Senator James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, has called for hearings to determine if taxpayer-funded research was altered.
In one of the e-mails, Phil Jones, professor of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, talks about working to keep some scientific papers out of consideration for inclusion in the IPCC report, “even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is.” Jones has since stepped down from his role pending the outcome of an investigation.
“The internal consistency from the multiple lines of evidence strongly supports the work of the scientific community, including those individuals singled out in these e-mail exchanges,” Pachauri, 69, said.
The IPCC assessment process “is designed to ensure consideration of all relevant scientific information from established journals with robust peer-review processes,” Pachauri said. “There is full opportunity for experts in the field to draw attention to any piece of published literature.”
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said on Monday that to reach a new deal to combat climate change, global warming needs to be sold as an economic opportunity not “a dose of castor oil you have to swallow.”
Clinton, who as president supported the U.N. Kyoto Protocol that curbs greenhouse gas emissions until 2012, told Reuters there was a danger that momentum to tackle climate change would be lost if a deal replacing Kyoto is not agreed in Copenhagen.
Negotiations between 190 countries on a new deal to fight climate change beyond 2012 began in Copenhagen on Monday. Clinton’s successor, President George W. Bush, refused to sign the Kyoto accord.
“I am worried about (the talks in) Copenhagen, but we are going to be forced by circumstances to do what we need to do,” said Clinton, who since leaving office in 2001 has fought global warming through his Clinton Climate Initiative.
“We can’t know with any precision when the worst bad things will happen and in that environment when you are insecure about the present it’s easy to kick the can down the road. That’s the real danger,” he said.
Clinton said that out of the 44 rich countries committed to emissions cuts under Kyoto, only four were so far expected to meet their targets by 2012 — Britain, Sweden, Germany and Denmark.
But he said that until the financial crisis those countries were outperforming other wealthy nations in job and business creation and had not experienced income inequality increases because they chose to pursue a sustainable energy future.
“I just hope that the people in Copenhagen won’t lose sight of the fact that there are economic opportunities out there,” Clinton said. “This is being sold as a dose of castor oil you have to swallow and it’s just not true.”