Energy and Global Warming News for March 22: China Huaneng aims to produce 35% of power from clean energy; UK to launch $3 billion green investment bank

UK to launch $3 billion green investment bank

The Labour government will unveil a 2 billion pound ($3 billion) “green” investment bank in Wednesday’s budget to help Britain’s transformation to a low carbon economy, a government source said on Sunday.

Finance minister Alistair Darling has said there will be no pre-election giveaways in the budget, with polling day expected on May 6, but he wants more investment to encourage future sources of economic growth after an 18-month recession.

The green bank, designed to help finance projects such as railways, offshore wind power generation and eco-friendly waste management, will be half-funded from government asset sales with the remaining one billion pounds coming from the private sector.

“The high risk profile of these investments, which are in new and unproven technologies means an initial government investment is needed to draw in investors,” the source said.

“By providing an initial investment of government capital it will reduce the risk profile for investors and increase the incentive for the private sector to enter the market at the scale and pace needed.”

It is estimated that Britain needs well over 150 billion pounds to modernize its energy mix. It also has to meet climate change targets — cutting greenhouse gas emissions by a third and sourcing 15 percent of its energy from renewables by 2020.

The government could sell the rail franchise from London to the tunnel linking Britain to mainland Europe, the student loan book, a toll road crossing near London or betting company, the Tote, to finance the investment bank, the source said.

China Huaneng Aims to Produce 35% of Power From Clean Energy

China Huaneng Group, the nation’s biggest power generator, targets a capacity to produce about 35 percent of its electricity from clean energy by 2020 as the country seeks to cut pollution, President Cao Peixi said.

The parent company of Hong Kong-listed Huaneng Power International Inc. will increase its development of alternative energy including solar, wind, hydro and nuclear, Cao said at a forum in Beijing today, according to a Web cast carried on the Web site of the official People’s Daily.

China Huaneng plans to reduce coal consumption per kilowatt-hour of electricity by about 10 percent to 304 grams by 2020, Cao said. The company plans to complete the construction of the country’s first power plant that converts coal into cleaner-burning gas before the end of next year, Cao said.

The pilot 250-megawatt plant will be in the northern port city of Tianjin.

Chevron plans solar panel installation

The sloping panels will be used to power the pumps and the pipelines operated at Chevron’s Kern River oil field facility, the paper said.

The panels represent latest photovoltaic technologies from seven companies that Chevron is looking at as possible candidates to power its operations worldwide, the paper said.

Photovoltaic technology involves converting sunlight into electricity.

Excess power will be re-routed to the local Pacific Gas & Electric Co (PCG_pa.A) utility grid under a metering system that gives Chevron credit for the excess energy, the paper said.

Mass. gov supporting renewable energy initiatives

In his first year in office, Gov. Deval Patrick placed a series of high-stakes bets on the state’s economic future, from encouraging the development of a renewable energy industry to making a pitch for three destination resort casinos.

While he’s taken a wait-and-see approach to the casinos after being shot down by lawmakers in 2008, Patrick is forging ahead on the green energy front, trumpeting successes as he heads into a tough election season.

At the same time, his administration is guarding against long-term criticism of Patrick’s support of projects like Cape Wind and the solar panel manufacturer Evergreen Solar “” two of the state’s marquee renewable energy ventures.

Professor brings clean power to African villages: From Cambridge, he trades stoves for solar panels

Where nightfall once meant only darkness in the tiny Tanzanian island of Tumbatu, now there are 200 points of light.

And Majuba Mohammed, a high school teacher, is the proud owner of one of them. He is talking excitedly by cellphone about the tiny solar panel on his roof that now charges that phone, and powers the lamp that lets his family read indoors at night.

“The project is very beautiful and helpful, and it goes well,” says Mohammed. Nearly 200 solar panels like his have been installed on roofs in the past two years in the two villages on Tumbatu, a speck of an islet a mile off the coast of the main Zanzibar island in Tanzania.

These solar panels are the product of a second career’s worth of vision and sweat by Robert Lange, a retired Brandeis University physics professor who helps people put science to use in one of the poorest countries in southern Africa. From a desk in his Cambridge apartment, Lange runs a minuscule nonprofit that literally trades the dark smoke of a wood stove for the clean power of sunlight.

Lange doesn’t give these panels away. He swaps them: Villages need to build and install four new simple but fuel-efficient cooking stoves to earn each solar unit. The premise is that households are cutting their carbon emissions by using stoves that consume one-third less wood “” and thus earn a solar installation. The units charge a small motorbike battery, which in turn can power a few low-power devices.

“We’re trying to set up an informal carbon credit market,” Lange said. “We’re saying four stoves is worth about $130 in reduced emissions over eight or 10 years, and for 130 bucks we can buy and import a household-scale solar energy system, to give you lights, charge your cellphone, and run a radio.”

The bottom line is that villagers get a few watts of electric power, saving them costly kerosene and wood, and giving them several more hours of nighttime light for reading and working. And the vented brick stoves save trees that would have gone into smoky indoor cooking fires.

Many nonprofit groups are working to improve the efficiency of wood-burning stoves, and the use of solar power in Africa has grown fitfully. What’s especially innovative here is combining the two, with the goal of crafting an informal carbon trading market like the one envisioned globally to cut emissions and use more green energy.

Mohammed, who says he is about 50, is coordinating the solar project in his Zanzibar community. “The villagers are now using very, very little amounts of kerosene,” he said.

Enviros, growers agree on farmland reuse for solar

Cash-strapped farmers in California’s agricultural heartland and environmentalists at odds over water rights and wildlife protections finally agree on something: that thousands of acres of cracked, salty farmland is the perfect site for a sprawling utility-scale solar farm.

The 47 square-miles of land proposed for the Westlands Solar Park in remote Kings and Fresno counties is just one of dozens of unfinished solar projects in California, but renewable energy analysts say it is a rare one that enjoys the broad support of environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, powerful agriculture interests and state government.

Thousands of solar panels would be located on and near the salty-white, fallowed farm land, most of which is owned by the Westlands Water District, the largest such district in the country comprised of 600,000 acres of San Joaquin Valley farmland.

Once completed, the first chunk of solar proposed for the site – the total size of which is roughly that of San Francisco – could generate up to 1 gigawatt of power, or enough to energize up to one million homes.

“I think a better fit (for the land) is farming, but we have what we have and you go from there,” Westlands spokesman Sarah Woolf said.

The embrace of solar power as a new cash crop comes at a time when the district is struggling with mounting debt.

Energy security worry to drive India’s low-CO2 plan

Worries over energy security will drive India’s goal to slow the growth of its carbon emissions, the head of a government panel tasked with developing the country’s low-carbon strategy said on Monday.

Reserves of fossil fuels such as coal were fast running out, making it imperative for India to improve efficiency and accelerate renewable energy sources to keep the economy growing at a projected 8 to 9 per cent annually, Kirit Parikh said.

India, the world’s fourth-largest carbon emitter, is under pressure to cut pollution in the fight against climate change. While per-capita emissions are still low, demand for electricity and fossil fuels is increasing as the middle class clamours for more cars, TVs and better housing.

Climate change uncertainty is no reason for inaction since we can’t rule out risk

Climate change is sometimes presented in simple black and white terms. You either believe it or you don’t. Perhaps after the recent controversies over email leaks and melting Himalayan glaciers, some may have decided to change camp.

But this is a false dichotomy. Indeed the notion of “belief” plays no role at all in science, whether about climate change or anything else. The Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of science, was founded 350 years ago on this very basis, with the motto Nullius in verba, or “take nobody’s word for it”. The founders took nothing for granted and chose to investigate observations and search for the conclusions that best fit them. The notion that these conclusions can never be considered certain and immutable, underpinned both their actions and those that came after them. As James Gleick wrote about the great 20th century theoretical physicist Richard Feynman; he believed in the primacy of doubt, not as a blemish on our ability to know, but as the essence of knowing.

Yucca fight not over: Nuclear industry’s supporters not yet ready to concede defeat of waste dump

This month there was plenty of relief in Nevada when the U.S. Energy Department formally withdrew its application to build a high-level nuclear waste dump just 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. In doing so, President Barack Obama fulfilled a campaign pledge that he would do what he could to stop the Yucca Mountain project if elected to the White House.

The Democratic president’s move was a dramatic reversal of the nuclear-waste policy of President George W. Bush, a Republican who was hellbent on burying 77,000 tons of high-level nuclear waste in Nevada, a decision meant to curry favor with the influential nuclear power industry.

3 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for March 22: China Huaneng aims to produce 35% of power from clean energy; UK to launch $3 billion green investment bank

  1. Zan says:

    Great reporting. Thanks!

  2. David B. Benson says:

    Joesph Romm of the Center for American Progress and editor of the influential blog, Climate Progress, said …

    TNYT Business section article on turning CO2 to cement.

    Well, even influential now. Congraduations!

  3. riverat says:

    The sloping panels will be used to power the pumps and the pipelines operated at Chevron’s Kern River oil field facility…

    I guess it helps but it strikes me as ironic using solar cells to power the pumps on an oil field.