The U.S. will supplant Spain as the biggest market for solar-thermal power plants as the world’s largest economy boosts support for renewable energy, according to Solar Millennium AG.
The U.S. will be the company’s main focus “for the next five years,” Solar Millennium board member Christian Beltle said in an interview in Valencia, Spain. Over the longer term, “North Africa is very interesting for Africa and for Europe.”
Southern California, Nevada and Arizona have some of the highest solar radiation in the world, reaching levels as high as 9 kilowatt hours for each square meter per day compared with about 3 kilowatt hours in New York, according to U.S. Energy Department figures. Solar power in the U.S. is supported with tax credits and rebates in some states.
Executives and policy makers from Europe and North Africa are meeting in Valencia to discuss plans to use the solar energy generated in the Sahara desert to help power the European economy. Abengoa Solar, a Spanish developer, will commission the first North Africa solar-thermal plants later this year, Chief Executive Officer Santiago Seage said yesterday.
Solar-thermal plants, which drive steam-powered turbines by concentrating the sun’s heat with curved mirrors, are most efficient in the sunniest parts of the world, such as the Sahara in Africa and the U.S. Southwest, the International Energy Agency said yesterday in a report.
Power from solar-thermal equipment may provide about 10 percent of the world’s electric needs by 2050 given appropriate support from governments, the IEA said. It will be able to compete with the price of power produced from more polluting fossil fuels at peak times by 2020, the agency said.
For background, see Concentrated solar thermal power Solar Baseload “” a core climate solution.
The picture above is Solar Millennium‘s “Andasol 1, the first parabolic trough power plant in Europe generating electricity since December 2008…. In the immediate vicinity, Andasol 2 has commenced its testing phase.“
Solar panels could produce electricity at the same price as coal- and natural gas-burning power plants by the end of this decade if countries direct resources at this rapidly advancing corner of the energy industry, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency.
IEA, composed mostly of European nations and the United States, found in twin studies released yesterday that solar photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar power (CSP) together could account for about 22 percent of global electricity production by 2050 under the right conditions….
In the report, IEA says it expects concentrated solar power to become competitive for peak and mid-peak loads by 2020 in the sunniest places. This means it could start competing with natural gas in the United States, where gas is deployed by power generators to satisfy peak electricity demand.
Natural gas has become a thorn in the side of renewable energy companies. Gas prices have remained low for the past 18 months, reflecting increased onshore gas supply, and it is grabbing more power generation away from both coal and, to some lesser degree, wind and solar.
Thermal storage will help speed development of CSP, which can produce power throughout the day and could, by 2030, meet the substantial needs of baseload power in the United States, Europe, China and India.
“North America will be the largest producer of CSP electricity, followed by North Africa and India,” says the report. “North Africa would most likely export about half its production to Europe, the second largest consumer.”
With dead dolphins appearing on the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico, federal officials announced yesterday new plans to step up testing of marine life for petroleum compounds and the chemical dispersants being used to fight the oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill.
The testing is intended to determine which areas should be closed to fishing and whether seafood from the Gulf remains safe for human consumption. More than 372,000 gallons of dispersants have been applied at the site of the spill and from airplanes flying over the Gulf, though the effectiveness and safety of the chemicals remains unknown.
Oil dispersed by the chemicals is still toxic to wildlife, particularly young fish, crabs and shrimp, which typically mature in the Gulf at this time of year.
“BP doesn’t want pictures of oil hitting the surface. Well, that’s all fine, but where is the oil going underwater after they use dispersants?” asked Alan Levine, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. “People are going to ask if Gulf Coast seafood is safe. If the answer for us is ‘No,’ that’s a $3 billion industry wiped out. Our concern, we don’t want a situation where the cure is worse than the disease” (Ben Raines, Mobile Press-Register, May 12).
Concern about the impact of oil and dispersants on wildlife has been stoked by the recent appearance of dead animals, including dolphins, on beaches in the Gulf.
Officials are examining whether the oil spill was involved in the death of six dolphins that have been found dead in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama since May 2. Dolphins sometimes wash up onshore after swimming to calve in shallow waters, said Blair Mase of the National Marine Fisheries Service, and none of the carcasses was obviously affected by the oil.
Dolphins were seen swimming and frolicking in oily waters near the Louisiana coastline last week
Pressure from environmental organisations on the private sector has given a considerable boost to corporate social responsibility, says Dutch researcher Mari«tte van Huijstee. As a result of this, companies are now anticipating the criticism of environmental organisations.
Environmental organisations are increasingly demanding that companies make their products and production methods more people and environmentally friendly. For the companies under fire, contact with these environmental organisations has become a standard part of corporate social responsibility. For many well-known multinationals, the interaction has become a necessity, even if only to safeguard their own reputation, says Mari«tte van Huijstee. She investigated the interaction between non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and companies. Some contacts result in partnerships whereas others remain hostile.
Growing number of partnerships
The number of companies and organisations entering into partnerships has increased sharply over the past 10 years. For example, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is invited to consult and enter into partnerships with an increasingly diverse group of companies. Rabobank routinely and proactively involves various NGOs in the development of its corporate social responsibility policy. Moreover, the partnerships are increasingly extending to cover all companies involved in the production of goods and services from the start to the end of the chain. Van Huijstee has introduced the term ‘private responsibility arrangements’ to describe the increasingly standardised cooperation between companies and moderate NGOs.
The United Kingdom’s new center-right coalition government has an ambitious agenda to cut carbon emissions, develop a more environmentally conscious economy and set new emissions standards for power plants. The two parties agreed to disagree on a potentially divisive issue: new nuclear electricity generation.
The deal between the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats that forced the Labour Party out of power Tuesday also promises a smart electricity grid, more renewables, creation of a green investment bank, more high-speed rail, a tax on flights and no new runways at London’s three main airports — Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.
“It is good news that this new coalition government will reinforce the U.K.’s bold international leadership on climate change,” said Mark Kenber of the Climate Group, whose goal is to help businesses and governments switch to a low-carbon economy.
Underscoring the green hue of the new government — the first formal coalition in more than 70 years — new Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron handed the top position at the Department of Energy and Climate Change to Liberal Democrat lawmaker Chris Huhne as one of five Cabinet seats given to the left-leaning junior coalition party.
Before becoming the Liberal Democrats’ spokesman on home affairs in 2007, Huhne was the minor opposition party’s spokesman on environmental issues in a party that has always espoused greener policies that the other two main parties.
“We welcome the appointment of Chris Huhne as the new secretary of state for energy and climate change. He has an outstanding track record in this field, and we look forward to working with him on developing the policy frameworks needed to deliver low-carbon investment at the scale and speed necessary,” said Ben Caldecott of investment bank Climate Change Capital.
Donor countries on Wednesday pledged a record $4.25 billion over the next four years for the Global Environment Facility, the world’s largest public green fund that helps developing countries tackle climate change.
The commitments by 30 donor countries during a session in Paris on Wednesday is a 52 percent increase in new resources for the facility.
GEF Chief Executive Monique Barbut said the replenishment of funds is the first “tangible confirmation of financial commitments” made during international climate talks in Copenhagen in December.
In Copenhagen, negotiators from industrialized and emerging nations sought to agree on the basic terms of a new global climate agreement in the run-up to the next summit in Cancun, Mexico in December.
Part of the agreement was aimed at providing financing to developing countries to help them adapt to climate changes. Some of those funds will be directed through the GEF into projects implemented by U.N. agencies and development institutions like the World Bank.
Barbut said about $1.35 billion of the new funds committed on Wednesday would be directed at tackling climate change.
The rest will be used to better manage and expand protected and endangered areas, improve the management of trans-boundary water systems, reduce pollutants in land and water, and expanding and protecting the world’s forests.
The new funds are a “testimony to the international donor community’s commitment to the environmental agenda,” said Axel van Trotsenburg, the vice president for concessional finance and global partnerships at the World Bank.
British climate change expert Nicholas Stern, speaking at the International Monetary Fund, called on world leaders to reach a political agreement on climate change at Cancun in order to lay the foundation for an international treaty in 2011.
He said the agreement should set out how $30 billion in climate financing will be provided to developing nations over the next three years to adapt to climate change.
It should also indicate how this initial support will be increased to $100 billion a year by 2020, in particular by introducing new and innovative sources of funding.
The GEF has been replenished four times since its inception in 1991 starting with $2.02 billion in 1994, $2.75 billion in 1998, $2.92 billion in 2002 and $3.13 billion in 2006.
To date, the facility has provided $8.7 billion in grants for more than 2,400 environmental projects in over 165 developing countries and emerging economies
The United States’ future as a global economic power depends on what it does to fight global warming and it is lagging behind other countries like China, Europe’s climate chief said on Wednesday.
European Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard told Reuters it was a positive step for the United States to have “finally” unveiled legislation to combat climate change on Wednesday.
“This is one of the crucial battlefields over who is going to be the economic leaders of our century,” Hedegaard said of the fight against global warming.
Democratic Senator John Kerry and independent Senator Joseph Lieberman presented a long-awaited climate bill on Wednesday, which aims to cut planet-warming emissions by a 17 percent in the next decade.
While President Barack Obama supports the legislation, it has slim chances of passing unless Kerry and Lieberman win over a group of moderate Democrats and Republicans.
“It’s not something an ordinary European citizen would say ‘Wow, that’s really ambitious,’” Hedegaard said. “On the other hand, we know that the United States has been among the later starters, so the important thing now is to get started.”
The 27-nation European Union has long claimed to be a world leader in the fight against climate change.
While the United States and China bicker in negotiations for a new global deal to combat climate change, Hedegaard said Beijing was making great strides against global warming.