Global News: China to Double Solar Capacity by Year End; Nigeria to Continue Pumping Oil Despite Damning UNEP Report

A worker walks past sets of solar panels on the rooftop of the Nanjing South Railway Station which is under construction in Nanjing, Jiangsu province March 23, 2011. REUTERS/Sean Yong/Files

A round-up of recent global climate and energy news. Please post other stories below.

China to double solar capacity by year end: report

China will double its solar capacity to around 2 gigawatts (GW) by the end of the year as the world’s largest solar-panel maker ramps up domestic installation, a local paper said on Saturday citing a government-linked think tank.

The solar feed-in tariff, the price of solar-generated electricity, could drop below 0.80 yuan (12.5 cents) for each kilowatt-hour (kWh) by 2015, which would be on par with conventional coal-fired power tariffs by that time, according to s report by the Energy Research Institute, led by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).

The report also said China was expected to produce 90,000 tonnes of polysilicon this year, representing 80 percent of its domestic demand.

China, the world’s top energy user and carbon emitter, is eager to speed up development of clean energy and reduce its dependence on traditional fossil fuels, especially coal.

To encourage the construction of more solar power plants, the NDRC has set unified benchmark grid feed-in power tariffs for solar projects for the first time ever earlier this month….

China had about 900 megawatts of solar power generating capacity at the end of 2010.

Pollution or No Pollution, Oil Production Goes on in Ogoni

Irrespective of a damning United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report which says it would take 30 years and $1 billion to clean up the mess in Ogoniland, the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) will soon restart production on the 30 Shell oil wells in the community.

A senior source at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) told THISDAY at the weekend that NPDC had not shelved its plan to commence production on the wells abandoned by Shell in the wake of the crisis that greeted the hanging of former President of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Ken Saro-Wiwa, and eight of his kinsmen by the then military administration.

He said the re-entry plan was at an advanced stage and the NPDC would ensure that various stakeholders were carried along in whatever decision that would be reached at the end of the day.

The Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs at the NNPC, Dr. Levi Ajuonuma, also confirmed in a telephone chat Sunday that the re-entry plan was on course.

He said NPDC would begin production from the oil wells after the necessary arrangements had been put in pace.

“The re-entry plan is in progress. We have not shelved the idea because of the UNEP report. The NPDC will take over the operatorship of those oil blocks, but with a different philosophy. The philosophy will be that of unity, oneness and respect for the host community,” Ajuonuma said, adding that the corporation would have to appeal to the Ogoni people that producing oil in their community would improve their lot….

UNEP recently indicted Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) in a report that showed that pollution from over 50 years of oil operations in the Niger Delta had caused serious environmental contamination and threat to human lives in Ogoniland, Rivers State.

The landmark report set out scientific evidence for the first time of devastating pollution in Ogoniland, part of the country’s main oil-producing Niger Delta region, where Shell operated. It said the pollution might require the world’s biggest ever clean-up, while detailing urgent health risks, especially badly contaminated drinking water. Shell faced criticism from UNEP, which said: “Control and maintenance of oil field infrastructure in Ogoniland has been and remains inadequate.”

Obama administration to launch Brazil energy partnership next week

A top Energy Department official will travel to Brazil next week to launch a high-level partnership aimed at developing the South American country’s oil-and-gas resources.

The administration could be wading into politically thorny territory with the partnership. Republicans have pounced on President Obama’s plans to work with Brazil on energy issues, arguing that the administration should be spending more time developing U.S. oil resources.

Obama announced his intentions to launch the partnership in May while visiting Brazil. He said at the time that he hopes to invest in Brazil’s oil-and-gas resources because the country is more stable than the Middle East and has vast fossil fuel reserves.

“We want to work with you. We want to help with technology and support to develop these oil reserves safely, and when you’re ready to start selling, we want to be one of your best customers,” Obama told a group of Brazilian business leaders in May

Japan Puts Nuclear Regulation in the Hands of Environment Ministry

At a time when several high profile conservative politicians in the U.S. including presidential hopefuls Michelle Bachmann and Newt Gingrich are calling for the elimination of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Japanese Government is looking to do the complete opposite and expand the authority of the Japanese Environment Ministry to include nuclear power regulation.

After being criticized for being too cozy with Japanese utility companies in the wake of the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, nuclear regulators in Japan will soon operate as part of the Japanese Environment Ministry.

Government officials hope to place the new agency under the Ministry of the Environment as early as August 15 and have the new agency up and running by April, reports.

The decision is being called a significant victory for Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who has been pushing hard for greater separation between the nuclear industry and the powerful Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), the agency most recently responsible for regulating the nuclear industry via their control of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA). Kan is expected to step down as prime minister after he passes two major pieces of legislation — one outlining a new renewable energy push and the other dealing with the deficit.

Plan for Nigeria climate change commission sparks debate – papers

A Nigerian environmental group has urged the country’s president, GoodLuck Jonathan, not to sign into law a bill creating a climate change commission in the country, saying this would steer focus away from other environmental issues, the Daily Trust newspaper reported on Friday.

Nigeria’s parliament (Senate and National Assembly) has passed a bill to establish a national climate change commission responsible to manage the effect of global warming, but several months on the president is yet to sign the bill into law.

“What we should do as a country is to strengthen our environmental management institutions instead of creating a commission because all the funds coming in on environmental protection would go to that commission and little would be available to solve other environmental problems,” the Daily Trust quoted Emmanuel Ating, president of the Environmental Management Association of Nigeria, as saying.

“It would be a fundamental error for President Goodluck Jonathan to sign the bill into law, he will even be destroying the environment further because that would make the minister of environment subordinate to that commission and nothing should make issues of environment secondary,” Ating added.

However, other environmental groups have criticized the president for refusing to sign the law.

China says will shut plant as thousands protest

Authorities in northeastern China on Sunday ordered a petrochemical plant to be shut down immediately after thousands of people demonstrated, demanding the relocation of the factory at the centre of a toxic spill scare, state media said.

Demonstrators in the port city of Dalian, in Liaoning province, faced down a wall of police in riot gear in front of the municipal government office. Minor scuffles broke out, although there was no report of injuries among the 12,000 protesters, state news agency Xinhua said.

The authorities also pledged to relocate the Fujia Chemical Plant, Xinhua said, citing a statement from the municipal committee of the Communist Party and the government. The report did not say where the plant is likely to move to.

State media said last Monday that residents in Dalian were forced to flee when a storm battering the northeast Chinese coast whipped up waves that burst through a dyke protecting the Fujia plant, which makes paraxylene (PX), a toxic petrochemical used in polyester.

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