Other important stories: China Urges End to Climate Talk Deadlock; Cleantech Venture Capitalists Split on Strategy
Sun-drenched Kuwait, a desert nation with no solar-power plants and electricity demand that’s growing about 8 percent a year, has set the most ambitious target for using renewable energy in the Gulf region.
OPEC’s fifth-biggest oil producer, whose air conditioners run cheaply off state-subsidized oil-fired power plants, aims to generate 10 percent of its electricity from sustainable sources by 2020, said Eyad Ali al-Falah, assistant undersecretary for technical services at the Ministry of Electricity and Water.
Kuwait is trying to free up oil for export and expand its generation capacity to support increased tourism, manufacturing and home building in a $112 billion development program. To meet its clean-energy target, which exceeds the 7 percent goal set by Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait next must gather data on sunshine and wind speeds, al-Falah said.
“Renewable energy is a new subject for Kuwait,” al-Falah, who coordinates alternative energy for the ministry, said in an interview at its headquarters outside Kuwait City. “That’s why there’s a lack of information regarding the suitability of renewables for our weather.”
China’s chief climate official called on developed countries to come up with their own national initiatives to cut carbon emissions in order to avoid “deadlock” at next month’s global climate change talks in Durban, South Africa.
Xie Zhenhua, vice-director of the National Development and Reform Commission in charge of China’s efforts to combat climate change, said a number of countries were unwilling to participate in a binding new global climate pact once the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol expires at the end of 2012.
He told official news agency Xinhua that some nations were unwilling to take part in a second “commitment period” because countries such as the United States had so far refused to accept legally binding CO2 targets, thus threatening the “environmental integrity” of the Kyoto Protocol.
He suggested “comparable” efforts to reduce emissions by both developed and developing nations could help push negotiations along, even if they were not part of the Kyoto Protocol.
Xie said the talks in Durban were unlikely to produce a massive breakthrough.
“Everyone will be dissatisfied, but everyone will be able to accept it,” he was quoted as saying.
Plans are afoot to build giant new coal terminals on the West Coast to ship this lucrative commodity to China. But activists want to stop this, in part because coal produces huge amounts of carbon dioxide when it’s burned. Federal climate policy is silent on this potentially large source of emissions, so the debate is happening at the local level.
One fight is taking place over a proposed terminal near Bellingham, Wash. And if you want to get a sense of what the proposed coal terminal there would be like, visit the Westshore Terminal just across the border in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Trains a mile-and-a-half long rumble into this port, day and night, snaking through a large building. There, the trains roll onto a device that tips the coal cars over, two at a time, with the ease of a 5-year-old playing with a toy train.
Most of the trains haul Canadian coal, but increasingly the trains are arriving from Wyoming and Montana, loaded with coal that will be burned in Asia to make electricity.
The coal moves from the dumping station up to open conveyor belts. Some of it gets piled up in giant stacks; some gets trundled over to waiting ships. On this day, coal is being poured into a ship bound for Thailand.
Shelby Clark, the founder of a start-up called RelayRides, was honored last week as a rising star in clean technology. But as he took the stage alongside companies creating new kinds of energy, he felt out of place.
RelayRides is a car-sharing start-up. Since when did encouraging people to drive carbon-spewing cars qualify as clean tech?
In Silicon Valley, where venture capital dollars nurture fledgling technology companies, clean tech is getting a makeover. Many investors are shying away from the high risks and costs of creating new forms of energy. Instead, they are doing what they do best — using software to cope with problems, in this case caused by climate change.
RelayRides, which lets car owners rent their vehicles to others, takes cars off the road because people can avoid owning them and the service’s users drive less than other people, Mr. Clark said.
“You can have a major impact on an individual’s carbon footprint by re-creating business models or behaviors without inventing a new energy,” he said.
Members of a state commission unanimously voted to lift a month-long suspension of an alternative energy-related tax credit that had been imposed following the bankruptcy of Solyndra, a politically connected California solar panel company.
The California Alternative Energy and Advanced Transportation Financing Authority, after reviewing its operations and the granting of $25.1 million in sales tax credits to Solyndra, concluded it could tighten the way it handles applications.
Joe DeAnda, a spokesman for the commission’s chairman, state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, called the program “transparent and accountable.” But he noted that “we can improve the way we evaluate applicants.”
Solyndra, which used a $535-million federal loan guarantee to open a factory in Fremont, Calif., filed for bankruptcy protection Sept. 6. The announcement set off a political controversy in Washington, with allegations that the Obama administration pressured U.S. Department of Energy officials to approve the assistance despite warning signs that the company was in trouble.
California’s support for Solyndra was much smaller than the federal government’s. Solyndra was one of 26 companies that have participated in the California program.
Countries and megacities in Africa and Asia are among the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change over the coming years, a global survey shows, underscoring the risks from floods, rising sea levels, droughts and storms.
With populations in many developing nations growing quickly, particularly in megacities with 10 million or more people, already creaking infrastructure could be overwhelmed by an increase in deadly disasters.
Following are some of the main findings of the survey by risk analysis and mapping firm Maplecroft. The study can help governments and investors adapt to climate change.
Haiti tops the global list of countries and territories most at risk, while Iceland is the least at risk.
Overall, of the countries at the highest, or most extreme risk, most are in Africa and Asia.
Bangladesh, with more than 140 million people and large areas of low-lying land, is ranked number 2, followed by Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Madagascar, Cambodia, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Philippines, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Nepal, Swaziland, Uganda, Lesotho, Gambia, South Sudan, Guatemala and Myanmar.
India is 28, Thailand is 37, China 98 and the United States 160.