Energy and Global Warming News for November 24th: World Bank boosts clean energy lending 300%, fossil fuels 430%; UK wants central role for business in Cancun; World’s first hybrid tugboat

World Bank Giving More to Clean Energy, but Also to Fossil Fuels

The World Bank has been talking more and more about focusing its support on clean energy projects, and apparently it has been putting much more into clean energy lately. “The World Bank’s lending for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects increased by 300 percent between fiscal year 2007 and fiscal year 2010, to a record $3.4 billion,” Timothy Hurst of ecopolitology reports.

However, while that alone might look really good, it’s also important to note that lending for fossil fuels increased 430 percent in the same time period. Lending for coal plants reached a record $4.4 billion and lending for fossil-fuel projects, in total, reached a record $6.3 billion.

This is despite the World Bank admitting a couple years ago that climate change is one of the biggest threats to the development of poor countries.


“In its actions, the World Bank has deviated from its rhetoric,” says Janet Redman, co-director of the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington. “It has not done clean energy when it could. It has not prioritized clean energy sources over traditional fossil-fuel sources. And it is constantly stalling on one very important policy: calculating the greenhouse-gas emissions produced by its own projects.”

One of the biggest disappointments of late was in April when the World Bank approved the world’s fourth-largest coal power plant in South Africa, a 4,800-MW plant. (The U.S., Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Italy showed their disapproval for this project by abstaining from the vote,.. a typical, but, in my opinion, not very brave way of showing disapproval.)

Another clear failure was giving support to a 4,000-MW coal plant in India. The World Bank is supporting the emission of 50 million tons of carbon dioxide a year with these two projects alone, about equal to Ireland’s total emissions.

While the World Bank recently appointed Daniel M. Kammen as its “clean tech czar,” I am still hesitant to believe it is planning to live up to its responsibility to address and limit the devastating effects of climate change.

UK wants central role for business in Cancun

The UK’s negotiating team for next week’s Cancun climate change summit has signaled that it wants to see the global business community play a central role in the crucial talks, insisting that support from the private sector is vital if progress towards an international deal is to be delivered.

Speaking to reporters earlier today, climate change minister Greg Barker said he would act as a liaison between business leaders and the negotiators as part of an effort to improve upon previous UN summits where the “voice of the private sector has not been sufficiently heard”.He acknowledged that while there has been “scepticism and in some cases outright hostility” amongst some developing countries to the role of the private sector in tackling climate change, the UK would make the case that private finance will be critical to the development of a global low carbon economy and would not be used to replace government funding.

Barker said vocal support from the business sector could help revive the negotiations following the deadlock at the end of the Copenhagen Summit.

“What we need to get out of this round of talks is a sense of momentum,” he said. “The central question is whether the drive to a low carbon economy is compatible with prosperity and economic growth — we think it can be done and can actually help drive economic growth.”

The negotiating text will not be directly changed to give business leaders a more central role, but Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne said he was hopeful the summit would deliver progress in a number of areas that will throw up new business opportunities.

Most notably, he expressed optimism the talks could see agreement on the final outline of a deal on forestry protection mechanisms and the formation of a new international green fund to distribute climate financing that could combine public and private sector funding.

He also said the UK would be looking for a number of multilateral agreements with “progressive developing countries” that would demonstrate how a mixture of public and private finance can effectively drive low carbon and climate adaptation projects.

Huhne reiterated the UK “is not expecting a final agreement in Cancun”, but he insisted the groundwork done by the Mexican hosts suggested agreements could be reached on forestry and financing that could then be finalised when other issues are addressed at next year’s talks.

He also said the UK was hoping to see some progress on a number of the more contentious issues in the negotiating text.

In particular, he said the EU would push for the targets contained in the Copenhagen deal to be formally recognised in the UN negotiating process. He also said he remained hopeful that countries such as China that are opposed to MRV measures on the grounds that they represent an infringement of their sovereignty may be willing to shift their position, given they are already signed up to other international treaties that are more invasive.

He concluded that the UK negotiating team would not be armed with “a lot of difficult red lines” and would regard the talks as a success as long as they deliver clear progress towards a deal that can be finalised next year.

“The last thing we want is a confrontational shambles that ends in a lot of name calling,” he said.

The news comes on that same day as the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Finance Initiative announced that it will host a major new business summit alongside the main Cancun talks dubbed the World Climate Summit.

The conference — which UNEP describes as “the beginning of a new, open and collaborative global 10-year framework dedicated to helping governments, businesses and financiers accelerate solutions to climate change” — will take place on December 4–5 in Cancun and will be attended by representatives from over 300 of the world’s largest firms, including Richard Branson and Ted Turner.

“As world leaders drive towards a global agreement on climate change, investors in the world’s capital markets cannot afford to simply sit and wait,” said Paul Clements-Hunt, Head of the UNEP Finance Initiative. “Investors and other financial institutions are determined to work with policy-makers to catalyse new low carbon markets worth USD trillions. The World Climate Summit will bring finance, business and negotiators together to help make those future low carbon markets a reality.”

World’s First Hybrid Tugboat Reduces Emissions at California Ports

Carbon emissions at sea have received more attention over the last decade. Ports, especially, can have a negative impact on air quality in the populated areas that surround them. The many emissions sources at ports include ships, trucks, trains, and cargo-handling equipment. Harbor-crafts also contribute a significant portion of total port emissions. These include tugboats, ferries, fishing boats, and dredge vessels. Recently, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have started using a hybrid electric tugboat. A new study by the University of California (UC) Riverside has shown that this has been effective at reducing emissions.

Tugboats are typically powered by marine compression ignition engines. The engines are built to be extremely powerful relative to the size of the vessel. Larger tugboats used in deeper waters have power ratings up to 27,000 horse power. They can have a power:tonnage ratio of up to 4.5, similar to engines used in locomotives. These engines typically drive the propellers mechanically rather than converting the output through electric motors, as is done on trains.The massive engines can consume large amounts of fuel and produce harmful emissions full of diesel particulates. This has made the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach the largest contributors of air pollution in the South Coast Basin according to the California Air Resources Board (CARB). Pollution from the diesel-powered tugboats and other port emission sources has caused negative health effects on the surrounding population, including cancer and respiratory illnesses.Now the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the largest container ports in the nation, are home to the first and only hybrid electric tugboat in the world. Named the Carolyn Dorothy, it runs on four diesel engines and 126 batteries. It was financed by the two ports and the South Coast Air Quality Management District to the tune of $1.35 million. The vessel was built by Foss Maritime, based in Seattle, and began operational duty in January of 2009.

Researchers from UC Riverside’s College of Engineering Center for Environmental Research and Technology conducted a study to see how much emissions the new hybrid tugboat saved. They found it decreased emissions of soot by 73 percent, nitrogen oxides (smog forming compounds) by 51 percent, and CO2 (greenhouse gas) by 27 percent. Their report was completed in October of 2010 and presented to CARB.

The widespread adoption of hybrid marine engines would go a long way in reducing emissions at sea and in port. However, it comes with a very expensive price tag, and technical issues resulting in inefficiencies still remain. The UC Riverside researchers are hopeful that there will be further improvements once plug-in hybrid tugboats become available.

A Sustainable Farming System Designed for Practically Everyone

Algosolar LLC, a farming research and design group, has announced the launch of Bioponica„¢ “” an organic gardening system geared for homeowners, schools, restaurants and commercial growers. On November 20th, from 6pm until 12am, the company will begin a public displaying event for this innovative growing system. The 10″²x4″² table, complete with 120 gallon fish tank, is designed to convert waste such as grass clippings, table scraps and other carbon and nitrogen-rich waste sources into fertilizer. “It is unfortunate that we have relied on our municipalities to dispose of waste, whether that be urine, food or yard trimmings,” says co-creator, Dr. Epstein, a holistic osteopathic physician. “It is not practical or sustainable. When nutrients that come from the environment or from the food we eat are buried in landfills or else incinerated then we lose that valuable resource and it becomes a greenhouse gas that negatively impacts our climate and environment. The alternative is to recycle nutrients with the least amount of effort and cost.” The Bioponica„¢ system works by taking waste and converting it into worm castings and worm teas which are then used to fertilize hydroponic plant beds.

The system also accomodates the growth of algae and duckweed, as well as microbes and aquatic animals that feed on the algae. The table is intended for ample food production, and will grow a variety of medicinal and edible plants “” from micro-greens to wheatgrass. “When growing high value crops such as these, the return on investment is less than one year. And without having to purchase fish food or fertilizer the cost is limited to a small electric bill for water pumps and labor,” says Epstein.

The Bioponica„¢ gardening system will grow indoors or outdoors and also come complete with a UV filtered polycarbonate roofing option to help keep the temperature, CO2 and nutrient load stable. Fellow creator and professional engineer, Kenneth Lovell, says, “By converting carbon and nitrogen rich waste into fish and plant food we are effectively sequestering carbon turning it into a food before it escapes as a CO2 gas. The tables capture heat and warm the water within the fish tanks. On cool nights, the heated thermal mass of water returns to the beds, warming the plant area to extend the growing season into colder months.”

Optimizing Large Wind Farms

ScienceDaily (Nov. 23, 2010) “” Wind farms around the world are large and getting larger. Arranging thousands of wind turbines across many miles of land requires new tools that can balance cost and efficiency to provide the most energy for the buck

Charles Meneveau, who studies fluid dynamics at Johns Hopkins University, and his collaborator Johan Meyers from Leuven University in Belgium, have developed a model to calculate the optimal spacing of turbines for the very large wind farms of the future. Theyl presented their work November 23 at the American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics (DFD) meeting in Long Beach, CA.

“The optimal spacing between individual wind turbines is actually a little farther apart than what people use these days,” said Meneveau.

The blades of a turbine distort wind, creating eddies of turbulence that can affect other wind turbines farther downwind. Most previous studies have used computer models to calculate the wake effect of one individual turbine on another.

Starting with large-scale computer simulations and small-scale experiments in a wind tunnel, Meneveau’s model considers the cumulative effects of hundreds or thousands of turbines interacting with the atmosphere.

“There’s relatively little knowledge about what happens when you put lots of these together,” said Meneveau.

The energy a large wind farm can produce, he and his coworkers discovered, depends less on horizontal winds and more on entraining strong winds from higher in the atmosphere. A 100-meter turbine in a large wind farm must harness energy drawn from the atmospheric boundary layer thousands of feet up.

In the right configuration, lots of turbines essentially change the roughness of the land — much in the same way that trees do — and create turbulence. Turbulence, in this case, isn’t a bad thing. It mixes the air and helps to pull down kinetic energy from above.Using as example 5 megawatt-rated machines and some reasonable economic figures, Meneveau calculates that the optimal spacing between turbines should be about 15 rotor diameters instead of the currently prevalent figure of 7 rotor diameters.

China hits efficiency and pollution targets

China will have achieved its goal of a 20 per cent reduction of energy intensity and a 10 per cent cut in major pollutant emission against 2005 levels by the end of 2010, according to official figures reported yesterday.

Success in meeting the goals is largely thanks to hefty government investment coupled with draconian threats for non-compliance towards the end of the 11th Five-Year Plan (2005–2010).

The China Daily cited a study by the National Development and Reform Commission (NRDC) showing that government funding of more than 200bn yuan ($301 bn) for energy conservation, emissions reduction, and environmental protection measures unlocked over 2 trillion yuan ($30bn) in green investment from the private sector.

The commission study also says that more than 70 per cent of coal-fired power stations have installed Flue Gas Desulphurization (FGD) systems, while 998 energy-consuming enterprises achieved energy-saving goals laid out by the government.

Earlier this year Chinese premier Wen Jiabao warned he would use an “iron fist” to ensure the targets were met, promising to close some of the country’s most inefficient factories and heavy manufacturing plants if they remained non-compliant with the targets.

It was also reported in the People’s Daily that some regions have carried out enforced power blackouts over the last few days to ensure the targets were met.

However China still remains the world’s second-largest energy user, consuming 2.146 billion tonnes of oil equivalent last year, versus 2.382 billion tonnes used by the US.

The NDRC report said “arduous efforts” would be needed to realize the country’s ambition of moving toward more environmentally-friendly economic growth by 2020, including decreasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40 to 50 per cent per unit of GDP from 2005 levels, increasing non-fossil fuel energy share to 15 per cent in primary energy, and adding 40 million hectares of forest land.

A series of new policies are to be launched over the next few months for the forthcoming 12th Five-Year Plan which will run from 2011 to 2015. The plan is expected to include new national targets for energy and carbon intensity, as well as regional targets for provinces to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, plans to roll out carbon trading schemes, and measures to accelerate the roll out of electric vehicles and renewable energy capacity.

Ontario feed-in tariffs creating solar jobs at the cost of a donut per month

Using a measure of cost that all Canadians understand, a provocative new report says the impact of Ontario’s feed-in tariffs for solar photovoltaics (PV), which will create 70,000 jobs, is no more than one Tim Hortons donut per month.

Tim Hortons is a popular Canadian coffee-shop chain found in even the smallest village.

The confidential report comes at a time of heated political debate in the provincial capital of Toronto about the cost of the current government’s Green Energy and Green Economy Act. Ontario’s feed-in tariff program is the most visible — and the most controversial — aspect of the policy.

The report by ClearSky Advisors was prepared for private, and so far unnamed, clients. However, a summary has been released to the media. ClearSky says that by 2015, Ontario’s solar PV industry will have created 72,000 person-years of jobs.

Ontario plans to close all its coal-fired power plants by 2014. Generation by renewable sources, including solar PV, will be used to offset the coal-fired generation lost.

Program cost minimal

Critics of the program say that feed-in tariffs are the cause of what they claim are increasing electricity costs.Not so, says ClearSky’s summary. Cost of electricity in the province will increase slightly to a maximum of about one percent of a typical household’s bill, then decline steadily as the initial contracts work their way through the system.

Solar PV is the most expensive of the new renewable energy technologies. Though costs are rapidly declining, generation from solar PV is still several times more costly than that from wind, hydro, or biogas. Thus, feed-in tariffs for solar PV are a lightning rod for critics of renewable energy.

In a previous report, ClearSky estimated that Ontario will install 3,000 megawatts of solar PV in the next five years. During the period studied in this report, ClearSky says Ontario will install a total of 6,000 megawatts of solar PV by 2021. For comparison, California is expected to have a total installed capacity of 800 megawatts and the U.S. 1,700 megawatts of solar PV by the end of 2010.

If ClearSky’s estimates become reality, Ontario will soon become the largest center of solar PV development in North America by a wide margin, and rival European countries, which are currently the leaders in solar generation.

More jobs from solar PV than coal or nuclear

The Green Energy Act was in part justified by the job-creation potential in Ontario’s industrial sector, which was hard hit by the collapse of North America’s auto manufacturers.Implementation of the province’s feed-in tariff program by the Ontario Power Authority includes a controversial domestic content provision. In effect, a substantial portion of any solar system installed in Ontario must be manufactured in the province.ClearSky’s summary suggests that this policy may in fact work as intended at creating new jobs. The report says solar PV creates 12 times more jobs than nuclear per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated and 15 times more than coal.More jobs per dollar invested

ClearSky calculates that while investment in solar PV results in 30 percent to 40 percent as much electricity as investment in conventional sources, the investment in solar PV pays dividends in job creation. According to ClearSky’s summary, investment in solar PV creates 2.4 to 6.4 times more jobs than a similar investment in conventional sources.

Ontario solar PV billion dollar market

At the current pace of development and with the limitations of a weak, antiquated grid in mind, ClearSky projects that between 2010 and 2015, Ontario’s burgeoning solar industry will attract nearly $7.8 billion (USD) in private capital.

Clean generation saves ratepayers 20 percent

On Oct. 17, 2010 the Ontario government announced a rebate of 10 percent on ratepayers’ electricity bills to compensate for what it calls the “Clean Energy Benefit” of the Green Energy Act. The rebate will be paid for from tax revenue.

In a posting on their website, “Why Ontario’s Clean Energy Benefit Makes Sense — Sort Of,” ClearSky argues that the rapid development of clean sources of generation to replace the existing coal-fired plants saves taxpayers money by eliminating coal’s social and environmental costs.

The posting has revised interest in a long-forgotten report on the cost of coal-fired generation. The 2005 report, Cost Benefit Analysis: Replacing Ontario’s Coal-Fired Electricity Generation [PDF], tallied the then social cost of electricity from the province’s nuclear-powered and fossil-fired fleet of generators. The report says Ontario’s coal-fired power plants cost Ontario nearly $0.127 (USD) per kilowatt hour in environmental and social impacts.

According to ClearSky, new renewable generation under the Green Energy Act’s feed-in tariffs saves ratepayers the equivalent of 20 percent on their electricity bills. Thus, they reluctantly say, the province’s Clean Energy Benefit does appear justified and could be even higher.

While ClearSky’s market analysis won’t settle the debate on the future of Ontario’s electricity system, it clearly shows that the province is headed toward becoming a leader in renewable energy development, and especially in the creation of a solar PV industry.