Energy and Global Warming News for November 4th: German solar costs could beat fossil fuels by 2020; Oil prices to rise without climate action; 2.5 GW offshore wind for South Korea; $2.4 Billion for high speed rail

German solar power production costs could beat fossil fuels by 2020

The solar power production costs will be as low as 12.6 eurocents per kilowatt-hour by 2020. At the same time, fossil fuel electricity costs around 15.6 eurocents. The study and estimation has been made by Phoenix Solar AG, of course, a German solar panel manufacturer.

The study also suggests that the current costs of building and commissioning new natural gas and coal-fired power plants are higher than the costs of solar cells production, which is currently around 23.8 cents per kWh.

“This year was the first time that the economic benefits of installed solar panels are greater than the costs,” he said, citing the study, which considered the benefits of tax revenues and lower carbon dioxide emissions.

U.S. gov’t awards $2.4 billion for high-speed rail

The U.S. government awarded $2.4 billion in funding last week to 54 railroad projects across 23 states in the U.S.

This latest round of funding is in addition to the $8 billion that was awarded in January as part of the comprehensive public works project to construct the “first nationwide program of high-speed intercity passenger rail service.”


The funds are going toward new railroad lines and stations, as well as efforts to update and refurbish existing ones to coalesce with the high-speed plan announced in January as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

In this round of funding, Florida received $800 million to build a high-speed railroad connecting Tampa and Orlando with train speeds reaching up to 168 mph at some points along the route, making the trip under an hour compared with 90 minutes by car. The state’s ultimate plan is to extend the line from Orland down to Miami, according to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

Iowa received $230 million to hook into a new intercity passenger service that would connect Iowa City to Chicago and points in between.

IEA: Climate pledge failure would boost oil prices: report

(Reuters) — A reduction of ten percent in oil demand could knock about $20 off the price of a barrel of crude by 2035 if nations meet their climate change pledges and cut fossil fuel subsidies, the International Energy Agency says.


“The weaker and slower the response to the climate challenge, the greater the risk of oil scarcity and the economic cost for consuming countries,” the Financial Times on Thursday quoted a draft of the 2010 World Energy Outlook (WEO) as saying.

The report by the IEA, which advises 28 developed countries on energy issues, is due for release on November 9.

The inflation-adjusted price of oil would be $113 by 2035 in the WEO scenario that takes into account new environmental policies, versus $135 in the main scenario, with demand at 99 million barrels per day (bpd) and 107 million bpd respectively.

The IEA also forecasts Iraqi oil output will almost double in the next decade, reaching 4.8 million bpd by 2020, overtaking Iran “soon after 2015,” according to the FT.

South Korea building 2.5 GW offshore wind farm

South Korea is entering the offshore wind power game with quite an impressive first play. The 2.5 GW project will cost about $8.2 billion to build.


The wind farm will be built off the southwestern coast of South Korea will include about 500 turbines and is expected to be completed by 2019. Companies like Hyundai Heavy Industries and Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering are constructing the turbines. The government is coordinating the project and putting up a large chunk of the price, but private investors will need to finance the remainder.

The purpose of the wind farm isn’t just to add renewable energy to South Korea’s grid, but to give some of the area’s machinery makers (like Samsung, Hyundai and Daewoo) experience in building wind farms so that South Korea can become a major wind turbine exporter.

The government has committed to a five-year plan that will see it investing $36 billion in renewable energy to help it to become more energy independent and to stake its claim in the renewable energy market.

A surge in lawsuits challenging E.P.A. on climate

With many eyes on how Tuesday’s elections will affect Congressional action on climate and energy issues, a new report points out that the battle over greenhouse gas emissions has been raging quietly on another front: the courts.

Litigation over greenhouse gas regulation is sharply on the rise, according to a report issued on Wednesday by DB Climate Change Advisors, the climate change investment and research business of Deutsche Asset Management.

The number of climate-change related lawsuits doubled in 2006–7, hit a plateau for several years and is now increasing again. DB says that such suits are on track to triple in 2010 and perhaps grow into the indefinite future.

In January, my colleague John Schwartz wrote about lawsuits brought by individuals against fuel and utility companies naming them as responsible parties in human-caused climate change.

But the new report looks mainly at lawsuits surrounding government regulation of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide. While it found that environmentalists had filed nearly a quarter of all such lawsuits since 2001, seeking more regulation, the new surge is being driven by the opposite camp.

PM of India: Demand for hydrocarbon fuels to increase 40% in ten years

While delivering his inaugural address at the Petrotech 2010 conference in New Delhi, Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh outlined a potential problem that lingers over many emerging nations. Singh predicted India’s future demand for hydrocarbon fuels and stated that the nation’s emerging automotive industry, combined with its growing economy, could lead to potential oil supply issues. Dr. Singh predicts that India’s demand for hydrocarbon fuels will rise 40 percent over the next ten years, whereas increase in supply from the world’s maturing oil fields is only expected to grow by 12 percent. Of course, this suggests that India will have to pursue every available opportunity to secure oil and gas from outside sources.

In his address, Dr. Singh spoke of oil allies, potential shortages and a future driven by hydrocarbon fuels. Highlights of Dr. Singh’s address include:

In the last two decades or so, Asia’s share in the growth in demand for hydrocarbons has risen substantially while that of the OECD countries and the European Union has declined. This shift has been caused by high rates of economic growth and increasing populations in many Asian countries. There are supply-side uncertainties on the horizon….Like other emerging economies, India needs adequate supplies of energy at affordable prices to meet the demand of its rapidly growing economy. Hydrocarbons will continue to be our major source of energy for quite some time in the future. Most of our requirement of hydrocarbons is met through imports….We also seek to work together with other countries especially those which are active in the oil and gas spaceOil and gas today are not seen merely as commodities to be traded freely. They are often used by countries to meet their political objectives.

Asian clean-energy developers seek foreign currency loans, Raboank says

Rising interest rates in Asia are prodding renewable-energy project developers to seek more foreign currency loans, a development that may squeeze out smaller local players from financing, Rabobank Nederland NV said.

The borrowers are particularly sensitive to lending rates because of the higher upfront costs of setting up low-emissions plants relative to conventional power projects, Jotdeep Singh, Rabobank’s head of Asia renewable energy and infrastructure finance, said today in an interview.

“Rising interest rates in China, India and other countries are affecting especially local currency financings,” Singh said at the Clean Energy Expo Asia conference in Singapore. “We have seen increased approaches from our clients inquiring about U.S. dollar or euro financings, which are becoming more competitive now that local currency financings are more expensive because of the interest rate hikes.”

Central banks in India, China, Australia, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan and Thailand have all raised borrowing costs this year to contain inflation, whereas the U.S. and Japan have cut benchmark interest rates to near zero and printed money to spur growth. That combination could flood emerging markets with capital inflows, further exacerbating rising prices, India’s central bank said, after raising interest rates this week for the sixth time in 2010 and the most in Asia this year.

Nepal’s gene bank gets going

Inaugurated last month (3 October), the gene bank, set up by the Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC) at Lalitpur, already has the capacity to store the seeds of about 50 plant species for up to 100 years.

The gene bank has also taken over the preservation of the seeds of more than 10,700 species of plants that were lying with the agrobotany division of the NARC. Eventually, the bank will be able to store genetic resources from animal, fish and microorganisms and also conduct research on them.

Efforts to establish the gene bank began some 25 years ago with Japanese aid. But the momentum picked up only three years ago as the need to conserve biodiversity and improve food security was felt, said the gene bank’s chief Madhu Sudan Upadhyay.

Nepal’s biodiversity is seen to be under threat from the commercialisation and modernisation of agriculture and also from climate change.

A 1995 research paper estimated that Nepal has more than 6,500 species of flowering plants (2.33 per cent of the world’s total) of which 370 are endemic to this country. The number of edible plant species is approximately 600.

Organic farms better at potato beetle control

A study suggesting that organic agriculture gives better pest control and larger plants than conventional farming is sure to reignite longstanding debates about the merits of organic versus conventional agriculture. It also highlights an often-neglected aspect of biodiversity.

“Organic agriculture promotes more balanced communities of predators,” says David Crowder, author of the new study published today in Nature.

“Our study does not tell farmers they should shift to organic agriculture. What our study suggests is that organic agriculture is promoting these more balanced natural enemy communities and they may have better, organic pest control.”

Much focus is put on species numbers or ‘richness’. But the research by Crowder, an insect ecologist at Washington State University in Pullman, and his colleagues, shows the importance of ‘evenness’ “” the relative abundance of different species. Evenness quantifies not just the presence of different species, but whether one is dominant or whether there is an equal distribution of numbers between species.

Scotland launches £70m wind energy fund

Funding for ports and shipyard upgrades will stimulate the offshore wind industry and create 28,000 jobs, Alex Salmond says

Ports and shipyards in Scotland are being given £70m to help tackle a multibillion pound funding gap facing the offshore “green economy”, Alex Salmond has announced.

The first minister said the investment fund would allow Scottish ports and windfarm factories to upgrade their facilities to meet the immense challenge of building and installing the vast offshore wind and marine energy farms planned by ministers.

“We are a nation with considerable natural and human resources and the political will needed to deliver a green energy revolution that can build sustainable economic recovery and reduce Europe’s carbon emissions,” he told to the RenewableUK annual conference in Glasgow today.

He said the £70m fund would help “leverage” further private funding for ports at Leith in Edinburgh and Dundee, and fabrication yards at Nigg near Inverness and Methil in Fife, which are among the sites most likely to win support from the fund.