Renew On Line (UK) 41
Extracts from the Jan-Feb 2003
edition of Renew
|Welcome Archives Bulletin|
11 World Roundup. WSSD aftermath
Tony Blair may have called on all the industrial countries to ratify the Kyoto accord, but otherwise the general conclusion was that the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Jo’burg last year was a bit of a disaster . Even the EU couldn’t rise to the occasion- backed by Brazil, Norway, New Zealand, Iceland and Hungary, it tried to hold out for a global commitment to a target of obtaining 15% of global energy from renewables by 2010, but this was resisted by the United States and the main oil producing countries.
However, headlines about a ‘sell out’ and lack of commitment by the EU might be a bit wide of the mark. The shift from 14% to 15% of total global energy from renewables by 2010, as proposed by the EU, may sound small, but you have to remember that we are are talking percentages on projected growth in energy use. Several official projections suggest that although there will be much more renewable power generated globally, the percentage share will actually drop in the next decade. Even with proper attention to efficiency, given the population increase and economic growth, energy demand will rise dramatically by 2010, so a 1% real increase in renewables actually involves a huge expansion of capacity. Large hydro, along with traditional biomass, (firewood/ dung), make up all but 2% of the current 14%. If the EU’s 1% increase was achieved from new renewables, then that would have actually meant a 50% increase in new renewables. So perhaps its not surprising that it was shot down, with no target being agreed, just a commitment to trying harder on renewables. Of course the EU target was problematic in that WWF et al didn’t want any support for hydro or traditional biomass. WWF suggested a compromise, a position also backed by Brazil and by Greenpeace (see right)- a 10% total energy target, with hydro and traditional biomass excluded. That would involve a huge expansion- a 500% increase over the current 2 %level.
Currently PV solar is one of the most favoured options for development- at the Power to the People session organised by ITDG at WSSD, a speaker from Shell said it was the cheapest electricity option for many remote villages. However at the WREC conference earlier last year, Stephen Karekezi from the African Energy Policy Research Network argued that in many cases heat producing renewables and pico hydro might be better.
10% of Thai Electricity from Renewables?
One third of Thailand’s electricity needs could be met with renewables by 2020, even if electricity consumption doubles, according to a report produced for the WWSD by Greenpeace, in conjunction with the Sustainable Energy Network- Thailand, to back the campaign for a 10% by 2010 global renewable energy target.
The report "Positive Energy Choices" claims that working on a minimum 35% renewables mix, 25% of the country’s electricity could be derived from biomass, 5% from hydro and 2.5% from solar, with the remaining 2.5% divided between geothermal and wind. Between 2010 and 2015, renewables will, it says, become as cheap as conventional energy sources, possibly even cheaper. On this scenario, greenhouse gas emissions would stay at roughly the same level. Interestingly, subsequently a Thai government spokesman indicated that Thailand ‘would absolutely refuse to let anyone use us to claim carbon credits’, so evidently they see themselves as going it alone without using the international carbon trading system. Even so, it sounds like Thailand might begin the process of contraction and convergence, in terms of emissions, to join up with the programmes adopted by the industrialised countries under the Kyoto treaty and whatever follows it. That’s the basis of Aubrey Meyers ‘Contract and Converge’ approach which got another airing at WSSD.
China does better
Interestingly, China already seems to be moving in this direction. China announced at the Earth Summit that it would ratify the Kyoto accord, and it is to allocate at least 10bn yuan ($1.2bn) to support scientific and technological research in 12 key areas critical to sustainable development, including renewables, under the Ministry of Science and Technology 2001-2010 Science and Technology Framework for Sustainable Development.
A review by the US Natural Resource Defence Council in 2002 (revising an earlier assessment which had been challenged as being based on overly optimistic Chinese data), found that China’s carbon dioxide emissions actually fell 6% -14% between 1996 and 1999 at the same time as the country’s economy grew 22 -27%. By contrast, it reported, U.S. emissions over the same period grew by approximately 5%. Evidently then China has managed to begin to make the transition, and is moving down the ‘energy intensity’ curve- i.e. the rate of increase in GDP was not matched by the rate of increase in energy use, implying the adoption of efficient energy technology. Indeed, it was able to reduce its energy intensity faster than the US, something that is perhaps not surprising given that the US has a well established industrial economy which has already gone through the transition. The big gains in China for example seem to have been made mainly by a radical restructuring of the very inefficient industrial system bequeathed from the 1960 and 70’s. So the big issue is, can this be continued- or is it just a one off ?
China, which is not a formal ‘Annex 1’ party to the Kyoto accord, has nevertheless ratified the treaty, and it seems keen to try to improve on a voluntary basis, and as we have seen it seems to be doing better than the USA. Rather than supporting Kyoto, which called for the US to cut emissions by 7% on 1990 levels by 2008-2012, the US has adopted the so called Kyoto Lite approach, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas intensity by 18% by 2012- i.e. the reduction in emission of greenhouse gases would be maintained at a scale relative to the gross national product. The result could be an net increase in greenhouse gas emissions, over 1990 levels, of perhaps 14% by that time.
* For details, and of carbon intensity trends for the USA and China, and for all the other major players, see the excellent new Worldwatch report produced for WSSD (No.160) ‘Reading the Weathervane’ by Seth Dunn.
The Greenpeace report on Thailand can be downloaded from http://www.greenpeacesoutheastasia.org
US Climate Changes
Having decided not to ratify the Kyoto accord, the USA stands to loose out on lucrative trade and investment options around the world. In addition, the ethical and environmental implications of just opting for the voluntary Kyoto Lite plan proposed by Bush seems to be hitting home. 76% of US voters surveyed want the U.S. government to require power plants and industry to cut emissions linked to global warming, and not rely on voluntary cuts endorsed by the White House, according to a poll released by the Union of Concerned Scientists, an activist group that backs a Senate proposal for strict cuts in industrial emissions of CO2. 16% supported a voluntary approach, 8% were undecided.
Meanwhile, the Sierra Club is pushing for the use of a nationwide Electricity Feed Law to spur development of renewables- pointing to the success of Feed Laws in Europe. Between 1990 and 2000, Germany, Denmark, and Spain, installed nearly 11 times more wind capacity than the US. For more info contact: email@example.com
Australia loses out
Australia also decided not to ratify the Kyoto agreement. And that means it could lose a $70 m energy project in China, according to Environment Business Australia (EBA), who warned that the Australian-developed project was just one of many business opportunities now drying up because of Australia’s stance on the protocol. And competitors from France, Germany, the Netherlands and Japan would now overtake Australia’s hard-won access especially in the developing countries in South East Asia, China and India. EBA member company, Global Renewables, said it was set to miss out on a key contract in China because of Australia’s stance. "We have developed a $70m waste-to-resource project in China which will now have to be transferred to a non-Australian company". Source: the Mercury.
Canada has been under fire for dragging its feet on whether to ratify the Kyoto climate-change accord. Signing up to Kyoto would oblige Canada to cut its emissions by 6% from 1990 levels, by 2010. But in 1999, Canada’s emissions were already 15% higher than 1990 levels. The Government initially said it would to ratify Kyoto, but then backed off in the face of strong opposition from businesses, energy producers and several provincial governments. However there were indications that it still might sign, and it confirmed this at the WSSD Earth Summit. In addition, it has said it would use tax breaks to encourage investment in renewable energy and energy conservation projects. Deputy Prime Minister John Manley has proposed changes to income tax rules that would make it financially attractive to build wind turbines and ensure that renewable energy projects could raise financing in the same way as non-renewable energy projects. And in the last federal budget, in Dec 2001, the government said it would give $164m to the wind power industry to increase capacity from 200 megawatts to 1,000MW by 2016.
As mentioned in Renew 137, BC Hydro is planning to develop a wave energy system of up to 4MW as part of the Vancouver Island Green Energy Demonstration project. They have now selected the Australian Enegetech device, which involves a parabolic wave focusing system. The system is expected to be running by 2004. So it seems that there could still be some hope for non signatories to Kyoto!
German renewables continue to boom
Germany was the first EU country to agree to ratify Kyoto and is commitment to renewables is clearly paying off. Suppliers of electricity from renewable energy sources in Germany earned 35% more in 2001 than in 2000 under the so-called feed-in law (EEG) subsidising green power, according to the industry association VDEW- 1.5 billion euros for 18 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of power at 8.6 euro cents per kWh, up from, 13 billion kWh at 8.5 cents/kWh in 2000. And the boom continues- the German wind power market expanded by up 33% in the first six months of 2002, according to Germany’s wind power organisation Bundesverband Windenergie, with a record-high of 1,088 megawatts being installed, bringing the total to nearly 10,000 MW, with 12,500 windturbines installed, supplying 3.5% of Germany’s electricity. But not content with that, Germany wants to double renewable power by 2010, increasing overall renewables share to 20% from around 8% at present. That was something of a election promise by the red-green government in the run up to the German general election in Sept. The opposition conservatives hinted that they would roll back subsidies for renewables if elected. In the event they lost, but only just, with the greens tipping the balance.
EU could miss Renewable targets
"European Commission production targets will not be met unless other European countries follow the examples set by Spain and Germany," according to a report by market research company Reuters Business Insight . The report "Green Energy in Europe, Strategic Prospects to 2010" said technological, political and administrative barriers threatened the EU’s target to generate 22% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2010. Complex environmental planning, long public enquiry and consenting procedures for new renewable energy plants will lead to total produced renewable electricity ending up at at least 140 terawatt hours below a goal of almost 700 TWh p.a..
To meet the target Europe would have to move to a more market-based approach to green power from a technology-based one, promoting border trade, certification and labelling as well as internalising external costs within the prices for non-green power, the report said. The report was written in association with energy research firms Greenprices.com and Ecofys. Reuters Business Insight is a joint venture between information and news firm Reuters Group and news group Datamonitor Plc. More details at: http://www.greenprices.com/eu/item.asp?id=27