13. World Developments US
energy - it’s not all bad news
Although the USA may be ignoring Kyoto and be pushing fossil
and nuclear power, it is also pushing renewables quite strongly. Last
summer, the U.S. Senate passed the U.S. Energy Bill (see
Renew 145) and it has now completed its passage through Congress.
More in Renew 147. But amongst other less savoury policies, it requires
electric suppliers to produce 10% of their electricity from renewables
by 2020. Moreover, in some states renewables are already doing
very well independently. For example, Southern California Edison (SCE)
drew on renewable energy resources for 23% of its power last June
and 22% of its power in May, meeting the state’s 20% renewable requirement
14 years early. Around 150 independent power producers now supply
the utility with more than 13 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity
Fourteen US states now have renewable portfolio standard (RPS)
rules requiring that a certain percentage the state’s electricity come
from renewable energy sources. California enacted its law in September
2002. See the DSIRE Web site at: http://www.dsireusa.org.
The California Energy Commission (CEC) has claimed that the
state will have no problem meeting its 20% RPS standard by 2017. According
to the CEC, the 20-percent standard could be largely achieved by projects
that have already been proposed, such as a 185MW geothermal power plant,
which, if built, will be the largest US geothermal plant.
Meanwhile New York has provided $14.5 million to support 36
distributed generation and combined heat and power (CHP) projects and
the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) announced an award of
$2.7 million to 10 renewable energy businesses, to explore wave energy,
develop a variety of solar energy technologies, investigate means of
producing hydrogen from renewable energy sources, and produce power
from that hydrogen using fuel cells. The grants will also go toward
efforts to assist local government officials in buying green power and
to assist energy service companies in providing renewable energy services.
Finally, US Energy Spencer Abraham has announced that the Department
of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is making
$2.2 million available to seven Native American tribes to support
the development of renewable energy resources on tribal lands.
Sources : Electricnet/EERE Newsletter.
25-Year US Strategic Plan
The US Department of Energy has produced a far-reaching 25-year
plan spelling out a general vision as well as specific technologies
and projects it hopes to develop in the next 25 years. The plan is committed
to clean coal and nuclear, but also supports renewable energy and energy
efficiency, with the underlying principle that a diversity of energy
sources can help provide stability and guard against price spikes. The
strategic plan’s specific goals related to renewables and efficiency
over the next 25 years include:
- Between 2003 and 2008, weatherize approx. 771,000 homes of low-income
- By 2010, bring down the cost of the hydrogen equivalent of a gallon
of gas to $1.50.
- By 2010, accomplish FreedomCAR technical milestones established
with industry partners.
- By 2012, develop and demonstrate technologies that can reduce emissions
more than 70 metric tons of carbon (MMTCE) and equivalent green house
gases (and 117 MMTCE by 2020).
- By 2015, evaluate policy instruments that foster the delivery of
commercial quantities of hydrogen based on the economic success for
hydrogen research and development.
- By 2015, develop technologies that allow a decision by industry
to commercialize fuel-cell vehicles and hydrogen infrastructure.
- By 2025, have renewable energy sources (excluding hydropower) reach
12.0 quadrillion Btu (quads), nearly double the energy production
of 6.46 quads in the year 2000.
- By 2025, develop and demonstrate technologies to bring systems that
generate both heat and power within 90 percent efficiency.
- By 2025, have solid-state lighting reduce energy demand for lighting
by one-fifth compared to that of 2000.
The Strategic Plan is at: http://strategicplan.doe.gov/Draft%20SP.pdf
US wind opposition split
The wind farm proposed off the coast from Cape Cod, one of
the richer areas in the US eastern sea board, had until recently been
opposed by, amongst others, the famed broadcaster Walter Cronkite-
once called ‘the most trusted man in America’. However he has apparently
had a change of heart.
Cronkite, who has a house on Martha’s Vineyard, stopped short of
backing the wind farm outright. But he commented ‘As an ardent
environmentalist I have been uneasy about my strong statement that
did not include my belief that wind power must be harnessed’.
His U-turn forced the campaign against the farm to scrap radio and
television advertisements starring the broadcaster... It also marked
a dramatic reversal of the position he voiced in a newspaper column
only days earlier, in which he wrote: “Since I won’t like the look
of that vast field of towers; and I won’t like their interference with
glorious sailing in the Sound; and I will worry about the wildlife,
including porpoises and whales and several birds of endangered species
on their annual migrations; I’m opposed to the project”. Senator
Kennedy, whose family have taken holidays at their compound at Hyannis
Port for decades, is now the farm’s most prominent foe.
Small is Better
Responding to last years power blackout in the USA, Amory Lovins
from the Rocky Mountain Institute pointed out that ‘throughout electricity’s
first century, power plants were costlier but less reliable than the
grid, so ever-bigger power plants backed each other up through the
grid. But new power plants are now cheaper and more reliable than
the grid, so delivering reliable and affordable power now means generating
it at or near the customers. Central thermal power stations stopped
getting more efficient in the 1960’s. They stopped getting cheaper
in the 1980’s, and stopped getting bought in the 1990’s: Now utility
orders are back to Victorian levels. Yet public policy continues to
favour central plants and big transmission lines.
Transmission is still centrally planned, and needn’t compete fairly
with its cheaper alternatives. Our problem isn’t too few power lines;
it’s obsolete rules, rewarding perpetuation of an inherently vulnerable
grid. Letting all options compete fairly- whether they save or produce
energy, no matter how big they are, what kind they are, or who owns
them- would gradually and profitably build a power system as resilient
as the Internet. Then major failures, instead of being inevitable by
design, would become impossible by design’.
EU Emission Trading- global
The European Commission has adopted a new initiative to combat
climate change globally via a new emission trading system linking
up with the EU’s internal carbon trading system which is set to start
in 2005. The proposal for a new Directive will allow European companies
to carry out emissions-curbing projects around the world and convert
the credits earned into emissions allowances under the European Union
emissions trading scheme. The proposal builds on the Kyoto Accords
market-based flexible mechanisms (‘Joint Implementation’ and the ‘Clean
Development Mechanism’) Their aim is to reach the global emissions
reduction targets in a cost-effective way while transferring advanced
technology to other industrialised and developing countries.
Meanwhile, even before any scheme exists, 90,000 EU forward trade carbon
allowances have been sold, at an average price of 9 Euro per tonne
of CO2. The trade, brokered by New York based Evolution Markets, covers
allowances spread over 2005, 2006 and 2007 vintages, from an undisclosed
seller in Central Europe. In an earlier trade of 150,000 tonnes, for
the same vintage allowance, also brokered by Evolution Markets, the
average price paid was Euro 5.5 6.5/tonne. Before that there have been
two small speculative one tonne trades.
The EU emissions market is due to begin formally in Jan. 2005. As part
of the process, some 14,000 industrial installations in the EU will
be allocated a limited number of emission allowances, each representing
one tonne of CO2, which they will be allowed to buy and sell between
themselves. The allocation process is not due to be completed until
March 2004. And, there are worries that agreement will not be reached
in time for the 2005 start.
Sources: EU, Environmental Finance
Renewables around the world
* Greening Adelaide The South Australian government has been
supporting work on sustainable urban devlopment. Herbie Girardet,
from the UK Schumacher Society, has been working for them on a report
on Greening Adelaide. The report ‘Creating a Sustainable Adelaide’
is available at www.planning.sa.gov.au/csa/report.pdf
* The German and Danish wind programmes have slowed.
Although still moving ahead, perhaps inevitably, the leaders, Germany,
have not managed to sustain the very rapid expansion (to 13GW) of
the last couple of years, and Denmark, which now gets 21% of its electricity
from wind, is facing political changes which have cut support for
new projects. But the laggard, the UK, is at last showing some signs
of movement, with nearly 600MW of wind capacity now installed, including
new projects in Wales, once almost a no-go zone for wind. Belgium
is also moving ahead, with agreement on a new 36 turbine wind farm
in a dock area of Antwerp.
* Renewable Hawaii, a subsidiary of Hawaiian Electric Company,
has initial approval to invest up to $10m in renewable energy projects
on the islands of Maui, Molokai, and Lanai. It previously requested
proposals for projects on the island of Oahu and received eight proposals
that include biomass, ocean, solar, and wind energy projects. The
company plans to issue a request for proposals for projects on the
Big Island of Hawaii later soon. See http://www.renewablehawaii.com.
* A joint Israel-US conference on renewable energy sources
held in Jerusalem last year featured the first ever demonstration
of a commercial hydrogen fuel cell in Israel. The ‘Energy Independence
of Democracies in the 21st Century’ conference, which was sponsored
by, among others, the US Department of Energy, the American Jewish
Congress, and the Ministry of National Infrastructure, focused on
developing renewable energy resources to enable national energy independence.
* According to the Worldwatch Insititute, global wind energy
use has more than tripled since 1998 and provides enough electricity
to meet the residential needs of 35 million people- more than equivalent
to the numberof households in California or Spain. And Solar cells
are now only nine years behind wind energy in terms of installed capacity,
with yearly growth rates averaging almost 24% since 1998. Annual
production of PV systems has grown 150% in the past three years, while
the production of wind turbines has increased by 78%. Sales of wind
turbines generated roughly $7 billion in 2002, and support about 100,000
*As of October 2003 2.2 million Dutch households had signed up to green energy schemes, around
33% of the total households.
COP 9- Kyoto stalled
The ninth meeting of the Conference of Parties to the UN
Framework Climate Change Convention was held in Milan in December.
All eyes were on Russia, who, with the USA out of the picture,
held the key to the final ratification of the Kyoto accord. It didn’t
help that, at the opening of the World Climate Change Conference in
Oct, President Putin joked that some people though that global warming
might be a good thing for Russia, although he did say that he didn’t
agree and that he wanted Russia to support the accord.
In fact this should be very attractive to them. Given that its Kyoto
greenhouse gas emission requirement (with the base year set at 1990)
is actually well above what its economy is now producing, Russia can
bank emission credits without having to make any actual reductions,
at least for a while, so you would think it would be keen to sign up-
even if other countries might not be so happy with this ‘hot air’ trading.
Russia sees it essentially as a form of aid. Longer term however, there
would be pressure to make real reductions, especially as the economy
grows. Fortunately, it seems there is plenty of potential for carbon
reductions. Its not just that the Russian economy is so energy inefficient,
providing a lot of opportunities for savings- there is also a very large
renewable potential. Indeed, a recent report suggested that Russia
could become a world leader for renewables- its renewable energy resources
are usually underestimated. This was the conclusion reached by the International
Energy Agency in a new report entitled ‘Russia’s potential renewable
energy resources’. The report describes Russia’s potential for exploiting
biomass, water resources, wind energy, solar energy and geothermal resources
as large. ‘If Russia could use its huge scientific expertise to create
a domestic market for renewable energy, it could eventually provide
serious international competition in this area’. It also mentioned
that Russia is situated next to several ‘energy-hungry’ countries which
are seeking to improve their environment and increase the current level
of energy security. If Russia could provide a commercial market for
renewable energy, over the coming decades it could come to supply electricity
not only for itself but for Europe and China as well.’
In the event though, Russia backed off, arguing that although it wanted
to sign, in its present form the Kyoto accord would place ‘significant
limitations on economic growth in Russia’. This puts Kyoto on hold.
Hopefully it’s just a temporary delay. Even so, Joint Implementation
and Clean Development Mechanism projects, and associated emission trading
arrangements, may now not be ready for start up during the commitment
period 2008-2012. It also makes it hard to start negotiations on the
second commitment phase, post 2012.