Renew On Line (UK) 48

Extracts from NATTA's journal
, issue 148 March-April 2004

   Welcome   Archives   Bulletin         


1. Even more offshore wind

2. BETTA , RO and Carbon trading

3. Wind - in the city and in the forests

4. Green Alliance : PSI report on Funding

5. Solar, Tidal, Hydro and biomass

6. Throwing caution at the wind

7. CHP gap confirmed

8. Long-life energy deal 

9. EU News

10. US News

11. World Renewables Roundup

12. Nuclear News

10. US News

U.S. says we need new technology

U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham has claimed that meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will be impossible without revolutionary new energy technologies being developed by U.S-led research. In a speech to European energy experts last year, he said that “the United States is neither ashamed of its position on Kyoto nor indifferent to the challenges of climate change”.  It was in fact  investing billions of dollars to address these challenges”.

There was he argued “one hard and clear choice: either dramatic greenhouse gas reductions will come at the expense of economic growth and improved living standards, or breakthrough energy technologies that change the game entirely will allow us to reduce emissions while, at the same time, we maintain economic growth and improve the world’s standards of living”.

He described technologies designed to reduce or eliminate CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, or to replace fossil fuels with new energy sources such as hydrogen. “Over the next five years, the United States has pledged $1.7 billion to fund the ambitious Freedom CAR and Hydrogen Fuel Initiative to develop emission-free automotive operating systems that run on hydrogen”.  

He added that U.S. funding for global climate research projects now totals $4.5bn a year, surpassing the combined spending of all other nations and reported that the US was partnering with other countries to collaborate on research to “accelerate the transition to a global hydrogen economy” that would substantially reduce the world’s dependence on petroleum. Well maybe, but, although Abraham did  include renewables, including biomass, as the source of hydrogen, he also mentioned nuclear, and he focussed mostly on coal plus sequestration.

He highlighted the “FutureGen” project, a $1 bn research effort to create a pollution-free coal-fired power plant. “Virtually every aspect of the plant will be based on cutting-edge technology. FutureGen will lead to the development of clean fossil fuel power plants all across the world. It will allow this abundant and economical fuel source to continue producing energy without its traditional environmental side-effects.”  He concluded that we needed to develop revolutionary technologies “that do not simply refine current energy systems, but actually transform the way we produce and consume energy. When those technologies are developed, we will all exceed our targets. If they are not developed, then we will all fail.”

US Energy Policy Act 

Although there have been hitches with final ratification, in Nov. the US Congress agreed on most of the details of the Energy Policy Act 2003- which contains more than $72 billion in authorised spending and an estimated $23 billion in tax giveaways. Although it is based on the Bush administration’s energy priorities, including  commitments to  nuclear  coal and oil, and  it does water down some pollution control rules, it does also back renewables and energy  efficiency.   It  authorises over $2.9 billion in funding over the next five years for renewable energy research and development, including $800 million to develop biopower energy systems, biofuels and bio-based products. It establishes a programme to develop hydrogen energy from many sources, including renewable energy resources like solar energy.  There are also Tax incentives for development of wind, solar and geothermal power and support for energy efficiency programme and transmission line development investment designed to improve energy security.

Less welcome, the bill provides authorizations for an average of about $600 million per year for the Department of Energy’s   program for existing and new coal based research and development and provides a $1.8 billion authorisation for the Secretary of Energy to carry out the Clean Coal Power Initiative, which will provide funding to those projects that can demonstrate advanced coal based power generating  technologies that achieve significant reductions in emissions.

In addition, the bill renews liability protections for the nuclear industry for 20 years, including provisions to encourage the development of advanced modular reactors. It authorises more than $800m over five years for the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative (AFCI) which involves developing the technology base to transform long-lived radioactive materials, such  as those in spent nuclear fuel rods, into short-lived or non-radioactive  materials, and to extract energy from high-level nuclear waste. More positively it provides for improved federal oversight of nuclear plant security and the expansion of federal laws for sabotage of nuclear facilities.  The bill also allocates $1.8 bn over five years for research into nuclear fusion, authorizing  participation in ITER, the international fusion research project. There was however no provision for allowing controversial oil and gas drilling in the environmentally sensitive Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. Evidently public pressure, coupled with fears about the vulnerability of the pipeline, had won out. A poll by Zogby International conducted for the Widerness Society  in November found that 82% of Democrats, 80% of Independents and 70% of Republicans said that investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy sources is preferable to drilling for more oil and gas in the United States.

Arnie backs RPS

During his successful candidacy for California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger promised to accelerate California’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) support scheme. Currently, under the existing RPS, utilities have to increase the proportion of their power purchases coming from renewables by 1%/yr until they reach 20% in 2017. Schwarzenegger proposed bringing the 20% target forward to 2010, and then moving to 33% by 2020.  He has also been talking about tax credits for solar power, and even a requirement that, from 2005, half of all new homes have PV arrays fitted. And he has been talking about a ‘hydrogen highways’ programme. All well and good- but it remains to be seen if the money is there- given the states major economic problems. Also, although he has evidently backed the ZEV electric vehicle programme, he blocked a planned increase in conventional vehicle fuel tax.  So SUV’s are still safe.

Source: Platts Renewable Energy Report  57 Nov. 2003

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