Renew On Line (UK) 54

Extracts from NATTA's journal
, issue 154 Mar-Apr2005

   Welcome   Archives   Bulletin         


1. A new UK Climate Plan

2. Green Heat and Biofuels

3. Local support for Tidal power

4. Wind rush- and wind problems

5. Micro power push: PV and micro-CHP

6. Clean-coal ‘better than wind’

7. Industrial ups and downs

8. Grid Connection Charges

9. £80m for Innovation

10. Efficiency Drives

11. World news: Kyoto goes live

12. World Renewables Round up

13. Nuclear Power- more or less?

11. World news: Kyoto goes live 

Russia’s decision last year to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change   re-energized international cooperation on cutting greenhouse gas emissions- and led to a tripling of speculative carbon trades within the EU.  To enter into force, the Protocol had to be ratified by 55 Parties to the Convention, including developed countries whose combined 1990 emissions of carbon dioxide exceed 55% of that group’s total. With the US (36%) not intending to ratify, the 55% threshold could only be met with the participation of Russia (17%). It was estimated that, since due to the downsizing of its economy, after the collapse of Communism, Russia’s emissions were lower than in 1990, it stands to gain up to $10bn from trading its emission credits.

 The Protocol came into force on Feb 16th, 90 days after Russia’s instrument of ratification was received by the UN in New York. The Executive Secretary of the UN Climate Change Convention commented “President Putin’s leadership in asking the Duma to support the Protocol sends an inspiring signal to the international community.  After a short celebration, we must all get down to the serious business of reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. By giving industry, local authorities and consumers incentives to take action on climate change, Russia and the 29 other industrialized countries that have joined the Protocol will set themselves on a path to greater economic efficiency. Accelerating the development of the clean technologies that will dominate the global economy of the 21st century will earn them a competitive edge in global markets.”

Governments’ discussed their efforts to achieve their Kyoto targets and other actions to address climate change at COP 10, the 10th Conference of Parties, in Buenos Aires in Dec- with 6000 attendees. There was a strong and rather defensive emphasis on ‘adaption’ strategies but there were also more positive  talks on commitments for the post-2012 period. In 1997, the US Senate had voted 95 to zero to refuse to ratify the Kyoto treaty and that clearly included the Democrats. But some hope that the US might consider joining the successor to Kyoto for the period after the first commitment phase 2008-2012.

But it’s not going to be easy. Myron Ebell, director of global warming at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, recently launched a personal attack on Sir David King, the UK Government’s chief scientist, who has warned that the threat to the environment is more important than the war on terror. Ebell told BBC Radio 4: “We have people who know nothing about climate science like Sir David King, who are alarmist and continually promote this ridiculous claim. Sir David has no expertise in climate science”.

Ebell predicted the prospects for a change in US policy would also be reduced by the election of more Republicans to both Houses of Congress. The main obstacle is the perception that responding to climate change will cripple the US economy.  However, Prof. John Schellnhuber, of the University of East Anglia Tyndall Centre, has claimed the cost of averting runaway climate change could be as low as 0.3% of global GDP, via a mixture of adaption and mitigation measure. But at COP 10  the US insisted  that it was ‘very premature to enter into negotiations on a post-2012 regime’,  although a US-EU compromise led to an agreement to meet to discuss these issues in May in Bonn.


The Kyoto Protocol   See

The Protocol contains legally binding emissions targets for 36 industrialized countries. which are are to reduce their collective emissions of six key greenhouse gases by at least 5% by 2008-2012, compared to 1990 levels, with further rounds expected post 2012. While developing countries do not have specific emissions targets, they are committed under the 1992 Climate Change Convention to taking measures to limit emissions, and the Protocol provides ways to help  them to do so- like the CDM. The individual Protocol targets are 8% for Switzerland, most Central and East European states, and the EU; 6% for Canada, Hungary, Japan, and Poland. Russia, New Zealand, and Ukraine are to stabilize their emissions, while Norway may increase emissions by up to 1% and Iceland by up to 10%. The US and Australia, received targets of a 7% cut and a 10% increase  respectively, but have not ratified the Protocol.

In addition to inspiring national action to cut emissions, the Protocol’s entry into force will strengthen international cooperation through the early start-up of:

* an international “emissions trading” regime enabling industrialized countries to buy and sell emissions credits amongst themselves; this market-based approach is meant to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of emissions cuts.
* the “clean development mechanism” (CDM), through which industrialized countries can promote sustainable development by financing emissions-reduction projects in developing countries in return for credit against their Kyoto targets.
* co-operative projects under the system for “joint implementation” (JI)- a developed country can finance emission reductions in another developed country.
* the Kyoto Protocol Adaptation Fund, set up in 2001, which will assist developing countries in anticipating and protecting themselves against climate impacts.


WCRE slams WEC

The World Council for Renewable Energy has come out with a very critical review of the World Energy Council for what it sees as a conservative approach to the future, as revealed by WEC’s World Energy Congress held in Sydney last year. WCRE notes that the general conclusion of the WEC Congress was that fossil energy will stay as dominant as in the past, renewables will play a minor role and that nuclear energy needs to increase its share. WEC’s belief that nuclear energy ‘will increase its role in delivering sustainable energy in both developed and developing countries in the years to come’,  clearly outraged WCRE, who said that it ignored the fact that :

  •  a sharp increase of nuclear energy based on today’s technology will be impossible due to the scarcity of uranium resources.  
  • new nuclear technologies like fusion will not be available for at least 50 years, if  at all.
  • nuclear energy has already consumed world-wide one trillion of subsidies and will need more.
  • major accidents in the past and possibly more in the future and the unsolved waste disposal contaminate our environment and threaten  life.

By contrast WCRE claims that its Second World Renewable Energy Forum in Bonn last June  showed that renewables are a realistic and necessary option for the future, to avoid the dependence on finite energy resources and to give poor countries a realistic chance to develop.

In a powerful article entitled ‘Nuclear Energy Belongs in the Technology Museum’ in the German newspaper DIE ZEIT, 32/2004, Hermann Scheer, Eurosolar president and a major figure behind WCRE, claimed that

Nuclear energy is still too expensive and too dangerous. Huge amounts of water are needed in a time of increasing water shortage. Uranium  supplies are limited. In Europe $1 trillion was spent on nuclear research while renewable energy fell by the wayside.’ 

Nevertheless, he noted, ‘an electrical generation capacity of 16,000 MW has evolved in Germany over the last twelve years in consequence of the renewable energy law. New facilities with 3000 Megawatts were realized in 2003 alone. If this initial rate were reproduced over the next 50 years, a total capacity of 166,000 MW would result, equivalent to conventional capacities of 55,000 MW. Nevertheless it is a very widespread fallacy to think in isolated substitution steps and ignore increasing efficiency potentials. Renewable Energy has unimagined advantages. Short energy chains replace long energy chains from the mines to the final consumer with losses of energy at every step of conversion and transformation. A relatively few highly centralized power plants will be superseded by many decentralized facilities. The need for wide-area infrastructure development declines dramatically.’

More at:


WEC  ‘No  shortage  of  Energy’

Although as WCRE says, WEC is keen on nuclear and fossil fuels, the 20th edition of the WEC’s Survey of Energy Resources, is quite upbeat about renewables. It says that the global biomass potential is very large, wind is progressing well and geothermal is a base-load option with over 8GW already installed.

 ‘Negative Emissions’ Biomass  Strategy

The intriguing concept of “negative emission energy systems” is creating some excitement within the climate change community, following a recent scientific workshop convened by the United Nations Foundation in Paris.

Unlike ‘zero emission’ energy systems, such as solar, wind or nuclear power, which do not emit CO2 to the atmosphere, negative emission energy systems actively remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. If deployed on a large enough scale, they could enable atmospheric CO2 concentrations to be reduced from their present level (around 375 parts per million) to pre-industrial levels (around 280 ppm) before the end of this century. And if recent signs that global climate change may be starting to accelerate prove correct, the world may well need to deploy such systems as a matter of urgency. 

The convener of the Paris workshop was Dr Peter Read of Massey University in New Zealand. As he explained, the key to creating a negative emission system is, firstly, to grow biofuel crops on a large scale; secondly, to convert them to useful energy in the form of electricity, heat or liquid fuels; and thirdly, to ‘sequester’ the CO2 emitted in the energy conversion process. Such sequestration could be achieved by pumping the CO2 into disused oil or gas wells, or saline aquifers, as is being proposed for CO2 emissions from fossil fuels. Alternatively, it could take the form of converting the biofuels partially into charcoal and adding it to soil, which markedly improves its fertility. Charcoal can remain in soil for up to 5,000 years.

Projects linking bio-energy to carbon sequestration and soil improvement could be funded though the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism. This approach, says Dr Read,“provides a sustainable development path for the many developing countries that can produce biofuels cheaply”. Instead of a few gigantic biofuel plantations, he envisages “many hundreds of thousands of small to medium scaled projects suited to the socio-economic and environmental circumstances of the diverse communities where they are located”.

Large-scale bio-energy could provide long-term energy security in the face of high oil prices, through the growth of global trade in bio-fuels such as ethanol or bio-diesel. It could also provide a climate-friendly solution to the intractable problem of emissions from transport. Negative emission energy systems, Dr Read believes, are particularly relevant to the coming deliberations of the G8 Nations in 2005. UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has highlighted the twin themes of Africa and Climate Change as the key issues of Britain’s G8 presidency next year. As Peter Read observes: “They show a way ahead for sub-Saharan Africa and relief from energy poverty there. Solving the problem of climate change and solving the problems of Africa can go hand in hand”.  

* The idea of large scale biomass programmes in developing countries was not  however welcomed by George Monbiot.  Writing in the Guardian (23/11/04), he painted a doomsday picture of oil companies turning to biofuels as a new cash crop driven by the need for fuels for vehicles. That could undermine biodiversity, compete for food growing and lead to world starvation. There will be a discussion of Monbiot’s views, and the reactions to them, in Renew 155. Meanwhile for Peter Reads response (and his report) see

Arctic Melting- or is it?

The recent Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) report found that the Arctic was warming twice as fast as the rest of the world, threatening fisheries, indigenous people and species such as the polar bear. The ACIA report was the result of four years’ work by more than 250 scientists, commissioned by the Arctic Council- Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the US. But the ACIA findings were challenged by the International Policy Network, an international development think-tank, which claimed that the Arctic was likely to cool rather than warm in the next 50 years and that sea levels were not rising. Martin Agerup, president of the Danish Academy of Future Studies, said predictions of rising sea levels and other effects were “fatally flawed”.

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