14. World News
The members of the
Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate Change- Australia,
China, India, Japan, South Korea and the USA- met in Sydney in January,
to discuss collaboration on ‘energy efficiency, clean coal, liquefied
natural gas, carbon capture and storage, methane capture and use, civilian
nuclear power, rural and village energy systems, advanced transportation,
building and home construction and operation, agriculture and forestry,
hydropower, wind power, solar power and other renewable energy sources’.
The US and Australia have pledged $128m (US$52m in 2007 and Aus$100m
over five years), although ministers said they also expected many private
sector companies to participate in the partnership. But this funding
was greeted with derision by environmental groups, who saws it as insignificant.
The FT (12/12/06) noted that the Kyoto protocol is expected to result
in a flow of up to €10bn by 2012 from richer to poorer countries
to fund low-carbon projects.
John Howard, the Australian prime minister, said the partnership would
result in a 20% cut in greenhouse gas emissions from the six countries
by 2050 compared with what they would otherwise be. But they currently
generate nearly half of world emissions and WWF pointed out that emissions
were expected to rise by 20% globally, so wiping out the saving. Nevertheless,
the Pact clearly intends to press ahead. Specific areas for middle-to-long
term collaboration are hydrogen, nano technologies, advanced bio-tech,
next generation nuclear fission and fusion.
U.S. Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula
Dobriansky said the initiative would ‘work from the bottom up,
through public-private partnerships to build local capacity, improve
efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from industrial facilities,
power plants, mines and buildings’. James Connaughton, chair of
the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said that, although
it was meant to operate in parallel, the pact was ‘a much more
powerful way of engaging’ with the issues than the Kyoto Protocol,
‘because it is tailored to the priorities that each country has
set for themselves in accordance with their own national circumstances’.
Dobriansky added ‘Countries like India and China are grappling
with issues relevant to economic growth and looking for effective and
efficient ways to advance their economies and do it in a very environmentally
responsible way’. It was claimed that Canada and New Zealand were
also interested in joining, as well as members of the EU.
However not everyone saw it as quite so benign, given that, unlike Kyoto,
it was a voluntary pact with no mandatory targets. The Environmental
News Service (ENS, Jan 11), under the headline ‘Worst Greenhouse
Gas Nations Partner for Cleaner Energy’, reported that the meeting
met with hundreds of demonstrators protesting outside, and that the
Nature Conservation Council, said that ‘The talks are intended
to divert attention away from solutions like renewable energy in favor
of non-binding targets using technologies that don’t even exist
yet’. The Sydney Morning Herald, (Jan12) reported that nuclear
power was a key issue for the meeting, and that the USA had ‘called
on China to agree to safeguards that would enable Australia to begin
exporting some of its vast uranium resources to one of the most power-hungry
countries on the planet’, noting that the export of uranium to
China ‘depended on the country agreeing to a number of safeguards
concerning disposal and weapons proliferation’. It quoted the
US Energy Secretary Sam Bodman, who said the main impediment to an expanded
nuclear was the threat of terrorists targeting plants. ‘The potential
after 9/11 in our country, the threat of terrorists, is something we
are taking very seriously and there is concern over the potential access
of terrorists to nuclear material’.
More at: www.dfat.gov.au/environment/climate/ap6/
China dumps REFIT
China is not to
introduce a fixed price premium wind power tariff, as was initially
expected. Instead, it will use a competitive bidding process controlled
by the government. Windpower Monthly (Feb) said that wind developers
were ‘shocked’ and that China’s Renewable Energy Industries
Association said that ‘the zeal for wind development in China
is likely to cool down’
India- a solar
Solar could provide
42% of India’s total energy supply by 2100, according to a scenario
in ‘New & Renewable Energy Policy Statement 2005’, a
draft policy produced by the Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources.
By 2022, renewables could increase from the current level of 147 million
tonnes of oil equivalent (mtoe) to 275mtoe, although, given expected
growth in demand and other sources, the renewables’ share of total
energy drops from 33.5% to 30.9% over that period.
Biomass is the largest contributor now, at 139mtoe (32% of total energy),
while wind is 0.14mtoe (0.03%) but will grow to 2mtoe (0.22%) within
15 years. By 2052 renewables rise to 440-1,220 mtoe with market shares
of 29%-48%, while the total by the end of the century could be 1,860
mtoe, which would be 73% of total energy supply. Solar would dominate
at 1,070 mtoe (42%) while biomass would provide 700 mtoe (27%) and wind
only 10 mtoe (0.4%). The draft says that ‘new and renewable energy
sources will dominate the country’s energy scene in the future
and the biomass- solar- hydrogen economy should be firmly in place sometime
by the second half of the 21st century unless fusion deployment makes
a wide appearance’.
Currently, India has 7.2 GW of green generation capacity- 6% of its
power capacity. But it also has a nuclear programme, based on the canadian
Candu reactor technology which does not require enriched uranium fuel.
However, India is looking at the thorium option, presumably since it
can’t get access to enough uranium as it’s not a signatory
to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, whereas thorium rich monazite ore is
found in beach sands in India.
* The use of thorium may have wider implications. Certainly there is
a lot more thorium than uranium in the world. The US Lawrence Berkeley
National Labs are developing a small 50MW thorium converter reactor.
It could be that if the nuclear option is followed up on a large scale
globally, then this and other sources of nuclear fuel will be taken
up. Challenging the view that reserves of high grade uranium ore are
relatively limited, Bert Metz & Detlef van Vuuren from the Dutch
Environmental Assessment Agency, have claimed that ‘new discoveries
of uranium resources, use of thorium, more efficient technologies and
production of uranium from seawater could, at least in theory, imply
that this option is almost without technical limits’.
A bit of a stretch. The concentrations of uranium in sea water are tiny,
and you would need a lot of energy to get fuel from it. And thorium
based technology is likely to be complex and expensive- it’s not
fissile and to sustain a chain reaction you have to use plutonium breeding.
CCS not renewables?
CSIRO research agency is to focus Aus$90m on clean coal/geological carbon
sequestration instead of renewable energy. According to ReFocus Weekly
(8/2/06) it will ‘increase its energy research by 5% to 10% on
low-emission GHG mitigation strategies such as clean coal, and will
shed up to 200 jobs over the next three years from its current workforce
of 6,500. Opposition science critic Jenny Macklin says CSIRO doesn’t
seem to care about renewable energy research, but Geoff Garrett of CSIRO
says industry and consumers depend on coal to generate electricity and
that is unlikely to change.’
Refocus Weekly reported that 15% of the 10,000 solar PV panels installed
by the rural electrification agency ASER in Senegal, West Africa, have
been stolen, plus 200 others.