Low-carbon development in Dharwad district

In 2015, for the first time, a couple of Climate Parliament MPs committed to support the implementation of low carbon development plans in their constituencies, targeting key goals such as energy, water, agriculture, cooking, etc., which together can steer development onto a low carbon pathway in rural India. In Karnataka, Mr. Arvind Bellad, MLA, Hubli Dharwad West and Mr. Pralhad Joshi, the MP from Dharwad helmed this initiative. Both these network members supported a detailed and comprehensive study for a few chosen villages in Dharwad on developing a Low Carbon Development Roadmap focusing on the energy challenges. Based on the Roadmap, two programs are getting implemented by partners. Mr. Bellad gives us an insight into the project, the current status and the challenges faced.

 

mr.bellad
Mr. Bellad, can you briefly introduce us to the project?
In 2015, Mr. Pralhad Joshi and I supported a comprehensive study in few chosen villages in Dharwad done by SELCO Foundation, in association with Climate Parliament. This study’s main objective was to assess how and what different clean energy technologies can be introduced in these villages to bring about local area development in the constituency. The report was presented to us with recommendations highlighting the prioritized technologies which should be introduced in the villages. Since then, we have sought out and finalized different technology partners who will look into the implementation of the chosen technologies.Our main aim with this project was to assess the key role Legislators can play in promoting low carbon development on ground.
Can you tell us more about low carbon development in rural areas and how it is a mechanism to mitigate climate change?
Low carbon development is all about merging developmental objectives with those of climate change mitigation; a large economy like India – being third largest carbon emitter in the world, the focus now is not only to ensure development but, to support development in a sustainable, low carbon manner. Low carbon agriculture practices, forest conservation, afforestation, renewable energy, energy efficiency etc. are practices which can be worked into the developmental plans of cities, but more importantly, in villages. Our basic developmental needs at the ground level in villages need immediate attention. The idea to amalgamate low carbon technologies into the developmental plan for villages, while exploring various National and State Government schemes for low carbon technologies and utilize them to ensure multiple benefits in rural areas such as basic facilities and amenities – the most important one being reliable and affordable power supply.
What is the current status of the project?

 

Based on the recommendations of the study, smooth implementable options and the financial support we have received, we have finalized two technologies for implementation in the first phase. Household biogas units to replace traditional cooking fuels like firewood, cow dung; this will not only result in lower carbon emissions but will also, improve the health of women involved in cooking. Secondly, with the proposal to implement solar powered digital education systems in schools – the focus on education sector as rural government schools currently lack multimedia content due to lack of adequate technology and power cuts.
Subsequently, in October last year, over a meeting with Climate Parliament and a couple of implementing partners Mr. Joshi proposed we look into a more centralized solar project in two villages of his constituency – Haro belavadi and Kabbinur. Dharwad district as a whole has scope for decentralized solar energy technologies with energy efficiency. The area receives on average 300 sunny days a year with an average solar insolation of 5 kWh/m2/day. SELCO Foundation conducted a feasibility study and the report prepared by them had been shared with a few CSR organizations, we have heard back from ONGC that they are interested to fund the development of solar village for
Haro Belavadi. SELCO Foundation is currently in the process of preparing a detailed feasibility report and is looking for a technology partner to collaborate with for the implementation.
What immediate benefits can you see for the villages?

 

A major proportion of the population still uses fuel wood, crop residue, dung or kerosene for cooking. Considering the proximity of these villages to Hubli Dharwad, we were dismayed to see that the woman still suffered from the effects of indoor air pollution while they had other amenities such as televisions, refrigerators etc. Providing these households with clean cooking fuel is our priority intervention and we are sure to see an improvement in the health and quality of life in the next couple of years. Similarly, most of the villages in Dharwad face the problem of frequent and long power cuts daily, the study showed that on average, single phase power is available for 11.9 hours each day, of which 3 hours of this power is available between 6 pm and 10 pm. It is pertinent that we provide reliable electricity to our villages. As centralized grid extension has not been able to fully address the issue of rural electrification, appropriate renewable energy-based interventions can be implemented – this is where our interest to pursue the development of Haro Belavadi into a solar village stemmed from.
How are you planning to fund these initiatives?

 

Our studies have revealed the total figure of biogas units for a 110 households and solar powered digital educations units to be Rs.30,20,000 – though we do have a provision of government subsidy of Rs. 10,00000 for the biogas units. I have been engaging with the Karnataka Grameen Vikas Bank to partially finance the installed of the solar digital education systems under their CSR projects. Similarly, Mr. Joshi’s office has reached out to many CSR organizations and connected with Mangalore Petroleum Refinery Limited (MRP) to come onboard as partial financial partners for the implementation of the household biogas units. We started out this project with the idea to explore the potential to merge schemes like MPLAD, MLALAD and Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana to finance the implementation of the low carbon technologies; we have already submitted our SAGY documents to the government and have accounted for partial financing of the biogas units under the scheme.
SELCO Foundation’s study gave us the estimated total of Rs. 7.2 crores for the development of the two solar villages. Currently, we have ONGC which has agreed to finance the development of Haro Belavadi into a solar village (Rs 3.92 crores). So far, we have been fortunate to connect with the right CSR partners who were keen to collaborate on such projects, but as we intend to showcase low carbon development by Parliamentarians as a replicable model there is a need for us to also integrate these low carbon technologies into our district/area development plans and draw funds from there as well.
What are the key challenges have faced and those you foresee for this project?
In terms of bringing about a low carbon development on the ground, there have been several issues hindering the implementation; one major challenge has been that of obtaining the required finance. It took us a while to identify the right financial sources, the suitable entrepreneurs who run successful viable business models. There is a need to create viable business models for commissioning of such projects. The challenges we foresee in the continuation of this project is the delay in receipt of government incentives and the intricate administrative procedures which could stall progress. Thus, we are already looking into suitable measures to address these – during a district level meeting for Mr. Joshi in January our implementation partner SKG Sangha was present and spoke with the District commissioner, officials from HESCOM – the request for faster deployment of the biogas unit subsidy during the upcoming implementation phase was received positively.
What is the significance of this project – for your district and state? How would you propose to scale up such projects?
With a wide reach in our constituencies and as elected representative, we Legislators are in a unique position to help plug certain gaps – like that of financing and implementation of such projects. With this initiative I see the potential for many more interventions in Dharwad itself. Integrating low carbon strategies into district level planning is a practice we hope to promote by showcasing this study to our district officials. This project has set the ball rolling for us, there are many more such recommendations of the report pertaining to energy efficiency appliances, sustainable agriculture, water management etc, which we will look into. These initiatives also open up a large market for decentralized renewable energy technologies in the state – promoting growth at the local level.
With the learning over the past year under our belt we hope to showcase such initiatives to our fellow colleagues at the Parliament and the Legislative Assembly as well. The Paris targets India has submitted calls for a paradigm shift in the mode of development in the country, I strongly believe we as Legislators can contribute in achieving this by taking up such initiatives to combat climate change. The idea is to replicate these initiatives with alignment to the Government schemes to show massive scaling up of low carbon technologies deployment in the country.

 

Source: Climate Parliament

A Liter of Light, lighting up lives!

Ever thought of what you would normally do to a plastic bottle after drinking out of it? Ever thought of what happens to a bottle, once you throw it away? Or how you could use the bottle in any other way, than disposing it? Well here is one solution that has caught the world’s attention. This revolutionizing, new solar lighting movement is called, ‘Liter of Light’.

A Brazilian mechanic and inventor, Alfredo Moser, invented a unique and simple alternative to illumination, when a power outage affected his workshop. With little materials around him, he used everyday items to build a daylight solution. Inspired by the simplicity of this invention, Illac Diaz, founder of MyShelter Foundation, decided to spread the invention in his energy hungry, cyclonic affected parts of his native country, the Philippines. The ‘Liter of Light’ movement started since then; Opening 53 chapters across nations like India, Philippines, United States, Pakistan, among other, since 2011.

So what is so unique about this solar based solution? How is it different from other solar based solutions out there? Why is it attracting so much attention worldwide? The answer lies in the innovation itself. This unique solution uses minimum resources – a plastic bottle, a little amount of bleach, a small aluminium sheet, resin and basic tools.  This bottle is now ready to be fitted on an aluminium rooftop. On a sunny day, sunlight refracts through the bleached water, illuminating the room below.  It is estimated to have an effect, equivalent to a 50 Watt bulb[1]. All this, at a cost of less than $2[2]! Since the success of Liter of Light’s daylight solution, the foundation has started work on a night light solution as well. The night solution is modular and integrates with the daylight solution using a few LED bulbs and a compact solar panel. Though the cost of the night light solution is presently around $15-20[3], Liter of Light is committed to innovate further, to reduce cost below $10, noting that the minimum cost for a one light bulb system is $10, which is yet marginally high for most regions that fall under extreme poverty.

According to a World Bank[4] report on energy, 1.1 billion people are yet without access to electricity. Globally, an estimated 250 to 500 million households still rely on fuel-based lamps to supply their basic lighting needs. Kerosene being the most predominant fuel. Users of kerosene lamps pay 20-30%[5] of their annual family’s income for the fuel. However a bigger price is paid for their well-being, in the form of injuries from burns, insufficient illumination for education of children, and the significant health impacts from indoor household air pollution (UNEP). An estimated 4.3 million deaths every year from lung cancer, strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, acute lower respiratory disease, and ischaemic heart disease are attributable to HAP emissions[6]. More than three quarters of those deaths (3.31 million) occur in South East Asia and the Western Pacific[7]. Kerosene is also a major emitter of Black Carbon[8], a major contributor to climate change along with the CO2 released from burning of Kerosene[9] . Solar based solutions like the Liter of Light daylight and night lights are helping people to switch to a safer source of light and an inexpensive solution.

Among the regions Liter of Light has penetrated, the most impressive utility of the product are in war-affected, human displaced and catastrophic climatic zones. For instance, the northern belt of Pakistan, Philippines and the east coast of India. Around 35 kilometres southeast of Peshawar, lies one of Pakistan’s largest refugee camps – Jalozai IDP refugee camp. Its home to an estimated 36,000 refugees. Access to basic amenities like electricity, roads and water are very scarce. Maternity wards have very little or no light to run emergency operations. The camp has no lighting along the streets and public washrooms. Vaqas Butt, Founder of ‘Liter of Light – Pakistan’ in collaboration with Pepsi Co Pakistan initiated “Lighting up Lives”. This programme has lit up public restrooms, streets and hospital labor wards. Refugees from the camp express their feeling of having light at night as ‘a blessing’ to their hardship they face.

FotorCreated

Similarly, in the far south East Asia region of the Philippines, a country constantly ravaged by cyclonic storms, Liter of Light installed up to 200,000 daylight and nightlight solutions (pepsico). ‘Liter of Light Bangalore’, recently helped light three hamlets, near coast of Vizag. This included installation of streetlights and hut rooftop night light solutions in areas where electricity had never been reached. A huge impact has been in the employment of rural men and women, to earn a living by maintaining the solution.

Many critics to the Liter of Light movement raise one very important question. How is the use of waste bottles sustainable? What happens to the bottles after its lifespan is over? Use of the bottles for lighting helps in reducing the otherwise disposed bottles which usually land up in landfills and take years to decompose. The estimated lifespan of a Liter of Light bottle and the bleach mixture has been recorded to be around an average of 3 years, though, different regions and different conditions could extend or shorten the time. Liter of Light is considering a plan of action with regard to the disposal of the bottles post its usage stage.

FotorCreated1

Energy for all is going to be the single most important priority for all developed and developing economies in the coming decades. As their economies grow, so does their need for energy. Sustainable energy solutions like renewable energy will be a crucial factor, as economies are looking to curb their impact on the environment as they grow. Sustainable low cost energy solutions like the Liter of Light initiative will play a crucial role in providing energy requirements to regions that would yet need distributed power.

 

 

Joseph Varun

 

[1] “Liter of Light’s solar-powered, DIY lamp made from a plastic …” 2015. 11 Jun. 2015 <http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/features/liter-of-lights-solarpowered-diy-lamp-made-from-a-plastic-bottle-is-transforming-lives-9993728.html>

[2] “Liter of Light | Global Brands Magazine.” 2014. 11 Jun. 2015 <http://www.globalbrandsmagazine.com/liter-of-light/>

[3] “Bottling Solar Energy for All by Illac Diaz — The G Project.” 2013. 11 Jun. 2015 <http://www.thisisyourplanet.com/ideas/community/412>

[4] “Energy Overview – World Bank.” 2013. 11 Jun. 2015 <http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/energy/overview>

[5] “Solar Power Off the Grid: Energy Access for World’s Poor by …” 2012. 10 Jun. 2015 <http://e360.yale.edu/feature/solar_power_off_the_grid_energy_access_for_worlds_poor/2480/>

[6] “WHO | Household air pollution and health.” 2005. 10 Jun. 2015 <http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs292/en/>

[7] “Kerosene Lamps are an Important Target for Reducing …” 2014. 10 Jun. 2015 <http://www.unep.org/ccac/Media/PressReleases/KeroseneLampsImportantTargetforReducingPollu/tabid/794525/Default.aspx>

[8]Black carbon (BC) is the most strongly light-absorbing component of particulate matter (PM), and is formed by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biofuels, and biomass. BC is emitted directly into the atmosphere in the form of fine particles (PM2.5). BC is the most effective form of PM, by mass, at absorbing solar energy: per unit of mass in the atmosphere, BC can absorb a million times more energy than carbon dioxide (CO2). BC is a major component of “soot”, a complex light-absorbing mixture that also contains some organic carbon (OC).

[9] “The kerosene lamp and black carbon – warming the planet …” 2013. 10 Jun. 2015 <http://solar-aid.org/black-carbon-and-the-kerosene-lamp/>

Exploring Gaps in converting Impactful Community Development Projects on ground

Disclaimer: The views of this opinion piece is solely from the author and not necessarily the view of the company.

A recent site visit to our client’s operations had our team exploring the perceptions and dynamics of company vs community. As I noted all the activities our client listed, including building temples, a few randomly placed street lamps – I wondered if these activities had any impact or remotely enough? Shouldn’t the company want to spend money on sanitation or education instead?  I shared my concerns with a colleague. The hour and something discussion had a significant learning curve in my understanding of CSR activities and the potential to use it as a stakeholder engagement tool. The course of the discussion are shared below:

What makes a CSR Activity impactful?

I perceived that there are two ingredients that made any activity impactful – how many or how frequently? ( the quantity) and/or how effectively can it resolve the root of the problem? (the quality). How many livelihoods have been transformed or affected on a daily bases? Does it solve the root of the problem? If it did both, the activity is deemed highly impactful – Enrolling 10,000 girls to school in a heavily patriarchal/ stigmatised community is undoubtedly more impactful than a one off donation of 600 laptops in an electricity deficient, low literacy rate village! Admittedly this is a simplistic view, leaning heavily on the success of its project selection and management. Companies cannot regard CSR projects in isolation – It’s success is dependent on trust and mutual understanding. This encompasses 1. Listening to the community and establishing a common ‘need’ 2. Gain Trust by empathising responses/ concerns raised and reassure the community – not just say, the influential village heads.

Should impactful CSR activities be led by companies or the community?

To dig a little deeper, we had role played what it would be like to view activities from a communities perspective vs companies.  As a community, I may have asked for a street lamps, which I perceive to be an asset for my community as it affects daily chores, but if the company offers me a primary education school instead – would I (read as a community representative for this para) value it more? Perhaps not. It could be seen as – asked me something, offered me another. So would I, really value and use an arguably more impactful investment such as a primary school? Would I care if it doesn’t run? – Maybe not. I would be more inclined to appreciate what was requested and received – and therefore would consider notifying someone if the street lamps didn’t work. This right here is why the effort carried out by a company, gets lost during implementation. For a programme to be effective  or ‘impactful’, organisations are dependent on the villages to see value in it. Value is recognized when demand is met. So, it could be said that a business case for projects could influence the community’s understanding of the requirement, which would gain value and invariably see impact.

Are community-led CSR projects an investment to build trust?

I can see why it might be crucial to carry out initiatives, communities have voiced to gain mutual trust and understanding. Ideally it would make sense to present facts and negotiate an impactful project upfront, but the sad reality is that this might not always pan out. Under this circumstance, building temples and randomly placed street lamps are perhaps a step to ascertain trust. It needs to be embedded in negotiations to carry out an community led project in turn for the opportunity to present an impactful project. One way or another, companies must graduate to a more robust and impactful CSR agenda.

Keerti Krishnan-Murphy
Sustainability Officer
Dairygold Co-Operative Society Limited
Clonmel Road, Mitchelstown, Co.Cork, P67 DD36, Ireland

www.trayport.com
Carbon tax to meet climate concerns

India can display bold leadership by imposing a carbon tax on all fossil fuels in proportion to carbon dioxide emissions

Oil prices have plummeted since June 2014 by almost 60 per cent. This has obviously proved to be a bonanza for oil-importing countries like India just as it has seriously hurt oil-producing nations like Russia and Iran. The fall has been unexpected and what has added to the mystery is the behaviour of Saudi Arabia, the traditional “swing producer” in OPEC which has chosen not to cut production in order to boost prices.

The main reason now being adduced for the oil price decline is the re-emergence of the U.S. as a major hydrocarbon producer because of exploitation of its substantial shale deposits. Lower than anticipated demand, especially from countries like China, and anaemic economic growth in Europe have added to the pressure. As to the response of Saudi Arabia, the best guess is that it does not want to lose market share like it did the last time when it cut output to keep prices up. There are, of course, the usual conspiracy theories — that the Americans have put pressure on major OPEC oil producers not to cut output so that Russia could get hurt from falling prices. Another Byzantine view is that Saudi Arabia is not too unhappy with these prices since its arch-rival Iran is getting hurt and because over the medium-term it would discourage the development of new sources of supply that would threaten the Saudi position.

Revisiting an old idea

Whatever be its backdrop, the current oil price scenario offers the right moment for the international community as well as for major carbon emitter nations to revisit an old idea that has been around for quite some time as a way of dealing with the challenge of climate change — and this is a carbon tax. Economists mostly agree that such a carbon tax is the way to go, but it has faced tremendous political resistance, especially in the U.S. A couple of days ago, however, the influential economist Larry Summers, who has been a close adviser to both President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton, came out publicly in its favour, pointing out that a tax of $25 per tonne of carbon would add just 25 cents to the price of gasoline. There have been other intellectually weighty voices in the past who have advocated a carbon tax, William Nordhaus being perhaps the most prominent amongst them.

It is the political resistance to any form of taxation (what the late Sukhamoy Chakravarty, the distinguished Indian planner, had called the emerging fiscal sociology) that has led to systems of cap-and-trade being adopted to deal with the emissions problem. The EU has such a system, the Chinese have seven pilots and have announced a national initiative beginning next year, and the Americans too are putting it in place for carbon emissions from power plants. A cap-and-trade system puts a cap on the quantity of emissions (which is flexible) and the “rights” to emit are then traded for a price among classes of consumers. It has considerable appeal since it is “market-based” and it has actually been used very effectively to deal with the consequences of sulphur dioxide emissions from power plants in the U.S. (the “acid rain” problem as it is usually called). The cap-and-trade system does provide incentives for emission levels to decline. On the other hand, a carbon tax is much simpler and straightforward to design and administer since it does not involve fixing emission “quotas” for each emitting industry, which is technically very cumbersome.

“A carbon tax is simple to administer since it does not involve fixing emission ‘quotas’ for each emitting industry, which is technically very cumbersome”

William Nordhaus himself in his classic “The Climate Casino,” after an elaborate analysis of the two approaches, writes: “If I were put on the rack and forced to choose, I would admit that the economic arguments for carbon taxation are compelling, particularly those relating to revenues, volatility, transparency and predictability. So if a country is genuinely unsure, I would recommend it use the carbon tax approach.” Dale Jorgenson, one of the pre-eminent economists of our times, has taken the Nordhaus approach and asked the question: how to make it politically acceptable? In “Double Dividend: Environmental Taxes and Fiscal Reforms in the United States,” Mr. Jorgenson and his colleagues make out a persuasive case for a carbon tax in the U.S., but with a twist: that the revenues be used for a capital tax reduction with other countries free to recycle revenues in the matter they deem fit.

Actually, India has a carbon tax of sorts. It is not called as such but the United Progressive Alliance government’s budget of 2010-11 introduced a cess of Rs. 50 per tonne of both domestically produced and imported coal. Last year, this was doubled. However, the idea of this cess, it must be admitted, was less to curb carbon emissions but more to raise revenues for the National Clean Energy Fund. Of course, the Fund itself could well support carbon mitigation initiatives but its take-off has been slow so far since Finance Ministers see it as a source of mitigating not carbon but the fiscal deficit. The Fund has close to Rs. 15,000 crore already accumulated in it and this will grow rapidly as coal consumption increases. But the important point is that India already has an important half-step, even though its version of a carbon tax is not economy-wide and it is far below the levels that are generally accepted as being desirable (around $20-25 per tonne of carbon).

Mr. Summers’ plea comes with a catch: he wants the U.S. to impose a carbon tax on its own as well as a tax on the carbon tax on its imports, in order to goad other countries to adopt the carbon tax route. Perhaps he has China in mind since it has been estimated that at least a fifth of China’s emissions are because of its export sector. He seems to think that this will be World Trade Organization-compatible. But it will pose a huge threat to the world trading system which has produced tangible benefits for those who have harnessed its potential — like China and India — if it were to be used to meet climate policy objectives.

Requiring a different response

Some years ago, drawing inspiration from no less a person than Lord Keynes himself, the Nobel Laureate James Tobin proposed a tax on short-term currency transactions. This was later expanded to cover all short-term financial transactions and is widely known as the Tobin Tax. But it remains on paper as to which periodic obeisance is paid. The carbon tax is a similar development deity but it is an idea whose time has undoubtedly come given the current and expected oil price situation. In the past, oil prices have declined as they have in recent months; the commitment of countries to make the transition away from fossil fuels has perceptibly wavered. This time around, however, given the climate change imperative, our response has to be dramatically different. A carbon tax imposed on all fossil fuels in proportion to carbon dioxide emissions would signal that transformed thinking. It would generate the needed resources for low-carbon investments in a manner that does not add to the fiscal deficit and provide the impetus to a meaningful global agreement in Paris later this year in December. This could well be India’s moment of bold leadership.

(Jairam Ramesh was Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Environment and Forests, 2009-2011).

Source: The Hindu

Germany’s $132 Billion Green Energy Lead Is Fortified by EON’s Split With Fossil Fuels

Photographer: Hannelore Foerster/Bloomberg

A crane operates inside the coal storage hall at the EON AG Staudinger coal-powered power plant in Grosskrotzenburg, Germany.

EON SE (EOAN)’s plan to spin off its fossil-fuel plants marks a watershed moment in Germany’s renewables effort that will likely bolster the country’s already leading position in clean energy.

EON’s announcement is the culmination of a push to wind, solar and other alternative energy forms that the German government began 14 years ago with subsidies to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels for power production. That plan gained added momentum in 2011 with a decision to close the country’s nuclear reactors following the Fukushima accident.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s bold move is already beginning to pay off, with Europe’s largest economy for the first time getting more electricity from renewables this year than any other source. About a quarter of Germany’s power now comes from green energy, compared with 6.2 percent in the U.S. and 4.8 percent in France.

“We are in the midst of a giant transformation process of our energy system,” Deputy Environment Minister Jochen Flasbarth told reporters yesterday in Berlin. “Renewables are the increasingly dominant factor in the German energy mix. EON’s decision is a piece of the puzzle.”

The government intends to go further, setting goals to increase the use of alternative energy sources to as much as 45 percent of all power generated by 2035 and boost that figure to 80 percent by 2050. Germany, where the eastern countryside is already dotted with thousands ofwind turbines, plans to do that in part by expanding large-scale offshore wind plants that can produce more reliably because the breeze is steadier at sea.

Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

Germany this year for the first time got more electricity from renewables than any… Read More

Closing Reactors

Merkel decided after the Fukushima accident in Japan to close the country’s eight oldest nuclear reactors and shutter the remainder by 2022. To reach stricter climate protection targets, Germany tomorrow will unveil details of a plan demanding additional emissions cuts from electricity produced using fossil fuel.

“Germany has some of the most ambitious climate protection targets and is radically rebuilding its energy system,” said Sven Diermeier, an analyst at Independent Research GmbH inFrankfurt who follows EON and rival RWE AG. “And now EON is attempting the most radical rebuilding so far of any large European utility.”

Germany’s push has come at a cost for the country’s utilities, energy-intensive industries and consumers. The influx of renewable power on the grid has undermined wholesale prices and decimated the profitability of coal and gas plants. At the same time, the taxes on electricity that subsidize renewable energy production has led to Germany having the second-highest household power prices in the European Union, according to Eurostat.

Subsidies

German consumers have paid a total of 106 billion euros ($132 billion) through the surcharge on their power bills to finance the clean-energy expansion. The annual cost may peak this year and drop slightly to 22 billion euros in 2015 as the government begins reducing subsidies for the industry.

Despite the expense, the shift has broad public support. A poll earlier this year showed 71 percent of Germans back the decision to close the nuclear reactors and 67 percent think the country isn’t doing enough to move to renewables, according to the Allensbach polling company.

Against this general backdrop, power companies in Germany are increasingly staking their future on green energy. EON after the split in 2016 will concentrate on renewables, distribution and marketing to households and consumers. The spun-off entity will include conventional power generation, global energy trading, exploration and production.

Renewables Focus

“There’s a new world becoming reality that’s driven by customers,” EON Chief Executive Officer Johannes Teyssen said today in Berlin of the plan to split the utility.

Vattenfall AB, owned by the Swedish state, wants to get rid of its German coal operations to focus on renewables, while ENBW Energie Baden-Wuerttemberg AG (EBK) last year doubled its asset sales goal to 3 billion euros to free up cash to invest in clean energy. RWE, Europe’s biggest corporate emitter of greenhouse gases, said yesterday it didn’t plan to follow EON’s lead. RWE last year generated more than half of its power in Germany with lignite, the dirtiest fossil fuel.

“Spinning off coal, gas and oil from the core business is a smart strategy for a future-oriented company,” said Patrick Graichen, head of Agora Energiewende. “I’m sure additional utilities will follow suit — not just in Germany, but worldwide.”

Electric Cars

Merkel is also trying to reduce the country’s emissions by pushing Germany’s auto industry to build more electric cars after French, Japanese and American carmakers got off to an early lead. Including vehicles like Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s i3 city car and an electric version of Daimler AG’s Smart two-seater, German auto manufacturers will offer 17 electric-powered models by the end of 2014, and another 12 will be going on sale next year, according to the country’s VDA automotive industry group.

The chancellor today threw her support behind incentives to reach her goal of having 1 million electric cars on German roads by 2020. The country is behind on the effort in part because the government has previously balked at subsidies like those offered in France, where consumers receive as much as 6,300 euros to help cover the higher cost of low-emission vehicles. Electric car sales in Germany last year amounted to about 7,600 vehicles, while in France demand was almost double that at 14,400.

“There’s a lot to do,” Merkel said during a press conference in Berlin. “We see that further subsidies are necessary. We must speak with the German states about that.”

 

Source: Bloomberg

Adaptation, mitigation activities can control climate change – I.P.C.C. report

Climate change irreversible impacts to increase, however, there are options to adapt to climate change and stringent mitigation activities to manage it, finds new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.

The Synthesis Report, which sums and integrates the findings of the I.P.C.C. Fifth Assessment Report produced by 800 scientists (see related story), is the most comprehensive assessment of climate change.

“Our assessment finds that the atmosphere and oceans have warmed, the amount of snow and ice has diminished, sea level has risen and the concentration of carbon dioxide has increased to a level unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years,” said Thomas Stocker, co-chair of I.P.C.C. Working Group I.

The document reports with great certainty than in previous assessment the fact that emissions of greenhouse gases and other man-made drivers have been the dominant cause of observed warming since the mid-20th century.

According to the report, the more human activity disrupts the climate, the greater the risks. Continued GHG emissions will further warm and create long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of widespread and profound impacts affecting all levels of society.

“Adaptation can play a key role in decreasing these risks. Adaptation is so important because it can be integrated with the pursuit of development, and can help prepare for the risks to which we are already committed by past emissions and existing infrastructure,” said Vicente Barros, co-chair of I.P.C.C. Working Group II.

But adaptation alone is not enough. Substantial and sustained reductions of GHG emissions are at the core of limiting the risks of climate change, as it will not only reduce the rate and magnitude of warming, but also increase the time available for adaptation.

According to experts, there are multiple mitigation pathways to achieve the substantial emissions reductions over the next few decades that will limit the warming to 2 degrees Celsius. But delaying mitigation to 2030 will severely increase the challenges associated with limiting the warming.

“It is technically feasible to transition to a low-carbon economy. But what is lacking are appropriate policies and institutions. The longer we wait to take action, the more it will cost to adapt and mitigate climate change,” said Youba Sokona, co-chair of I.P.C.C. Working Group III. – EcoSeed Staff

Source: Ecoseed

ISO Greenhouse gas standards get revamp in response to climate change needs

With a rapidly changing climate, the market needs for climate change projects has never been more dynamic. Which is why ISO is revising its greenhouse gas standards, adding greater value to existing standards and making them fit for the future.

First published in 2006, ISO’s range of standards for greenhouse gases are an essential set of tools for programmes aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as well as for emissions trading. Now ISO’s Technical Committee for greenhouse gas management, TC207/SC7, is reviewing several standards to ensure they meet the ever-changing market needs of the future.

ISO 14064-1   Greenhouse gases — Part 1: Specification with guidance at the organization level for quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions and removals  will address some key GHG quantification issues and will include a more standardized reporting frame.

ISO 14064-2 Greenhouse gases — Part 2: Specification with guidance at the project level for quantifcation, monitoring and reporting of greenhouse gas emission reductions or removal enhancementswill be expanded to be applicable to carbon credit and innovative technology projects, and projects internal to organizations.

ISO 14064-3 Greenhouse gases — Part 3: Specification with guidance for the validation and verification of greenhouse gas assertions and 14065 Greenhouse gases: Requirements for greenhouse gas validation and verification bodies for use in accreditation or other forms of recognition are standards used by greenhouse gas programmes around the world and will be revised to ensure they are as up to date as possible and to serve new market needs such as product carbon footprint verifications.

ISO TC 207/SC7 regularly receives requests for new climate change standards. Hear more about the committee from its chair Tom Baumann in the video below.

The Desert Southwest USA Is Burping Methane Like Nobody’s Business

Over the next decade or so, our collective climatic future will be won or lost based on how aggressively the world decides to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Increasingly, the greenhouse gas that could provide humanity’s biggest bang for its climate change tackling buck isn’t carbon dioxide—it’s methane. For the first time, a team of scientists have observed the effects of natural gas extraction—which is 95-98 percent methane—from space.

Using satellite data, a study published Thursday finds a surprising methane hotspot: New Mexico’s San Juan Basin, an area that some believe is primed for its own oil and gas boom just like the one a few years ago in the Bakken formation of western North Dakota.

“It’s the largest signal we saw in the continental United States,” said lead author Eric Kort, a professor at the University of Michigan. I reached Kort by phone Thursday.

Methane has a shorter residence time in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, but once it’s up there, it’s a doozy. Pound for pound, methane is 20 times more effectiveat trapping the sun’s heat as carbon dioxide.

Since 2007, global methane emissions have steadily increased, but scientists aren’t sure exactly why. They’ve narrowed down the possible main sources to burps from a warming Arctic, an uptick in emissions from tropical wetlands, and human agriculture and fossil fuel extraction. The recent rise overlaps with the American boom in fracking in places like North Dakota, but also to an increase in Arctic temperatures.

Along with co-authors from NASA and the Department of Energy, Kort analyzed seven years of methane concentrations from the space-based high-resolution (and impressively named) SCanning Imaging Absorption SpectroMeter for Atmospheric CHartographY (SCIAMACHY), which is accurate enough to track anomalies back to their source regions.

satellite-methane-signal-averages
This weird methane blip has been linked to fossil fuel extraction in New Mexico.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Michigan

The San Juan Basin blip that Kort’s team found showed up during the entire seven-year dataset, and in all seasons—evidence that its source was likely unnatural. Intrigued by this finding, the authors decided to explore further.

In 2012, using ground-based measurements, they were able to track the anomaly back to an unconventional technique called coalbed methane extraction that’s been practiced for decades in the region.

However, in order to justify the anomalous atmospheric concentrations they were detecting, Kort’s team calculated the amount of methane emanating from these sites must be enormous: 590,000 tons per year, or about 10 percent of the EPA’s estimate of total U.S. emissions from natural gas production, and about three-and-a-half times higher than previous estimates in this region.

For perspective, Kort’s analysis shows the San Juan Basin may already be producing methane emissions roughly equivalent to the entire oil, gas, and coal industry in the United Kingdom. Said Kort, “it is a pretty impressive number from such a small spatial region.”

Earlier this year, the Obama administration announced an offensive on methane that relies primarily on voluntary compliance by the agriculture and energy industries. However, in September, the Department of Energy paved the way for increased natural gas exports at port facilities on the Gulf Coast, an example of the administration’s on-again-off-again commitment to making hard choices in favor of climate stability.

aggi.fig2
Global methane concentrations are on the rise again in recent years, thanks—perhaps—to America’s fossil fuel renaissance.

Image: NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory

Kort’s not done examining the San Juan Basin. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is supporting his research team to conduct an aerial survey of the region in an attempt to further track down individual point sources of methane.

 

Source: http://www.slate.com/