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

Now, sell solar power to discoms to reduce electricity bill

NEW DELHI: Delhi took a huge leap in renewable energy generation on Tuesday. Power watchdog Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) announced regulations for net metering of renewable energy, giving Delhiites a chance to become renewable energy suppliers. The regulations outline how people can generate renewable energy in their premises, and then reduce their electricity bills by the amount of power they supply to the grid. The regulations are expected to be enforced within a week.

While the net metering regulations apply to all forms of renewable energy like solar, hydro and wind, in Delhi only solar generation is feasible. Many households and organizations already generate solar power for their own consumption, but the new regulations will allow them to supply to the grid and receive energy credits or adjust the units supplied against their electricity bills.

DERC chairperson P D Sudhakar said, “With this, consumers can set up their own solar panels and either supply directly to the grid or use it partially. Whatever you supply to the grid, you can draw back whenever you need it”. How much power a person supplies and draws back from the grid will be metered. If they draw more than they supply, the difference will be billed to them. If they draw less, they will be given energy credits in the next billing cycle.

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To become a renewable energy generator, a person will have to apply to their area’s discom for a connection to the renewable energy system. The discom will then allow the connection after analyzing transformer-level capacity. “The capacity of renewable energy system to be installed at any premises shall be subject to the feasibility of interconnection with the grid, the available capacity of the service line connection of the consumers of the premises, and the sanctioned load of the consumer. Minimum capacity for the renewable energy system should not be less than 1kW peak,” said an official on Tuesday.

Two meters will be installed in the consumer’s premises — a renewable energy meter to measure total renewable energy generated, and a net meter to measure the difference between the power drawn and contributed to the grid. Check meters can be installed by either party at their own cost. “Charges for the testing and installation of net meters will be borne by the consumer, and those for the renewable energy meter by the distribution licensee,” the regulations state.

Many large-scale power consumers like malls, hospitals, schools and government buildings already generate solar power. “The MoEF building in Jor Bagh generates up to 1MW power which it is unable to use. Now it can supply its excess power to the grid and get adjustments in its power bills. We also hope households will opt for renewable energy generation,” said a DERC official. For discoms, the advantage is that any renewable energy they source in this way will count towards their renewable power obligations that they have not been able to meet.

 

Source: TOI, New Delhi

German MPs adopt cuts for green energy subsidies

Berlin (AFP) – German lawmakers adopted a law on Friday to reduce renewable energy subsidies as the government seeks to keep its green “energy transformation” on track, curb rising prices and fight nagging criticism.

The reform of the “Energiewende” is one of the first big projects of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s third term, together with a national minimum wage, and has been a political hot potato both in Germany and with the European Commission.

The reform of the “Energiewende” is one of the first big projects of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s third term © AFP/File Frank Zeller

The reform of the “Energiewende” is one of the first big projects of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s third term
© AFP/File Frank Zeller

The law, overwhelmingly approved in the Bundestag lower house of parliament, aims to provide new impetus to the energy shift under which Europe’s top economy plans to meet 80 percent of its energy needs with renewables by 2050.

“We’re reducing the costs and that is also urgently needed,” Energy Minister Sigmar Gabriel told MPs.

Merkel acknowledged this week that Germany was facing a “herculean” task, while Gabriel, who is also her vice-chancellor, said the energy transformation was increasingly being viewed with scepticism by the rest of the world.

Germany introduced a generous system of subsidies for green energies in the late 1990s, a move which has borne fruit — 27 percent of the electricity used in the first quarter of this year came from renewable sources — but is costly.

The subsidies are funded by a tax levied on customers’ electricity bills, which has driven up energy prices in Germany to count among Europe’s highest.

Under the new law, the subsidies will be substantially reduced from August 1, while producers of green energy will also gradually have to sell competitively on the market rather than enjoying priority treatment with guaranteed prices.

Merkel took the surprise decision in 2011 to gradually scrap nuclear power for renewables in the wake of the Fukushima disaster but has faced pressure over how to pay for the clean energy drive.

To offset the phasing out of nuclear energy and the time needed to build up renewable sources, Germany has also increased consumption of cheaper fossil fuels such as coal which has hit its image for environmental protection.

“A first step in the right direction,” cheered the BDEW federation, which represents conventional energy producers, while the reform is criticised by the ecologist Greens party, clean energy associations and environmentalists.

“Sigmar Gabriel is the wrecking ball which is damaging renewable energy here in this country,” Greens lawmaker Oliver Krischer said.

Berlin is also likely to face opposition from the EU Commission, which argues that a tax levied by Germany on imported electricity, including green forms, is, effectively, a barrier to free trade.

© AFP

Source: Magazine GoodPlanet Info

Japan ‘plans carbon offset scheme with India’

Tokyo (AFP) – Japan is set to offer India a carbon offset scheme that would see Tokyo’s environmental technology used by the rising Asian giant to help reduce its emissions, a report said.

The scheme would see Japanese firms earn carbon credits in return for helping developing countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, the Nikkei newspaper said in its Monday evening edition, adding India was a likely early partner.

Farmworkers prepare a flooded field for rice-growing as the chimneys of the Kolaghat Thermal Power Plant loom the background in Mecheda, around 85 kms south-west of Kolkata, eastern India on July 26, 2011 © AFP/File Dibyangshu Sarkar

Farmworkers prepare a flooded field for rice-growing as the chimneys of the Kolaghat Thermal Power Plant loom the background in Mecheda, around 85 kms south-west of Kolkata, eastern India on July 26, 2011
© AFP/File Dibyangshu Sarkar

The joint crediting mechanism (JCM) would encourage Japanese firms to participate by allowing them to promote technologies such as energy-efficient furnaces and air-conditioning systems, in developing countries with huge market potential such as India.

The Nikkei report comes as Japan struggles to further cut its greenhouse gas emissions, with businesses claiming many factories, vehicles and household appliances are already fitted with energy-efficient technologies.

It also comes as the latest energy white paper showed Japan is increasingly dependent on imported fossil fuels for power generation, with the public still unwilling to allow nuclear reactors to be switched back after the huge 2011 quake-tsunami disaster that crippled the Fukushima nuclear plant.

Under the mooted joint crediting mechanism (JCM), participating firms would be allowed to count the carbon credits as reductions in their own greenhouse gas emissions or could sell them to the government, the Nikkei said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, who will visit Tokyo next month, will agree to speed up talks on the matter, the newspaper reported.

Japan has already signed JCM agreements with 11 developing countries, including Indonesia, Mongolia and Kenya.

Tokyo hopes carbon credits from the scheme could be used to come closer to its target of reducing Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions by 3.8 percent against the 2005 level.

Japan, which had relied on nuclear for over a quarter of its power, jacked up imports of fossil fuels to keep the lights on after the quake-tsunami disaster forced a shutdown of the country’s reactors.

About 88 percent of Japan’s energy came from fossil fuels in the past fiscal year to March, according to the white paper released Tuesday.

© AFP

Source: Magazine Goodplanet Info

RAISE your VOICE, not the sea level #WED2014

Authored by Nalaka Gunawardene on 3rd June 2014, SciDevNet

Going carbon neutral and protecting marine environment are key to fighting climate change in the tiny island nation, says Nalaka Gunawardene.

‘Raise your voice, not the sea level’ is the theme for this year’s World Environment Day, which falls on 5 June. The theme resonates with the United Nations designating 2014 as the International Year of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) [1], to express solidarity with the world’s 51 small island states, many of which are on the frontline of climate change impacts. [2]

The only one in South Asia, the Maldives, has long been vocal on the high vulnerability of such states.

The Maldives is the smallest Asian country in both population and land area: it packs around 350,000 people into just under 300 square km. Located in the Indian Ocean, south-west of India and Sri Lanka, it is an archipelago of 1,192 islands, of which only 200 are inhabited. With an average ground level of 1.5 metres above sea level, it is also the lowest country on the planet. [3]

An expected rise of two degrees Celsius in the world’s average temperatures during this century could seriously affect island states like the Maldives, which are least able to cope with extreme weather events and rising sea levels.
Sea level rise

A 2013 World Bank report envisages sea levels rising in South Asia by 60 to 80 cm if temperatures rise by two degrees Celsius by 2100, relative to 1986-2005. In a scenario of four degrees Celsius rise in global average temperatures by 2100, the sea-level rise could touch 100-115 cm by the 2090s. [4]

As the planet warms, melting glaciers and polar ice caps increase the volume of seawater. Warmer waters also expand, taking more space. According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the global sea level has already risen by about 10 to 25 cm during the last 100 years.

“It is imperative to protect the coral reefs, sea grass, coastal vegetation and wetlands to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change.” 
Ali Rilwan, Bluepeace

Sea level rise is a gradual process, not a single event like a tsunami. Land first gets flooded temporarily during high tide or stormy weather. Salt intrusion can render soil and groundwater unusable well before permanent inundation happens.

The Maldivians saw early evidence of this in April 1987, when the highest tidal waves in memory flooded a third of the capital Malé, washing away reclaimed land and causing widespread damage. Later that year, the then Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom raised the issue at the UN General Assembly, and appealed for help to nations like his.

In 1989, he convened the first global small island states conference on sea level rise: the beginning of joint advocacy that was later picked up by the Alliance of Small Island States, AOSIS, formed in 1990. [5]

At the time, Gayoom told me in an interview, ”A mere rise of one foot in sea level would mean a great deal to us. Storm action and wave action can lead to erosion of the land, salt intrusion and loss of agricultural land, and flooding.”

His successor, Mohamed Nasheed, who took over in late 2008, called the plight of his people a human rights issue and a clear threat to national security. In a clever communications move, he once held a cabinet meeting underwater to illustrate what could unfold in a few decades.

Carbon neutral plan

At the policy level, Nasheed announced in 2009 that the Maldives would become carbon neutral in a decade. The ambitious plan involved phasing out fossil fuel use with renewable energies (solar, wind and biomass), improving energy efficiency, and an integrated solid waste management system. [6]

“We understand that our becoming carbon-neutral will not save the world, but at least we would have the comfort of knowing that we did the right thing,” Nasheed said later that year.

Nasheed told me in an interview in 2009: “Traditionally, we’ve always thought that adaptation represents physical structures — revetments, embankments, breakwaters, etc. But the most important adaptation issue is good governance and, therefore, consolidating democracy is very important for adaptation.” [7]

Political storm

But after Nasheed resigned in February 2012, the Maldives has experienced considerable political unrest. Preoccupied with uncertainties of the present, Maldivians have not had much time to reflect on their long-term survival.

Ali Rilwan, executive director of Bluepeace, the country’s oldest environmental organisation, says his group is unclear where plans for carbon neutrality stand today. “Even (the current) President Abdulla Yameen’s government has not mentioned a word about Maldives (going) carbon neutral by 2020.”

Meanwhile, in May 2014, Maldives minister of environment and energy, Thoriq Ibrahim, pledged to ‘minimise the country’s dependence on fossil fuels’ and called for increased investment in clean energy. [8]
Adaptation strategies

An innovative and rigorous adaptation strategy that includes healthier, climate-resilient ecosystems is the best way forward for Maldivians.

Bluepeace advocates ecosystem-based adaptation for the short and medium term. That entails conserving terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems as well as restoring those degraded.

Of particular concern is the health of coral reefs on which the nation’s key economic activity of tourism depends critically. Coral reefs are also the first line of defence against wave action and storm surges. The warming seas triggered large scale coral bleaching in 1998 and 2010, causing much damage.

“It is imperative to protect the coral reefs, sea grass, coastal vegetation and wetlands to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change,” says Rilwan. [9]

Ibrahim Naeem, director of the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) Coastal Zone Management Centre, located in Malé, agrees.  Adopting integrated coastal zone management (ICZM), a scientific methodology to balance competing demands, can help countries to reconcile competing demands and many pressures on the coast.

For the longer term, elevating entire islands is an option, albeit a very expensive one. An example is the reclaimed island of Hulhumalé that stands two metres above sea level.

Can the Maldivians adapt fast enough to outpace the rising seas? Despite their passionate climate advocacy for over a quarter century, that remains uncertain.

Nalaka Gunawardene is a Colombo-based science writer and journalist who has covered climate stories since the late 1980s. He is also a trustee of SciDev.Net. The views in this column are his own.

A version of this story was originally published on the South Asia edition.

References

[1] UNEP World Environment Day website

[2] UN DESA list of small island developing states

[3] Maldives country profile by SAARC Coastal Zone Management Centre.
[4] Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts, and the Case for Resilience. The World Bank, 2013.

[5] Report of the small island states conference on sea level rise, Malé, The Maldives, November 1989.

[6] Maldives first to go carbon neutral. The Guardian, 15 March 2009.

[7] Nalaka Gunawardene interview with President Mohamed Nasheed, published in Groundviews, 23 October 2009.

[8] Environment Minister pledges to minimize Maldives dependence on fossil fuels. Minivan News, 8 May 2014.

[9] Climate Change Pushes Maldives into Uncharted Waters; Ecosystem-based Adaptation is Imperative for its Survival. Bluepeace blog,1 May 2014.

Obama to unveil historic climate change plan to cut US carbon pollution

President Barack Obama will unveil a plan on Monday that will cut carbon pollution from power plants and promote cap-and-trade, undertaking the most significant action on climate change in American history.

The proposed regulations Obama will launch at the White House on Monday could cut carbon pollution by as much as 25% from about 1,600 power plants in operation today, according to those claiming familiarity with the plan.

Power plants are the country’s single biggest source of carbon pollution – responsible for up to 40% of the country’s emissions.

President Obama told West Point graduates this week that the US must lead by example on climate change. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty

President Obama told West Point graduates this week that the US must lead by example on climate change. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty

The rules, which were drafted by the Environmental Protection Agency and are under review by the White House, are expected to do more than Obama, or any other president, has done so far to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions responsible for climate change.

They will put America on course to meet its international climate goal, and put US diplomats in a better position to leverage climate commitments from big polluters such as China and India, Obama said in a speech to West Point graduates this week.

“I intend to make sure America is out front in a global framework to preserve our planet,” he said. “American influence is always stronger when we lead by example. We can not exempt ourselves from the rules that apply to everyone else.”

It won’t be without a fight. Obama went on in his remarks at West Point to take a shot at Republicans who deny climate change is occurring, and the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, on Thursday accused critics of making “doomsday claims” about the costs of cutting carbon.

But the White House still showed some signs of nervousness about a political backlash, releasing a report about expanded oil and gas production on Obama’s watch and adding to the furious spinning by environmental and industry groups about the potential costs and benefits of the EPA regulations.

“We actually see this … as the Super Bowl of climate politics,” said Peter Altman, director of the climate and clean air campaign for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which produced a model carbon-cutting plan that has helped guide the EPA regulations.

But if all unfolds according to plan, Obama will have succeeded in overcoming blanket opposition – and outright climate denial in many cases – from Republicans and some Democrats in Congress, an industry-funded misinformation campaign, and a slew of anticipated lawsuits.

Obama had originally hoped to cut carbon pollution by moving a bill through Congress. Four years after that effort fell apart, campaigners say the EPA rules could deliver significant emissions cuts – near the 17% Obama proposed at the Copenhagen climate summit – and the cap-and-trade programmes that were so reviled by Republicans.

The EPA, using its authority under the Clean Air Act, proposed the first rule phase, covering future power plants, last September.

In this the more politically contentious phase of the plan, it is widely believed the EPA will depart from the “inside the fence-line” convention of earlier environmental regulations for mercury and other pollutants, which focused on emissions-scrubbing on specific power plants.

The EPA administrator, Gina McCarthy, is seeking steep reductions – as much as 25% – but she has hinted repeatedly that she will allow states latitude in how they reach those targets.

The plan would allow electricity companies to reduce pollution by shutting down the oldest and most polluting coal plants. They can install carbon-sucking retrofits. They can expand wind and solar energy, upgrade the electrical grid, encourage customers to update to more efficient heating and cooling systems, or more efficient appliances and lightbulbs.

“They have recognised huge emissions reductions opportunities are often cheaper than trying to do it all inside the plant,” said David Doniger, who heads the climate programme at the NRDC. “If you want to get substantial reductions and you want to get it economically, you have to take into account a system-wide approach.”

The EPA to expected to try to soften the impact of the regulations by coming out with a range of targets, taking account of the energy mix in different states, and by allowing a two-step phase-in of the targets, with steeper cuts delayed until 2030.

But campaigners and industry are bracing for a fight.

The Chamber of Commerce, one of the major opponents of the environmental regulations, said in a report on Wednesday the EPA regulations would cost $51bn a year in higher electricity prices and lost jobs and investment – but those figures were disputed.

Coal mining companies, power plant operators that are heavily dependent on coal, attorney generals in about a dozen Republican-controlled states, and conservative think tanks also argue the system-wide approach oversteps the EPA’s authority, and are lining up for legal challenges.

“I suspect we will see more environmental litigation as it relates to CO2 emissions going forward from a variety of sources,” said Karen Harbert, who heads the Chamber’s energy institute.

America’s carbon dioxide emissions have been falling over the last few years to the lowest levels since the 1990s, because of a switch from coal to cheaper natural gas, and on a smaller scale increased investment in renewables. The economic downturn also reduced demand for electricity.

The White House said those changes – which were mainly market-driven – showed the EPA regulations would not hurt the economy as critics claim.

“We can transform our energy system to be less carbon intensive while still growing the economy,” Obama’s counsellor, John Podesta, told a conference call.

The EPA rules would fix those reductions in place and – as several campaigners and energy analysts noted – be a relatively easy reach for a large number of states which have already moved to cut emissions and expand wind and solar power.

More than 30 states already have regulations promoting renewable energy. Minnesota and Colorado are pledged to get 30% of their power from renewables by 2020.

Meanwhile, nine north-eastern states and California are already rewarding power companies which cut carbon through operating cap-and-trade systems.

Those changes in the energy landscape – and an intense outreach campaign by McCarthy and other officials – could defuse of the opposition, said Paul Bledsoe, an energy consultant who served on Bill Clinton’s climate change task force. “I think there is a divide between the companies,” he said. “Coal heavy companies are going to fight it tooth and nail, especially behind the scenes, legally. The more gas, nuclear and renewable-heavy companies are going to be more sanguine about it.”

The EPA rules could also end up vastly expanding regional cap-and-trade programmes. Kelly Speakes-Backman, who heads the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in the north-east, said she had already had quiet approaches from a number of state officials.

She said the nine states in RGGI had already cut carbon dioxide emissions 40% from 2005 levels, and were aiming to halve carbon pollution by 2020. The new EPA rules would be a “game-changer” for cap-and-trade.

Once Obama makes his announcement on Monday, the clock starts ticking. The EPA will have one year to take public comment from anyone from Greenpeace to Peabody Coal before finalising the new standards in June 2015.

Once those rules are final, the states will have one year, or until June 2016, to submit their plans for meeting the new EPA targets.

With Obama’s term ending in January 2017, those are tight deadlines – especially with the legal and political battles ahead. But it does put Obama in position to fulfill the promises he made on climate change when he was first elected in 2008.

“This whole suite of policies is getting us within shooting range of where we could have been with a cap-and-trade bill,” said Vicki Arroyo, who heads the climate centre at Georgetown University law school. “If the EPA is really restructuring programmes to take advantage of systems wide benefits … then that is just huge.”

Source: The Guardian

India Wants To Switch 26 Million Water Pumps To Solar Power Instead Of Diesel

BY  JEFF SPROSS 

The Indian government is aiming to swap out 26 million fossil-fuel-powered groundwater pumps for solar-powered ones, Bloomberg reports.

The pumps are used by farmers throughout the country to pull in water for irrigation, and currently rely on diesel generators or India’s fossil-fuel-reliant electrical grid for power. Pashupathy Gopalan, the regional head of SunEdison, told Bloomberg that 8 million diesel pumps already in use could be replaced right now. And India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy estimates another 700,000 diesel pumps that could be replaced are bought in India every year.

“The potential is huge,” said Tarun Kapoor, the joint secretary at the ministry. “Irrigation pumps may be the single largest application for solar in the country.”

The program works by subsidizing the swap, and operates in different capacities in India’s various states, sometimes subsidizing the solar pumps up to 86 percent. Thanks to that aid, and the dramatic collapse in prices for solar power, the pumps pay themselves off in one to four years, according to Ajay Goel, the chief executive officer of Tata Power Solar Systems Ltd., a panel maker and contractor. And Stephan Grinzinger, the head of sales for a German solar water pump maker, told Bloomberg the economics will only get better: diesel prices will rise and spike during farming season, and economies of scale will help the swap program.

Two-thirds of India’s electricity is generated by coal, with natural gas and hydroelectric making up most of the rest. But the monsoon season is growing more erratic — likely due to climate change — making power from the hydroelectric dams less reliable as well. Coal is growing in economic cost for India, so power plants often sit idle, and the coal that is easy to reach would requiredisplacing major population centers.

The national grid that relies on those fuels has seen few updates since it was constructed in they 1960s. It’s also under growing stress from India’s rising middle class, which is adopting air conditioning and running water in massive numbers — all in a country prone to heat waves, again thanks in part to climate change. As backup, many Indian residents and businesses rely on diesel generators, which leaves them vulnerable to the fuel market and contributes to fossil fuel emissions.

Even when the grid is working, around 300 million of India’s 1.2 billion inhabitants don’t have access to it. When it’s not, rolling blackouts are common. Many farmers are able to draw only four hours of power a day from the grid, and that often at night. Heat waves in 2013 were accompanied by widespread blackouts, and a two-day grid failure in 2012 left over 600 million Indians without power.

Ironically, thanks to the kind of distributed and sustainable generation the swap program represents, many of India’s rural poor actually faired much better during the blackout than the grid-dependent middle-class. It’s one of the strengths of solarin particular, even before climate change is considered: a more decentralized power system, based around “microgrids” and individual power generation, rather than a centralized system reliant on the good function of large, singular power providers. In India in particular, sunlight is most plentiful at the times when demand tends to peak. That leaves the power system more adaptable, less prone to central failures, and thus more hospitable to those still struggling to overcome poverty in particular.

Beyond India’s pump swap program, other efforts in south Asia and northern Africa are already underway to bypass grid expansion entirely, and bring solar power and microgrids directly to poor people.

Source: Thinkprogress.org