RE and EE Carbon Policy news 6 February 2015
Weekly RE and EE Carbon Policy news update from the web.
A “J’Accuse” from an ex-EU official: only a real Energy Union can save the EU energy market
An “Energy Union” in Europe means that an EU-level organisation will balance the flows of electricity, not national transmission system operators. And it means the EU will ensure security of supply – not the national member states. That is the vision of Jean-Arnold Vinois, until recently Director in charge of the internal energy market at the European Commission and co-author of a groundbreaking report from Notre Europe (Jacques Delors Institute) on the Energy Union. As Brussels awaits the official version of the Energy Union from the Commission on 25 February, Vinois slams the current state of the European energy sector. The distribution system operators, he says, are ineffective, the generators are “dinosaurs”, almost no one is investing in R&D in energy, the decision to allow state aid to the nuclear project Hinkley Point C is “questionable” and the lack of solidarity EU countries show in regard to Putin is “sad”. He predicts IT companies may take over from the energy companies and the Chinese may blow away Alstom, Siemens and ABB.
Jean-Arnold Vinois is loving the liberty that comes with no longer actively working at the European Commission. The former Director in charge of the internal energy market retired in 2013 – although he remains an Honorary Director at the Commission – to join the respectable think tank “Notre Europe – Jacque Delors Institute”, founded in Paris in 1996 by the ex-Commission President of the same name. Here, he has co-authored a report with colleague Sami Andoura – with a preface by Delors himself – setting out an intrepid vision for the increasingly talked about Energy Union.
MIT study investigates role of bio-energy in low-carbon future
According to a new report from MIT, released in January, bioenergy production could cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than half, but with a caveat. “To achieve the cut”, notes MIT in a press release, “the carbon price must cover emissions from changing land use. Without this safeguard, deforestation becomes a major concern as forests are cleared to make way for farmland.”
MIT notes that “if emissions from deforestation are included in a carbon price, bioenergy — together with other advances in clean technology — can reduce emissions 57 percent by 2050, relative to when there is not a carbon price. In comparison, not counting emissions from changing land use in the carbon price leads to a reduction of only 16 percent.”
MIT says the study “is one of the most in-depth evaluations to date of how bioenergy might fit into a low-carbon future. The research team developed a cutting-edge modeling tool covering a comprehensive range of bioenergy pathways. Researchers then used the new tool to consider interactions among bioenergy, other low-carbon technologies, and the economy in a world where bioenergy fuels about a quarter of global energy needs by 2050.”
Six steps to prepare the European energy system for the future
The effects of the energy transition are increasingly felt in the European energy system. Above all in Germany which is leading the way with its Energiewende. The two largest German utility companies, Eon and RWE, have both announced major strategic reorientations to adapt to the new realities. At the same time, German policymakers and regulators face great challenges to ensure that the German energy system will not collapse under the weight of the growing share of variable energy sources. Other European countries will soon face similar issues.
As long as the share of wind and solar power in the system is limited, their fluctuating output can be leveled out with existing non-variable capacity. But when the shares of variable sources reaches more than 20-25%, it becomes more and more difficult to run back-up capacity profitably for a (sometimes very) limited amount of time. Profitable operations are possibly only if prices are allowed to peak.
India’s energy and climate change challenge
The US and India agreed on a climate deal during President Obama’s state visit to meet India’s prime minister Narendra Modi in January. Last time the president visited one of the world’s foremost developing economies, China, he signed an historic deal on climate change. As the world’s third largest emitter, India is coming under increasing pressure to follow suit.
The new US-India pact is weaker than the agreement Obama signed in Beijing. But there are a number of good reasons India is reluctant to take strong action to curb its emissions in the short term.
Carbon Brief takes a look at the factors likely to shape India’s energy and climate choices in the coming years, and what it means for the world’s efforts to tackle climate change.
Sir Richard Branson: Ditch carbon emissions by 2050
Countries should aim to rid the world’s economy of carbon emissions by the middle of the century, Sir Richard Branson and other leading business figures have today said.
The group, known as the B Team, also urged chief executives to support their net-zero ambition by committing to “bold long-term targets” for emission reductions.
Effectively removing carbon from the global economy by 2050 is a far more ambitious goal than any country has yet committed to. But the B Team argued in a statement that by making the commitment governments will demonstrate they are “unequivocally setting the world on a clear, low-carbon trajectory”. They added that such a move would inspire confidence among the business community to invest in clean energy and other low carbon solutions.
India resists international scrutiny as it shapes climate plan
The government is “optimistic” about achieving a target to install 100GW of solar by 2020 and could go further with more finance and technology support.
Yet Javadekar made clear India would resist any outside scrutiny of its plans, in defiance of European calls for transparency.
“There is no question of an ex-ante review in an independent country and democratic country like India,” Javedekar said at a conference in New Delhi.
He was speaking about the road to a UN summit in Paris this December, where world leaders hope to strike a global climate deal.
Developed countries are expected to reveal by the end of March their draft contributions towards the international effort to limit dangerous warming. These will focus on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
Norway reveals 40% carbon cut goal for 2030, matching EU target
The announcement comes days before UN envoys meet in Geneva to discuss a global deal to address climate change, which scientists say will increase the risk of extreme weather events.
Prime minister Erna Solberg said the country needed to take “brave new steps” to curb its emissions, which were 3.7% above 1990 levels in 2013, higher than the EU average.
“The Norwegian climate target will be in line with the overall target to avoid an increase in global average temperature of more than two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels,” she said.
Last October EU member states agreed to reduce GHG emissions 40% on 1990 levels by 2030.
National carbon market on the horizon for China
China has been experimenting with provincial carbon-market schemes over the past four years. Government officials are now suitably convinced that a national market could begin in mid-2016, Reuters reports.
But progress will likely be slow as China seeks to avoid the problems currently hobbling the EU’s scheme. Carbon Brief looks at how China’s pilot schemes are progressing, and what the next steps are to creating the world’s largest carbon market.
The Carbon Calculus
A year and a half ago, Steve Clem, a vice president at global construction company Skanska, testified at the Oregon legislature in support of a bill to fund a study analyzing a state carbon tax. That study, “Carbon Tax and Shift,” written by the Northwest Economic Research Center at Portland State University and released in March 2013, set in motion a debate about whether the state should institute a mechanism for putting a price on carbon emissions.
Last year the legislature passed SB306, setting aside money for the research institute to redo the study with more geographic and industry specificity. The new research, released on December 8, 2014, lays the groundwork for lawmakers to consider a bill to create a carbon tax. If enacted, Oregon would be the first jurisdiction in the United States to have a statewide tax on carbon emissions.
Ocean Carbon Uptake More Variable Than Previously Thought
Earth’s oceans are thought to have taken up about one quarter of the carbon dioxide (CO2) that humans pumped into the atmosphere in the past 2 decades. The CO2 drives acidification and has consequences for sea life, but it also moderates the rate of climate change.
Researchers studying how the rate of CO2 uptake has changed over time using ship observations have mostly relied on ocean carbon measurements from only a few regions. Landschützer et al. set out to create a global model of CO2 uptake using fine-scale observations on a global scale.
The team used the Surface Ocean CO2 Atlas to create monthly maps of CO2 concentration at sea surface. Between 1998 and 2011, they found strong interannual variations, with the Pacific Ocean dominating the global flux variability. There, the El Niño–Southern Oscillation was the primary driver.
DECC adds £25m to low carbon auction pot
The UK Government has increased the budget for low carbon projects that will be supported under the Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme.
Projects will now compete for £325 million – a £25 million rise, which follows “high levels of demand” for the contracts, DECC said.
The extra funding will boost the amount available for “less established technologies” such as offshore wind and biomass with combined heat and power (CHP) – taking the total to £260 million.
The Hack That Warmed the World
The client wanted carbon credits: tradable serial numbers that confer the right to pollute the Earth with invisible, odorless gas. Jugga, as the client called himself, planned to steal the credits, quickly resell them, and become rich overnight—but he needed the Black Dragon to hack into a computer system to help him do it. The Dragon, who in online forums advertised his services as a corporate spy, was sure he could hack anything. But when Jugga contacted him in June 2011, the hacker had no idea what carbon credits even were. “I didn’t think anyone would be stupid enough to come up with that,” the Dragon says of the concept.
The two men communicated via secure online chats, using their pseudonyms. In real life, the Dragon was 31-year-old Matthew Beddoes, a coal miner’s son, high-school dropout, and self-taught computer whiz who collected thousands of strangers’ credit card numbers and floated from couch to couch in central England’s Midlands region. Jugga was 36-year-old Jasdeep Singh Randhawa, who was previously part of a cigarette-smuggling network in Leicestershire.