For today’s article Cleantechies and I are willing to shed some light on an interesting initiative that comes from Seattle. Carbon Washington is a local revenue-neutral carbon tax campaign. I interviewed their team.
While the surrounding European Union is sticking to its guns with 40 percent greenhouse gases emissions reductions by 2030, Switzerland is showing some leadership by targeting 50 percent cuts by 2030. This is a bold move that deserves to inspire people and countries alike.
Having searched the Internet, I found that Swiss electricity comes almost entirely from low carbon sources with 56 percent of hydro and 39 percent of nuclear. The five remaining percent comes from thermal and renewables alike.
The electricity produced in Switzerland emits a tiny 14 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per kiloWatt-hour as the local newspaper Le Temps reports. This has to be compared to an average of 353 grams per kWh of average in the European Union and over 600 grams in the United States (source)
As a result, Swiss citizens emits very low level of carbon dioxide per capita, a mere 6.4 tonnes per capita per year, compared to 8.1 tonnnes for the average EU citizen and a massive 17 tonnes for a US one.
This is why the Swiss decision to halve their emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 is a bold, ambitious move. The country is already at levels that would make others dream. Of course, the fact that Switzerland is a rich country surrounded by mountains makes it easy to have massive hydro capacity. The same Alps mountains are seeing their glaciers decrease each year by rapidly warming temperatures.
The Swiss government plans to reach these goals by concentrating its efforts on the transportation and housing sectors. Industry will also have a role to play.
The official statement stresses the point that the decision is in line with the recommendations from the IPCC climate scientists and is made ahead of the Paris climate talks that will take place in December this year.
This is literally an outrage. According to several sources, oil giant company Shell bought the European energy policy to be as low as possible on renewable energy sources.
As a close examiner for the past decade of energy and climate policies for the European Union, I have been wondering why, oh, why did the EU backed up recently from its previously ambitious policies on climate change.
Now, we just know. The Guardian and many other sources have published this week article on how an oil company spent around four million euros (and as much in US Dollars given the current parity) per year to water down renewable energy goals for 2030.
One single company with a few millions euros was favored by our elected representatives over the wellbeing of its citizens and of our economies. We have seen previously that the ambitious 2020 goals have already been partially reached and that as a result, hundreds of thousands of green jobs have been created in the past few years.
Yes, the European Union still has somewhat ambitious goals for 2030. Cutting by 40 percent total greenhouse gases emissions by that date compared to 1990 levels is ambitious, but it could and should be much more.
I just hope that now this has been exposed new targets will be voted. Shell or any other fossil fuel giant conglomerated should have the last world when we determine our future.
Image credits : Flickr.
The past few days in Western Europe have been windy, very windy. While this makes the somewhat cold weather colder, the thousands of wind turbines scattered in various countries generate a lot of electricity.
Here is a selection of facts :
If I noted in October that Ireland gets around a fifth of its electricity from renewables, the country got over half of its electricity from wind energy for a whole weekend, with a peak of two thirds.
Here is a screen capture of the Irish grid operator, EirGrid. It represents the electricity demand (in red) and the wind power generation of Sunday, January 11th :
The Irish wind power capacity had grown recently as it is now 2.8 GW (as of November 2014, IWEA) for a population of 4.5 million.
Furthermore, the wind gushing heavily over the Netherlands generated 21.3% of the electricity demand during the weekend. The country had 2.7 GW of capacity by the end of 2013 for a population of 16.3 million.
In Germany,over half of the electricity was generated by wind and solar power as Kees van der Leun reported on his Twitter account.
Denmark also banked heavily on this cheap energy source since the 1970s oil shocks and it is not unusual for the country to have all its electrcity provided by wind during the nights.
But last year was a landmark as nearly 40 percent of the electricity consumed during the whole year was provided by wind. The Danish Wind Industry Association notes on its website that in 2013 that share was of 33.2% and in 2012 was of 30 %. This is a ten points increase in two years ! Denmark got a 4.7 GW capacity for a population of 5.6 million people.
To conclude this article, the European Union is not the only one to take advantage of the wind as American Wind Energy Association noted on its Twitter that this energy source saved a billion dollar in just two days during the polar vortex.
— American Wind Energy (@AWEA) January 9, 2015
According to a new report, up to 650,000 people are working within the bicycle economy in the European Union. With the right incentives, these figures could reach a million jobs by 2020 according to the European Cyclists’ Federation.
As The Guardian noted :
If cycling’s 3% share of journeys across Europe were doubled, the numbers employed could grow to over one million by 2020.
(…) The study, which the Guardian has seen, finds that cycling has a higher employment intensity than any other transport sub-sector. Growth in the cycling economy should thus have a higher job creation potential than in the automotive industry for example, which employs three times less people per million euros of turnover.
The ECF calculated that the annual economic benefit of cycling in the EU27 is of at least 205 billion euros (256 billion US Dollars). This includes among other benefits savings on fuels, the various health benefits, the lower traffic congestions and air pollution…
If health benefits are the largest – ranging from 114 to 121 billion euros – tourism is another major positive impact as the impact is believed to be of 44 billion euros.
What if the future of transportation within cities were surprisingly low tech ? Bikes are economical, do not emit carbon dioxide or pollution, keep us fit, enable us to avoid traffic congestion and take almost no place to park. It is high time cities and businesses alike promote this transportation mean to make it the norm.
A study by the World Health Organization points out that 10,000 lives could be saved each year and 76,600 jobs would be created in 54 major cities around the world if their citizens biked as much as the Danes do.
To conclude this article, it is worth noting that in Europe, for every car sold, almost two bicycles currently find a new customer as 20 million bikes are sold per year. If these trends were to continue, cities in the near future would have more bikes than cars. This would free a huge amount of space that would be ready for more
Winter is coming. And this is a problem as according to the latest official statistics, one French citizen out of five has trouble paying his / her heating bills or is feeling cold at home in winter. And as a French who wrote his Master’s thesis on that topic, this really bugs me.
A white paper published in the second Chirac presidency – 2003 – stated that there were at the time almost 20 million housings to weatherize and insulate in France.
Over ten years after, these figures are still almost the same as the goal of improving half a million housings per year wasn’t met either by President Jacques Chirac, his successor Nicolas Sarkozy and the incumbent. And this despite, the recent moderate efforts in this domain.
State and local ( from the Région or the Département ) aids have been cut because of the crisis and the resulting austerity. And when they haven’t been cut they are either difficult to obtain or too little to represent any convenience. The French Environment and Energy Management Agency, the ADEME, has seen its budget been cut in 2013 ( by half a billion euros, no less ) and in 2014.
But what really racks my nerves is that very little is done to insulate social housings, which represent four million accommodations and 14 million people out of 65 million.
In an old article I wrote as early as 2007 I noted that these housings are all too often badly insulated and that the tenants don’t have much money to pay gas and oil bills. However, I noted back then that insulating these buildings and changing the heating systems were a very sound investment.
In an example broadcasted by the French/German TV channel Arte the energy needs of two buildings in Germany were more than halved thanks to insulation. Energy conservation efforts were promoted, cutting energy needs by an additional 15 percent.
As a conclusion, the energy now needed there was nearly cut by a factor three. This made it possible to use a renewable energy source to heat the 64 flats. Wood pellets were chosen and a new highly efficient boiler was installed. The new system is so efficient that it can generate some electricity which can be used by the tenants or sold to the grid.
Imagine if all social housings in France, and let’s be ambitious in the European Union , were receiving the same treatment. Dozens of millions of people wouldn’t be cold at home during winter, thousands of jobs would be created for decades and our dependence on Russian natural gas would be cut for ever.
Good news everyone: the European Union has already almost achieved its climate and energy goals for 2020 according to the latest data from the European Environmental Agency. The European Commission official statement reports that “ The decrease in emissions of 1.8% in 2013 compared to 2012 implies that total EU emissions are around 19% below 1990 “.
But there is more good news as the EEA states that: ” With 14 % of final energy consumption generated by renewable sources in 2012, the EU is also ahead of the planned trajectory to hit 20 % renewable energy by 2020. Likewise, the EU’s energy consumption is also falling faster than would be necessary to meet the 2020 energy efficiency target.”
Euractiv notes that this fall in emissions in the European Union is not exactly taking place in all countries as German emissions rose by 1.2% as more fossil fuel was used for heating and Denmark also emitted 3.1% more greenhouse gases year-on-year, as a fall in imports from the Nordic power market drove it to use more coal.
These two countries are however working hard at their respective energy transition from fossil fuels. Germany is a global leader in this industry and it’s not rare for Denmark to have 100 % of its electricity coming from wind power during the nights.
But such facts aren’t news as I reported a year ago that the European Union was already nearing its 2020 objectives as greenhouse gases emissions fell one percent between 2011 and 2012. If emissions were to keep falling 1.4 percent per year ( which is the average of the emissions cuts for the past two years), emissions would be cut by over ten percent.
I have made previously my case for 30 percent emissions cuts by 2020 and halving EU emissions by 2030. This would be very profitable, would create thousands of jobs and cut our dependance from Russian gas.
Last night, the European Council met with all the heads of State and country leaders. The topic was climate and energy and the goal was to enable the European Union – over half a billion people accounting for as 23 percent of global GDP and 11 percent of global emissions – to reach as ambitious a goal as possible for 2030.
These negotiations took place ahead of the future UNFCCC talks that will take place in December 2015 in Paris.
The outcome could have been better but could have been worse as leaders agreed to a minimum level of 40 percent of emissions reductions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. However, the energy efficiency and renewables targets were watered down, from 30 percent which were asked by the European Commission to 27 percent.
This is a major disappointment as some nations like Germany or Denmark have much more higher national targets for overall emissions reductions and that many other countries are investing – or have been investing – heavily in renewables. Those who read my articles will remember my recent posts on Portugal, Spain or Ireland to name but a few.
But on the other side of the fence of climate change mitigation, we have Poland, which continues to be heavily reliant on coal. The leaders of this great country seem hell-bent on keeping their coal industry, oblivious to the fact that their country could halve coal consumption by 2030 as I reported in an article.
The second reason for disappointment – some business leaders had called for more ambitious goals. Indeed, European Industry could benefit from more renewables and energy efficiency as it could lower their energy bills, and thus increase their competitivity. Additionally, many companies are manufacturing and selling these solutions, and thus are depending on larger, tougher goals.
Last but not least, these watered down objectives are being set while the EU continues to purchase from Russia over half a billion euros of oil and natural gas each day. The amounts total over 200 billion euros ( $277 billion ) a year as I noted on my blog earlier this year. Given how efficiency and renewables could lower these bills, one is truly wondering why our leaders kept such targets… Even more, when one know that 30 percent emissions reductions could be reached as early as 2030.
Time will tell if the European Union will once again lead the fight against climate change.
I recently came across a report on how Ireland could benefit even more from wind energy. Almost a fifth of Irish electricity already comes from renewable energy sources as the installed wind energy capacity has reached 2,000 MW in 2013.
Installed capacity of renewables have grown eight-fold since 1990 and the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per household has dropped by 40 percent in twenty years.
Further cuts in emissions are projected as the country has a goal of 40 percent renewable electricity by 2020 (compared to an average of 20 percent for the European Union). The country currently imports over 85 percent of the total energy it is consuming.
The local government is pushing for energy efficiency and renewables and enacted a carbon tax as early as 2010. In as little as three years, this tax raised a billion euros ($1.3 billion), slashed emissions by as much as 6.7 percent in 2011 alone while the economy grew.
As I noted in a previous article, carbon taxes are very successful in cutting greenhouse gases emissions in various countries such as Australia or British Columbia. Economic powerhouses such as China and South Africa will implement their own next year.
Ireland could also benefit largely from marine energy sources according to the local Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). The Irish ocean energy industry could support 17,000 to 52,000 jobs and contribute €4-10 billion to the economy by 2030.
Irish leadership on renewables doesn’t end on the island. Indeed, a local company recently signed a $525 million deal for a 225 MW wind farm in Ghana, west Africa. This project will allow the country to get 10 percent of its electricity needs by wind.
Recently the incumbent Energy and Environment Minister of France unveiled an ambitious energy transition project. As Euractiv reports, the country should ” increase the proportion of renewable energy to 32% by 2030, reduce CO2 emissions by 40% between 1990 and 2030, and reduce the consumption of fossil fuels by 30% by 2030.”
The previous conservative government had very ambitious projects on energy and the environment with its Grenelle de l’Environnement. Most of this ambition remained that, just ambition (Granted, there were a few successes on energy use and efficiency).
But the current Socialist government goes even further as Segolène Royal claims that the plan she unveiled is the ” most ambitious in all of the European Union ” and should make this country “the country of environmental excellence”. Given how Germany and the others are years ahead, I am not sure if I got to applause at the ambition… or laugh at the delusion.
Speeches are fine, speeches are great, but ACTS are much better. And until now, France has not been measuring up with is ambitions :
While renewable energy sources have surged in large neighbouring countries such as Germany, Italy and Spain – reaching 31, 37 and 35 percent of the local electricity consumption, respectively – France is behind with “only” 18.6 percent.
Worse, within its European obligations, France needs to have 23 percent of its total energy consumption coming from renewables by 2020. To EU statistics, the country had 9.3 percent of its energy from renewables in 2004, 12.7 percent in 2010 and 13.4 percent in 2012. In eight years this share has increased by 4.1 point. If this trend were to continue the country would miss its 2020 objectives by 5.5 points…
To compare, overall, the 28 members of the European Union have seen this share rise from 8.3 percent in 2004 to 14.1 in 2012. A simple trend continuation shows that reaching 20 percent by 2020 is feasible.
In any case, whether France will succeed or fail its energy transition, be sure that I will keep you updated on the situation.
It seems to be the right time to be in the business of renewables in Colombia. Indeed, the Santos government – which was reelected in May – enacted a key law promoting renewables and efficiency.
Seen by local newspapers as a key step to impulse what are called in the country ” non conventional energy sources “ which include solar, wind, geothermal, marine energy sources and more interestingly, biomass and waste to energy.
One of the main benefits of the Law 1715 is to enable people and companies generating their own electricity to sell it to the grid or to other users. Until now, the surplus had to go to waste.
To spur investments in this domain, the Colombian government has enacted various fiscal incentives including Value Added Tax (VAT) exemption for all machinery, equipment, elements or services as well as customs duties exemption for the same equipment.
The last of these main advances of this law is that it creates a fund for both renewable energy sources as well as for energy efficiency. This fund, called FENOGE, will heop finance small projects as well as promote good practices and energy efficiency.
According to the local newspaper La Republica, Colombian electricity is made out of 65 percent hydro (with over 9,700 MW of capacity), 33 percent thermal and the remaining two percents come from other sources (that would be renewables)
According to the European Environment Agency, the “collective primary energy consumption in 2020 is expected to be close to the level required by the EU political objective of 1,483 Mtoe but will remain insufficient to achieve the 20 % energy efficiency target. ”
This is even more puzzling as the evidence has been piling up on how energy saving measures could bring as much as 250 billion euros back into Europe’s economy, according to an Ecofys report last year.
In a post I published here in 2012, according to a study presented by the Renovate Europe Campaign, weatherizing European buildings alone could boost local GDP by up to 291 billion Euros ($370 billion) by 2017.
Energy efficiency is key in cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and further, creating thousands of green jobs and stopping giving ridiculous amounts of money to Russia every single day.
Indeed, I reported previously that the European Union 28 country members are giving as much as half a billion euros every single day to Russia for natural gas and oil. The amounts total over 200 billion euros ( $277 billion ) a year.
Now here comes a new report from the Energy Efficiency Financial Institutions Group (EEFIG) pointing out that:
“We are at a tipping point, with energy efficiency investing having the clear potential to emerge into the mainstream as a key driver of EU competitiveness, economic value, innovation and employment across Europe”
Both private and public investments are insufficient. If continued, this trend could lead certain EU members to miss their 2020 and longer term targets.
The EEFIG points out to the fact that cutting by no less than 40 percent the amount of energy used in buildings has a strategically important character because of rising energy prices. Another factor is the increased climate change threat as the IPCC fifth report reported recently.
The institution provides several solutions, such as :
- Requiring financial policy makers to consider long-term energy savings when taking decisions
- Strengthening energy performance certificates, energy codes and legislative enforcement
- Improving data flows for energy efficiency in buildings
- Standardizing best practices for the energy efficiency investment market
- Targeting priority use of EU structural investment funds and ETS revenues for public-private financial instruments between now and 2020
Needless to say, I will keep you updated of the progress – or the lack of it – in this area. Let’s hope both the preparation of the EU 2030 energy and climate policies and the upcoming UNFCC meeting in 2015 won’t be missed opportunities in that regard.
Image credits : Wikimedia
Covering European environmental and energy policies for CleanTechies got me thinking lately how France is lagging behind its neighbours. Indeed, in the last few months I have reported rapid development in Portugal, Spain or the United Kingdom.
If France is not one of the last countries in terms of share of electricity from renewable energy – 15 percent – it is still lagging compared to the EU average of 23.4 percent in 2012.
Solar and wind grew rapidly in France between 2008 and 2011 but as I noted in a previous article, since 2012 these renewables have seen their growth slow down to dismal proportions. The exponential rate witnessed previously is no more.
This could change soon as the European Investment Bank (EIB) will provide up to 750 million Euros – around a billion US Dollars – in loans from 2014 to 2016 to renewable energy projects.
As it noted in its official press release, in 2013 the EIB provided 19 billion euros – 26 billion Dollars – in funds for climate change-related projects. This is equal to 26% of all its loans.
These loans will be allocated to projects in wind, solar PV, hydro and geothermal energies. The EIB will work with numerous local banks, including Societe Generale, the BPCE Group and Credit Agricole Group.
The banks will have to find and select the right public or private projects. The loans provided by the EIB will represent 50 percent of the financing of the projects. The limit per project is 50 million euros.
Let’s hope these large amounts of money will significantly boost the energy transition and the creation of green jobs as 3.3 million people are unemployed in France.
According to official statistics from Eurobserv’ER, 23.4 percent of the electricity in the European Union came from renewable energy sources in 2012. The total output for 2012 has been estimated at 763.5 TW. This represents an important increase from 2011, when these energy sources brought “only” 20.4 percent of total electricity.
Regarding gross final energy consumption, renewables brought 14 percent of the total in 2012, up from 12.9 percent in 2011.
Eurobserv’ER also provided employment statistics showing that the renewable energy industry has employed up to 1.22 million people in direct and indirect jobs in 2012 (50,000 less than in 2011).
Jobs were mostly in wind power (300,000 direct and indirect jobs), followed by solid biomass (280,000 jobs), photovoltaic (250,000 jobs) and biofuels (110,000 jobs).
This report also shows that the renewable energy picture varies greatly from country-member to another (cf. page 80 of the full report).
While Austria and Sweden lead with 68.3 and 67.1 percent of their total electricity from renewables in 2012, respectively, Lithuania, Hungary, Cyprus, Luxembourg and Malta got less than ten percent of their electricity from these sources.
Nine countries got from 20 to 50 percent : Latvia (43.4%), Denmark (41.7%), Portugal (35.6%), Finland (32.5%), Spain (31.7%), Slovenia (29.5%), Italy (26.6%), Romania (25.2%) and Germany (24%).
Many more of the 27 EU members got from ten to twenty percent of their electricity from renewables : Slovakia (18.9%), Ireland (18.7%), France (16.1%), Bulgaria (15.7%), Greece (15.2%), Estonia (15.2%), Belgium (11.7%), the Czech Republic (11.5%), the United Kingdom (11%), Poland (10.6%) and the Netherlands (10.5%).
Other important differences can be noticed in the share of each renewable energy source in the total. Hydropower represents 43.9 percent of the total renewable energy produced in 2012. Wind follows with 26.6 percent, biomass (19.5%), and solar energy (9.2%). Geothermal and ocean energies make up the remaining 0.8 percent.
This means that overall, hydro provides 10.3 % of total electricity consumed in the EU, wind power, 6.2 %, biomass, 4.5 % and solar only 2.1%.
To conclude, Eurobserv’ER notes that the European Union and its 27 country-members is only six percent away from one of its 2020 goals: 20 percent of renewable energy in the total energy consumption. The analysts are optimistic as in 2006 the share of renewables was of only nine percent. By keeping that annual growth at 0.7 to 0.8 percent, the EU should succeed.
This would be the second success of the European Union policy on climate and energy. We have indeed previously seen that the EU should achieve its greenhouse gases emissions reduction goal. Perhaps it is time to move on to higher ambitions?