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.
Denmark has just one-upped its status as the most cutting edge sustainable country in the world. They have committed to a goal of 100% renewable energy by the year 2050. That goal is not just limited to electric generation as other countries have done. They are including transportation as well. No burning of fossil fuels by 2050.
If that seems like an unrealistically lofty goal, keep in mind that these are the Danes we are talking about, who already get over 40% of their electricity from over 5,000 wind turbines, with every intention of making that 50% by 2020. Fossil fuel consumption is expected to fall by 20% over that same period.
While wind has carried most of the weight going forward, the latest initiative is more comprehensive. For starters, energy efficiency will play a major role. An intermediate target is looking for a 7% overall decrease in consumption from 2010 levels by 2020. Energy companies will be given specific targets.
Industrial heating and cooling is also a major part of the plan. Biomass will be substituted for coal on a large scale, for both heating and electricity. Subsidies will be provided for geothermal energy.
Also included are subsidies for energy efficient production processes, combined heat and power (CHP) applications, biogas, and smart grid. You could say the Danes are leaving no stone unturned in their search for a totally clean energy future.
What makes Denmark so successful while so many other nations are falling short?
According to Kurt Kornbluth, director of the Program for International Energy Technologies at the University of California, Davis, the first thing is that the government and the people are in accord. The government is willing to enact policies directed towards this shared goal, including a carbon tax, and feed-in tariffs, which the people were willing to accommodate. It also helps that as Rasmus Helveg Petersen, Minister for Climate, Energy and Building, has said, Denmark has been focusing on energy in a concerted manner ever since the oil crisis of 1973.
The second thing the Danes did was to establish wind cooperatives which funneled profits from excess power generation back to individuals and communities. BY 2001, the cooperative had over 100,000 members and owned a total of 86% of the nation’s wind power. That’s buy-in with a capital “B”.”When they see those turbines spinning,” said Kornbluth, they don’t say, that’s ugly, they say, that’s income.”
The third and final factor was a little bit of geopolitical luck. Denmark is positioned between Norway, home of abundant hydropower, and Sweden, which has lots of nuclear. The two form a gigantic grid that can readily provide backup when Denmark needs it. They can often be counted on to purchase excess wind power from Denmark when it is available as well.
Despite all of this good news, the Danes are facing some new challenges as they push into these unprecedented levels of renewable generation. As they are beginning to find out, each electrical grid has a level of renewables that they can economically support before they become saturated. That’s because the “baseline” power plants, that run on gas, coal, or nuclear are no longer economical if they are only used once in a while, when the wind has stopped or the sun has set. That’s because they can’t compete the rest of the time, with energy sources that are essentially free.
It’s not that this can’t be done. It’s just that the system hasn’t been designed for it. Real-time pricing and energy storage, an option that California is aggressively pursuing, and smart grids are some tools that can be applied. In the meantime, some utilities are being subsidized to operate plants at a loss, which is not sustainable.
“We are really worried about this situation,” Anders Stouge, the deputy director general of the Danish Energy Association, said. “If we don’t do something, we will in the future face higher and higher risks of blackouts.”
All of this is before Denmark has really started to ramp up on electric vehicles. That could put considerable further strain on the electric. But it could also be a blessing in disguise. Tens of thousands of electric cars could serve as a massive electric storage reservoir at times when most of those vehicles are parked, like at night. This is a synergistic relationship that the architects of tomorrow’s smart grid are counting on.
Since the Coalition Party took over the reigns in Australia, the party led by Prime Minister Tony Abbott has launched attack after attack on the environment. For some reason, the environment seems to be the Coalition Party’s punching bag. Let’s see what they’ve done: Approved dredging off the coast of Queensland near the Great Barrier Reef for a coal export port and repealed the carbon tax. So, what else is the Coalition Party up to?
Well, the government is now reviewing whether or not to revise or eliminate the nation’s renewable energy target (RET). In February, the Abbott government appointed industrialist Dick Warburton, a self-proclaimed climate skeptic to lead a review of the RET. The review will be looking at “the economic, environmental and social impacts of the RET scheme, in particular the impacts on electricity prices, energy markets, the renewable energy sector, the manufacturing sector and Australian households” and with assessing how it fits with the government’s aim of “reducing business costs”
New modeling commissioned by the Clean Energy Council shows that energy bills are higher in the short term as a result of the RET, “but households would end up about $50 a year better off in 2020 if the target is left in place.” The report also noted that average energy bills would be $100 a year lower after 2020. In the short term, the report noted that energy bills would be $11 to $22 a year higher until 2017-2018. According to Daniel Leahy, development manager for RES Australia, “We are concerned that the Government may be considering a reduction of the RET on a false premise it will save consumers money – when in reality, cutting the RET will demonstrably increase our energy bills in the long term.”
Adding more fuel to the flames, new reports suggest that the Abbot administration will axe the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, the primary agency supporting renewable energy in Australia. All this in the name of cutting government spending. Clearly, the Abbott administration is thinking short term and not long term. Maybe they realize that this is their only shot at derailing the renewable energy industry in favor of cheaper, but dirtier energy. Either way, the Abbott government is moving backwards and not forward.
Nuclear reactors in the U.S. need a boost — either through carbon taxes or regulations forcing coal-fired plants to slash emissions — or economic factors will force many to close, according to a report released today from a non-profit group.
Nuclear power — currently the only major zero-carbon, around-the-clock baseload power source — supplies 19 percent of U.S. electricity and is key to meeting President Obama’s pledge to reduce emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. The economic viability of the 100 nuclear reactors in the U.S. is worsening, the report says, because of the abundance of cheap natural gas and rising wind energy production.
A carbon tax or some form of carbon trading — for instance, requiring coal-fired plants to purchase and blend their electricity output with nuclear power — will be essential to keeping nuclear plants from closing before the end of their lifespans, the report contends. Four power companies recently announced the early retirement of five nuclear reactors, which constitute more than 4 percent of U.S. nuclear capacity, the group says.
The Australian government intends to abolish the carbon tax effective July 1, 2014, thereby dismantling one of the hallmark policies established under former Prime Minister, Julia Gilliard. In a recent interview in free speech NOW!, George Brandis, the current attorney general for Australia voices his opinion on the climate change debate.
Although Brandis is not a climate change denier and believes something should be done about it, he does believe the debate was pedantic and found himself “really shocked by the sheer authoritarianism of those who would have excluded from the debate the point of view of people who were climate change deniers.” Brandis, a fan of free speech, describes the debate in Australia as “deplorable….where one side [has] the orthodoxy on its side and deligitimises the views of those who disagree, rather than engaging with them intellectually and showing them why they are wrong.”
In response to those who believe that the science of climate change is settled, Brandis noted that this speaks to the emergence of “a habit of mind and mode of discourse which would deny the legitimacy of an alternative point of view, where rather than winning the argument [they] exclude their antagonists from the argument.”
Brandis’ comments are certainly very interesting and likely to spark additional debate. Is he right or is he just adding more fuel to an already hotly debated topic in Australia and the rest of the world?
One of the more solid tenets of Big Oil dogma has always been that carbon pricing, whether a simple tax or a market-based cap-and-trade system, is terrible and conservatives must stand in unison against it. Daily Caller reporter Michael Bastach, a former Koch Institute Intern, confirmed this recently: “This vote against a carbon tax in the (American
Virgin Australia this week updated its financial guidance for the financial year ended June 30, 2013. The airline cited the carbon tax among other factors that have contributed to the company’s anticipated losses. The company confirmed that the pre-tax costs of the carbon tax for the 2013 financial year were estimated to be between AUD $45 million and AUD $50 million.
Today, back to back, I experienced two different sides to an important argument that I hope readers will find interesting. I had a meeting this morning with Richard Stuebi, a gentleman who’s been in and around the game of raising capital for cleantech start-ups long before I had the idea. He’s a believer in the importance of the development of technology from the standpoint of
Roughly 70 percent of Americans say global warming should be a priority for President Obama and Congress and 61 percent support requiring fossil fuel companies to pay a carbon tax that would be used to help reduce the national debt, according to a new survey by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.
Unsubsidized wind power is now cheaper than electricity produced from new coal- and natural gas-fired power stations in Australia, according to an analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
The study said that electricity can be supplied from a new wind farm at a cost of 80 Australian dollars per
Coal could rival oil as the world’s largest energy source within five years as consumption continues to climb in most regions of the world, a trend that could have profound effects on the climate, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says.
While coal consumption is expected to decline in the
On whether Obama’s re-election and the aftermath of Sandy represent a moment for climate change action
I think it definitely is a time when more and more people are focused on the extreme weather that has disrupted so many lives. People who have not really devoted a lot of time to thinking about the climate
Given the failure of international climate negotiations, a tax on carbon consumption is the most effective way of lowering CO2 emissions. If nations are serious about addressing climate change, then they must pay for the carbon pollution caused by what they consume.
Norway has announced plans to nearly double its carbon tax on the nation’s offshore petroleum sector to create a £1 billion fund to help combat the effects of climate change, including in developing nations. In a draft budget released this week, government officials proposed a climate program that would increase the tax on oil companies from about £24 per ton of