Friday, 27 February 2009

China builds a green dream machine

The Asian country is known more for its pollution than environmental credentials – but a hybrid carmaker is winning the global eco-race.

China's horrific air pollution is hardly a state secret, causing about 656,000 deaths annually, according to the World Health Organisation. But what is more of a surprise is the arrival of a new, local car manufacturer with breathtaking ambitions, supported by a government seeking to become a world leader when it comes to green technology.

BYD Auto – short for Build Your Dreams – was only founded in 2003, yet it has pulled off a global coup by mass-­producing the world's first plug-in, petrol-­electric hybrid, the nifty-looking BYD F3DM ( Under the bonnet, the car is more of a purely electric car than any similar hybrids on the road today, and has made its debut at least a year ahead of similar models from the US and Japan.

This year's model

The car, which does not need a specialised electric charging station and can be charged using a normal household supply, is now on sale in China, where it costs just under 150,000 yuan (£15,000), a similar price to a mid-range petrol-powered sedan and a bit more than half the 250,000 yuan it costs to buy a Toyota Prius. BYD has come from nowhere to sell 24,107 vehicles in January alone, an increase of nearly 80% from the previous year, and aims to sell 400,000 models in China this year.

BYD aims to tap into the world's fastest-growing auto market as China's emerging middle class – now estimated to number between 100 million and 150 million people – swap their bicycles for four wheels. While the economic crisis has sent vehicle sales tumbling around the world, Beijing alone is still adding more than 1,500 new cars to its gridlock every day. "The use of alternative types of cars could really make a contribution to the reduction of pollution in large Chinese cities," says Karl-Thomas Neumann, chairman of the carparts manufacturer Continental.

A survey by Continental shows that Chinese consumers are much more interested in hybrids than their European counterparts, with 53.7% of those surveyed happy to buy a hybrid and 73.4% who would consider an electric car – decidedly more green than the UK's respective 30.2% and 37.1%. Chinese drivers are more open to hybrids as "more than 90% drive in urban centres and travel less than 60 miles a day", says Paul Lin, BYD Auto's marketing manager. Hybrids come into their own in cities because of their limited range and top speeds. In queues, the car's electric engine shuts down before restarting when the car moves again.

While the auto company is a newcomer, its parent company, BYD – which itself has only been around since 1995 – is the world's biggest supplier of rechargeable batteries, giving them a huge jumpstart when it comes to the production of hybrid and electric cars. And the company has audacious ambitions – it aims to be China's No 1 car firm by 2015, and world No 1 in 2025. BYD vehicles will be launched in Europe – provisionally Denmark, because of its friendly tax policies towards green technology – in 2011.

"We respect our competitors abroad," says Lin, "but we are aiming to show that we can not only compete on the world stage, but dominate."

Environmentalists and Chinese commuters frustrated at the rising price of fuel aren't the only ones with their fingers crossed that the car takes off. The US investment guru Warren Buffet has bought a 10% stake in the firm for $232m.

In China, electricity is cheap, though this is produced by burning coal. The company decided to avoid building expensive charging stations. "Most Chinese live in apartments and don't have their own garages, so instead, drivers unplug the battery and charge it in their homes overnight," says Lin. The car has a range of 62 miles on a fully charged battery, and once the battery runs out, the car switches into hybrid mode. Lin claims the batteries will not degrade until they have been fully charged 2,000 times, which should take seven years, and even then, the battery's capacity only drops to 80%.

Communist revolution

Of course, one company alone won't change China's dirty habits, let alone those of the world, says Bradley Berman, editor of "BYD deserves credit for producing plug-in hybrids. But to make a real dent in auto pollution, these plug-in cars will need to scale up to hundreds of thousands per year. So, it's not who's first with the first models. Environmental and economic success will come with high-volume production sustained over many years," he says.

An analyst with IHS Global Insight Auto, Duan Chengwu, says China's advances in green technology have come about because of backing from its most dominant power source – its Communist government. "The government firmly supports these companies producing hybrids and electric cars," says Duan. Measures to stimulate the ailing car industry include the halving of sales tax on certain cars, subsidies for owners of high-emission vehicles who exchange them for more fuel-efficient vehicles and a 10bn yuan fund to promote new technology. Thirteen cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, offer subsidies to hybrid buyers.

While combating pollution problems is one incentive, the Chinese government has another reason to push green technology: pride. "The government wants to leapfrog western countries and become a global leader in the field," Duan says. "The country is years behind its competitors in the auto industry as a whole, but when it comes to green technology, everyone is starting from scratch. In this scenario, China has a great opportunity."
Four wheels good

The most famous hybrid car of choice is still the Toyota Prius, the first mass-produced model. The car is essentially petrol-fuelled but has an electric engine that propels the car at low speeds and assists the main engine when accelerating. First launched in Japan in 1997 before going worldwide in 2001, more than 1m Prius hybrids have been sold. There will be a plug-in version of the Prius for fleet customers by the end of the year, and the company also recently announced they will produce a commuter battery-electric vehicle by 2012.

General Motors won't be joining the electric car fray until 2011, when it says it will launch the Chevy Volt in the US. The car will have a lithium-ion battery with a petrol-powered engine that drives a generator to provide electricity when you drive beyond its 40-mile battery range. The Volt is expected to cost around $40,000 (£27,500).

Here in the UK, the independent car company Lightning wins the award for the most stylish option – their swish-looking fully electric Lightning model looks like something an eco-friendly James Bond would drive, and should be available from late 2010. The catch? An estimated asking price of £120,000.

Source - The guardian

Climate change drama aims for world's most ecofriendly premiere

Red carpet will be replaced by green and celebrities will arrive in cars powered by cooking oil next month as Leicester Square prepares for the premiere of climate change film The Age of Stupid, whose makers are billing it as the world's greenest premiere.

Pete Postlethwaite, who stars in the film as an archivist in 2050 looking back at the opportunities mankind had to stop climate change, will arrive in a solar-powered car. Other celebrities will arrive in electric vehicles, low-CO2 cars or on bicycles at the premiere on 15 March. Stars will be discouraged from flying to the premiere to avoid accusations of hypocrisy after the recent spat between transport secretary Geoff Hoon and actor Emma Thompson over Heathrow's third runway.

Other vehicles and back-up generators will run on biodiesel made from recycled vegetable oil from chip shops around Leicester Square.

A sustainably-made "green" carpet will replace the traditional luxurious red carpet. The projector will be powered by batteries charged from solar panels and the tent will be lit by gas from London landfill sites, and may be heated with stoves using "eco-logs" made from recycled free London newspapers, and possibly also horse manure.

Once the green carpet has been rolled up, climate change consultants PIRC will produce a full eco-audit of emissions from the event and compare the results with a Hollywood-style premiere. Offsetting, which the organisers describe as "palpable nonsense", will not be used to reduce the real emissions figures.

Organisers are aiming to enter the Guinness Book of Records by creating the world's largest premiere. As the film is screened in Leicester Square, 64 cinemas across the country will also premiere the film for a one-off showing before it goes on general release on 20 March. The aim is to attract 16,000 cinema goers to the "People's Premiere" on 15 March.

The Age of Stupid filmmakers also hope to succeed where other climate change films have failed – the "earnest" 11th Hour , which featured Leonardo DiCaprio, and Al Gore's lecture, An Inconvenient Truth — to galvanise cinema-goers into action.

Director Franny Armstrong said she will judge success not just at the box office but on turning viewers into climate change activists. The Not Stupid campaign launches on the same day as the premiere with the aim of signing up 250m viewers to take action on climate change in the lead up to the UN climate change summit in December.

Source - The guardian

Water 'more important than oil' businesses told

Dwindling water supplies are a greater risk to businesses than oil running out, a report for investors has warned.

Among the industries most at risk are high-tech companies, especially those using huge quantities of water to manufacture silicon chips; electricity suppliers who use vast amounts of water for cooling; and agriculture, which uses 70% of global freshwater, , says the study, commissioned by the powerful CERES group, whose members have $7tn under management. Other high-risk sectors are beverages, clothing, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, forest products, and metals and mining, it says.

"Water is one of our most critical resources – even more important than oil," says the report, published today . "The impact of water scarcity and declining water on businesses will be far-reaching. We've already seen decreases in companies' water allotments, more stringent regulations [and] higher costs for water."

Droughts "attributable in significant part to climate change" are already causing "acute water shortages" around the world, and pressure on supplies will increase with further global warming and a growing world population, says the report written by the US-based Pacific Institute.

"It is increasingly clear that the era of cheap and easy access to water is ending, posing a potentially greater threat to businesses than the loss of any other natural resource, including fossil fuel resources," it adds. "This is because there are various alternatives for oil, but for many industrial processes, and for human survival itself, there is no substitute for water."

In a joint statement, CERES' president Mindy Lubber and Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, urged more companies and investors to work out their dependence on water and future supplies, and make plans to cope with increased shortages and prices.

"Few companies and investors are thinking strategically about the profound business risks that will exist in a world where climate change is likely to exacerbate already diminishing water supplies," they say.

"Companies that treat pressing water risks as a strategic challenge will be far better positioned in future," they add.

The CERES report adds to growing concern about a looming water crisis. In the Economist's report, The World in 2009 , Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, chairman of food giant Nestlé, wrote: "under present conditions… we will run out of water long before we run out of fuel". And at its annual meeting this year the World Economic Forum issued what it itself called a "stark warning" that "the world simply cannot manage water in the future in the same way as in the past or the economic web will collapse".

CERES, which has members in the US and Europe, made recommendations, including that companies should measure their water footprints from suppliers through to product use, and integrate water into strategic planning, and that investors should independently assess companies' water risk and "demand" better disclosure from boards.

Source - The guardian

Looming energy gap according to energy industry leaders

The UK must avoid being lured into a new dash for gas as it seeks to bridge a looming power generation gap, according to energy industry leaders.

Ministers and the industry are committed to a range of power-generation options, from nuclear and cleaner coal through gas to renewables and energy saving, but striking the right balance may not be easy. New nuclear reactors are the best part of a decade away, even on optimistic assumptions. Coal is controversial and its future looks to be closely tied to the ability to develop carbon capture and storage. In terms of generation, that leaves gas and renewables to take the strain as a raft of ageing or environmentally unacceptable generating plant is taken out of service.

David Porter, chief executive of the Association of Electricity Producers, argues that in the long run Britain “could be well very well provided with a diverse range of technologies for power generation”. The problem is the near term: around a third of the UK’s generating capacity may need to be replaced by 2015. Some analysts believe the crunch could come earlier.

“At the moment companies are having to go ahead with what looks to be easiest,” Porter says. “Despite supply scares and price volatility, gas-fired generation is still easier to do than most.”

Recent developments back his view. The government has just given the green light to three gas-fired power plants, including a 2 gigawatt power station in Pembrokeshire.

Ian Marchant, chief executive of Scottish and Southern Energy, said this month that Britain will lose 14 to 18GW of capacity by 2015. He told the Commons business and enterprise committee that some 7GW of gas generating capacity was under construction and another 6GW had been given the go-ahead. That is balanced by some 46 renewable projects, providing about 5 megawatts of power generation.

Paul Golby, chief executive of E.ON UK, said last week that it was vital the UK maintained a variety of options: “Clearly gas has an important part to play, both in the near and the medium term. But we can’t become overly reliant on a single form of power generation if we’re to ensure security of supply, reduce our carbon emissions and ensure energy remains affordable for our customers.

“The only way we can do that is to, yes, build gas-fired power stations… But we also need to ramp up our renewable build, create a new generation of cleaner and, eventually, clean coal-fired power stations - and, longer term, replace the UK’s nuclear fleet. To become overly reliant on a single fuel - and one that will, in the next decade or so, become 80% imported - is simply too dangerous.”

Centrica chief executive Sam Laidlaw says this winter’s row between Russia and Ukraine has brought security of supply issues sharply back into focus and that the UK needs to develop diverse sources of gas as its dependence on imports increases. “Russia will play a role in the long term… but also more LNG [liquefied natural gas] coming from other sources has to be the answer so we aren’t dependent on one source. But, thinking about power generation, we can’t have another dash for gas.”

EDF has placed a multi-billion-pound bet on the development of a new generation of nuclear power in the UK through its acquisition of British Energy. Its UK subsidiary, EDF Energy, plans to build four new nuclear reactors and is aiming to have the first coming on stream at the end of 2017. In the meantime, the company is building a 1.3GW gas plant in Nottinghamshire. “Until nuclear can come on line, it is likely that much of the energy gap will be filled by new ‘combined-cycle’ gas turbines, as these are relatively cheap, quick to build and flexible, meaning they are able to respond to market prices,” the company says.

Gas and renewables, notably wind, can be complementary, rather than alternatives, with gas taking on the back-up role as more wind generation comes on stream. A key test, however, is whether companies will be able to secure returns on their investment in gas if the plant runs only to supplement wind power.

Money is an issue. Ian Parrett from energy analyst Inenco says: “Funding difficulties in the current economic climate are resulting in new generating capacity being delayed or even shelved. The UK’s lack of gas storage leaves the country running the risk of being held to ransom and forced to pay a premium for gas in a highly volatile market.”

Source- The guardian

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Obama focuses on green economy in speech before Congress

Barack Obama raised the development of a green economy to the top of America's agenda tonight, calling on Congress to pass a law cutting the carbon emissions that cause global warming.

The president, in a rousing speech to both houses of Congress, tried to put to rest fears that the economic recession would force him to scale back ambitious plans for energy reforms.

Instead, he made it clear that he sees a direct link between America's long-term economic interests and the development of clean energy, budgeting additional funds for research into wind and solar power.

The president also pressed Congress to push ahead on a new law to cut greenhouse gas emissions, defying critics who say cap-and-trade measures could be a brake on economic recovery.

"To truly transform our economy, protect our security and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy," the president said. "So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America."

Barely a week after the passage of his $787bn economic rescue plan, Obama came back to Congress with plans for further green investment.

The recovery plan devoted more than $100bn to making private homes and government buildings more efficient, developing wind and solar power and spending money on public transport.

But the president promised even more tonight, saying his budget, which will be announced on Thursday, would allocate $15bn a year to develop wind and solar power and more fuel-efficient cars.

"We are committed to the goal of a re-tooled, re-imagined auto industry," he said. "The nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it."

Obama also set out a plan to modernise the electric grid.

He said America needed to re-establish its leading role in the development of solar and other renewable energy technologies, after losing ground to China, Germany and Japan.

"I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders – and I know you don't either. It is time for America to lead again,"

The direct appeal for climate change legislation could re-energise efforts to produce legislation before global climate change talks get underway in Copenhagen next December.

White House officials admitted on Monday it was increasingly uncertain such legislation could pass in time, and that the deadline might slip to 2010.

Source - Theguardian

Japan may force utilities to buy surplus domestic solar power

Japan plans to soon require electricity companies to buy surplus power generated by household solar panels at about twice the current price, a government official said Tuesday.

The scheme, to start as early as the fiscal year beginning in April, aims to promote solar power as part of efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions that drive global warming, an industry ministry official said.

"Japan has already led solar power technology in the world," the official told AFP. "With the scheme, we would like to firmly secure the lead."

Japan's utilities now voluntarily buy surplus electricity from domestic solar panels at around 24 yen (25 cents) per kilowatt hour, he said.

The ministry plans to submit a bill to parliament that would make it mandatory for power companies to purchase the unused solar power from households at around 50 yen per kilowatt hour, the official said.

The premium rate, which could be set for 10 years, would help homes and companies recover the initial cost of installing photovoltaic cell systems.

Electricity companies would be expected to raise charges for conventional power to meet the additional expense.

Trade Minister Toshihiro Nikai Tuesday informed the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan about the scheme, and federation officials agreed to "cooperate" in introducing it, the official said.

Japan has pledged a 10-fold increase in solar power use by 2020 from current levels and aims to halve prices of solar power systems in about four years.

Resource-poor Japan has looked for ways to reduce its dependency on foreign oil, while vowing to reduce carbon emissions by up to 80 percent by 2050.

Japan, which hosted talks that led to the Kyoto Protocol, is badly behind in meeting its own targets under the UN treaty, as the government has hesitated to restrict industrial carbon output amid the current economic crisis.

Source - Solardaily

Monday, 23 February 2009

SunPower To Build 2.2MW Solar Power Plant In Italy

SunPower has announced that it has signed an agreement with Sunshire to design and build a 2.2-megawatt solar electric power plant in Tolentino, Italy.

This is the first solar power plant agreement to be announced on behalf of SunPower's Italian subsidiary, SunPower Italia S.r.l. The project, which will be financed by regional banks via a leasing agreement, is the first phase of a planned 7.1-megawatt development that is expected to be completed this year.

At the site, SunPower will utilize SunPower panels, the most efficient solar panels commercially available, and the proprietary SunPower Tracker technology, which follows the sun during the day and delivers up to 25 percent more energy than fixed-tilt systems.

"We are pleased to partner with Api Nova Energia to deliver clean, reliable solar power to the rapidly expanding Italian market," said Luca Bandini, general manager of SunPower Italia.

"By using SunPower's industry-leading Tracker technology and our high efficiency solar panels, Sunshire will maximize the solar power plant's energy delivery, while optimizing land use and reducing related costs."

"SunPower's unrivaled expertise and experience in the design and construction of solar power plants, as well as the company's superior technology, were the primary reasons we chose SunPower as our partner for this important project," said Paolo Chiantore, director of Sunshire.

"Today, Api Nova Energia has the largest solar facility under development in the Tolentino area (Marche region) in Italy. This plant will be an important source of clean, renewable and reliable power for the Marche region."

SunPower has installed more than 400 megawatts of large-scale solar power systems globally, including more than 185 megawatts of power plants in Europe.

Source - Solar daily

Celebrities Take New Solar Powered Prius To The Oscars

Some of the biggest names in show business are again turning the red carpet green this award season by trading in their stretch limos for hybrids and alternative energy vehicles.

Some stars even got a sneak preview of the new 2010 Toyota Prius Hybrid that among a long list of upgrades features a solar panel on the roof to power fans to cool the car when it's not running.

Stars such as Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Rosario Dawson, Adrien Grenier and many others demonstrate their support for environmental sustainability by going green to the biggest of all award shows, the Academy Awards.

Toyota and Econation green ground transportation are collaborating to provide the new 2010 Prius to Hollywood's most beloved celebrities for awards shows and special events.

Created in response to demand from entertainment industry clientele, Econation offers chauffeured car service to a number of Fortune 500 clients using the most advanced hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles not generally available to the public in major markets throughout the United States, Canada and Europe.

"The entertainment industry is working to influence the rest of the world to use more sustainable options for transportation," stated Ben Bloch, Managing Partner of Econation, "with the new Prius, Toyota continues to break ground and set the right example for the rest of the industry. You might be surprised how many people prefer a Prius over a stretch or an SUV these days. Everyone from CEO's of the biggest film studios to Academy Award nominees request the Prius when they're going out on the town because it makes the best statement from an environmental perspective, and is stylish and comfortable as well."

Econation: Econation is a global "green" alternative to traditional ground transportation (taxi's, Town cars, limousines and buses). With a great assortment of the most cutting edge hybrid and alternative fuel based sedans, utility vehicles and buses, it's an easy way for corporations and individuals to be environmentally and socially conscious without sacrificing price, comfort, or dependable service.

Source - The Solar daily

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Climate change rhetoric spirals out of control

It was another bad week for the "warmists", now more desperate than ever to whip up alarm over an overheating planet. It began last weekend with the BBC leading its bulletins on the news that a "leading climate scientist" in America, Professor Chris Field, had warned that "the severity of global warming over the next century will be much worse than previously believed". Future temperatures "will be beyond anything predicted", he told a Chicago conference. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had "seriously underestimated the size of the problem".

The puzzle as to why the BBC should make this the main news of the day only deepened when it emerged that Prof Field was not a climate scientist at all but an evolutionary biologist. To promote its cause the BBC website even posted a video explaining how warming would be made worse by "negative feedback". This scientific howler provoked much amusement and derision on expert US blogs, such as Anthony Watts's Watts Up With That – since "negative feedback" would lower temperatures rather than raise them. The BBC soon pulled its video.

This was followed on Sunday by yet another outburst from the most extreme of all the scientists crying wolf on global warming, Al Gore's ally Dr James Hansen, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies. In The Observer he launched his most vitriolic call yet for the closing down of the coal-fired power stations which are the world's main source of electricity, repeating his claim to a British court last year that the new coal-fired plant at Kingsnorth will alone be responsible for "the extermination of 400 species".

"Coal-fired power plants are factories of death," wrote Hansen, "the trains carrying coal to power plants are death trains". This deliberate echo of the trains carrying Jews to Nazi death camps recalled how the more extreme warmists like to equate sceptics on climate change with "Holocaust deniers". But such overheated language seemed somehow at home in the newspaper which in 1996 solemnly predicted that by 2016 half a million Britons would be dying each year from having eaten BSE-infected beef.

Later in the week sceptics were struck by an admission from Professor William Schlesinger, a lead author for the IPCC. Since one of the enduring myths of our time is that the case for global warming is supported by "the world's top 2,500 climate scientists" on the IPCC, Schlesinger was asked in a public debate how many of its contributors are in fact climate experts. The best he could come up with was that "something on the order of 20 per cent have had some dealing with climate". (This will not of course stop the BBC calling any old evolutionary biologist or economist who supports its views a "leading climate scientist").

Finally there was the strange case of the vanishing Arctic ice. Just how far Arctic sea-ice is melting or growing is one of the issues which arouses most passionate interest in the global-warming debate. Observers were therefore startled last week to see the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) showing a very dramatic drop in sea-ice cover, 500,000 square kilometres of ice suddenly disappearing in the depths of the Arctic winter.

When this was queried by a puzzled Anthony Watts, the NSIDC somewhat shamefacedly admitted that a problem had developed with one of its satellites. The data for the previous 45 days was found to be so faulty that it had been withdrawn. But inevitably this provoked the question as to why quality control seemed to be so poor on one of the world's leading official sources of climate data that it had taken an outside observer to point out that something was wrong,

This is by no means the first time that data on which the official case for global warming rests have had to be corrected, some of the more notorious instances involving temperature data supplied by Dr Hansen's GISS. Yet this is one of the four official sources of temperature data on which the IPCC itself relies. When politicians plan measures to "combat climate change" costing tens of trillions of dollars, we can at least expect them to ensure that their figures are halfway believable.

Chinese pull a fast one in space race as EU’s 'pigs with gold trotters’ remain earthbound

There has been another wondrously bizarre twist to the unending farce of the EU’s favourite vanity project, Galileo. This is the multi-billion euro programme designed to give the EU its own rival to the US GPS satellite system, which provides a free positioning fix to ships, aircraft, Satnav owners and other users all over the world.

Although I have regularly reported on this joke project since 2001, almost the only time it has excited much media interest in Britain was when, in 2007, the late Gwyneth Dunwoody described it as “not one pig flying in orbit, this is a herd of pigs with gold trotters, platinum tails and diamond eyes”. The Commons Transport Committee, of which she was chairman, had produced a report suggesting that Galileo would cost British taxpayers at least £1.7 billion, and was so pointless that it might as well be scrapped.

No episode in the story was more curious, however, than the deal signed in October 2003, whereby the Chinese government agreed to pay 200 million euros for a 20 per cent share in Galileo, to be spent on developing infrastructure and ground stations based on European technological know-how. The EU was over the moon, thinking that this would cement in China as its partner in a project always partly intended for military use, allowing it both to operate independently of the US.

A first sign that all was not well came when the Chinese, having got on with their part of the deal, using EU know-how, were shut out from top-level management of Galileo on security grounds. But, having obtained the technical information they wanted, they have powered ahead with a satellite system of their own, Compass. They are now so far advanced, and Galileo has slipped so far behind schedule, it seems certain that the Chinese satellites will be in place long before the EU system.

Furthermore the Chinese now plan to operate on the same wavelengths that the EU had earmarked for Galileo. Since their satellites will get there first, they will be able to lay claim to ownership of them. The EU would thus only be able to use the wavelengths with Chinese permission.

Having robbed the Common Agricultural Fund of €1 billion in a desperate effort to pay the soaring bill for Galileo, the Europeans are said to be “very angry”, since this removes just about the last conceivable excuse for proceeding with their absurd project. The Americans, having followed the whole saga with bemused irritation, are said to be laughing themselves silly.

MEPs prove not at all the president’s men

As an eloquent and drily humorous Euro-sceptic, the Czech President Vaclav Klaus is making the most of his country’s six-month presidency of the EU. In the European Parliament on Thursday he delivered what my Daily Telegraph colleague Bruno Waterfield called on his blog “a storming speech – the best I have ever heard in that place”. Having spent much of his life under Communism, Klaus courteously questioned the way in which the EU, like any other one-party state, has no place for opposition and is fiercely intolerant of dissenting views. The fact that his remarks were greeted with boos and jeers, followed by 200 MEPs walking out, neatly confirmed his point.

Marks & Spencer fail to go green

In a bid to earn “Greenie points”, Marks & Spencer last week announced a plan to source all its electricity from “renewables”. As a next step, nPower is to supply it with “2.6 terawatt hours” of electricity from windfarms and other renewable sources over six years. A quick sum shows that this equates to 40 per cent of the entire current annual output of Britain’s 2,000 wind turbines. Pretty impressive, until one realises that the electricity will in fact be supplied by the National Grid, most of it made from “dirty” coal, carbon-intensive gas and “nasty” nuclear. In other words, this not just a load of cobblers, this is M & S cobblers.

Source - Telegraph

Rich nations failing to meet climate aid pledges

World's richest countries have pledged nearly $18bn to help poorer countries adapt to climate change, but less than $1bn has been disbursed.

Developing countries have received less than 10% of the money promised by rich countries to help them adapt to global warming, an analysis by the Guardian has found.

The failure is fostering deep distrust between rich and poor nations and is seriously undermining key negotiations on a global climate deal.

The world's richest countries have together pledged nearly $18bn (£12.5bn) in the last seven years, but despite world leaders' rhetoric that the finance is vital, less than $0.9bn has been disbursed and long delays are plaguing many funds.

The lack of action is causing growing concern among diplomats and UN climate talks negotiators who have warned that a global agreement on climate change to succeed the Kyoto treaty is at risk if rich countries do not make the money available.

"It's a scandal. The amount the developed countries have provided is peanuts. It is poisoning the UN negotiations. What [the rich countries] offer to the poorest is derisory, the equivalent of one banker's bonus. It's an insult to people who are already experiencing increasingextreme events," said Bernarditas Muller of the Phillippines, the chief negotiator for the G77 and China group of developing countries.

The analysis has found that the poorest countries have received the least help from the rich. The UN's Least developed countries fund has disbursed only $47m in seven years. The analysis, based on data collected by the independent Overseas Development Institute in London and confirmed by the UN, has also found:

• Britain has pledged nearly $1.5bn but has so far deposited under $0.3bn

• Africa, the poorest continent, has received less than 12% of all the climate fund money spent in the last four years

• It can take poor countries more than three years to access money

• Most of the money promised for climate change comes out of official aid budgets, leaving less for health, education and poverty action

According to the UN, $50-70bn a year needs to be invested immediately to help the poor countries adapt to extreme floods, droughts and heatwaves, with much more needed later. "I recognise the frustration. Contributions to funds have been disappointingly low and the least developed countries have received very little. Without significant finance you will not get developing country engagement [in negotiations]. Funding is key to unlocking an outcome for the talks," said Yvo de Boer, head of UN Framework Convention on Climate change (UNFCC), which oversees the talks.

Rich countries have accepted their moral responsibility for global warming, and are legally obliged by the Kyoto protocol to provide finance to poor countries to tackle climate change - but there is no enforcement or targets. "The situation is becoming very serious. The sums are ridiculously small and whole system has broken down. The financial commitments are weak and there is a great gap between the promises and the reality. It is very risky for the UN negotiations and for mankind," said the Juan Lozano Ramirez, the Colombian environment minister.

So far 12 rich countries, led by the UK, Germany, Japan and the US, have pledged $6.1bn to two climate investment funds administered by the World Bank. But no money has been deposited in them and any money available will be in the form of loans, not grants, with stringent conditions on how the money is spent. A pilot project for eight countries has been announced but no money is likely to be disbursed for nearly a year.

The bank has set up four other climate funds but no money has been deposited in them. In the current economic crisis, analysts believe rich countries are likely to use delaying tactics and it could be several years before deposits are made. Poor countries do not want the World bank to administer money pledged for them, as they perceive it to be run in the interests of rich nations.

The second major source of funds is the UN, which through its financial arm - the Global Environment Facility (GEF) - distributes nearly $250m a year to poor countries for climate change projects. Nearly one-third of the $760m distributed in the last three years, has gone to China, India and Brazil. Less than $100m of this has gone to projects in the world's 49 poorest countries.

Criticism centres on the GEF-administered Least-Developed Countries Fund (LCDF). In seven years, rich countries have deposited $172m for this but only $47m has been disbursed, mostly in very small grants. A seperate climate adaptation fund for the poorest countries set up in 2002 has only financed 22 projects, together worth $50m.

Bonizella Biagini, a spokesman for the GEF said: "The LCDF was set up in 2001 but the UNFCCC only decided how to operationalise it in 2005. We expect at least 12 projects to be endorsed in 2009, on top of the three that have already reached that stage. To implement a project requires time to sharpen the problem statement, negotiate partnerships and prepare on the ground implementation. Clearly there is insufficient money to cover the needs for adaptation in the least developed countries."

A third source of climate funds are "bilateral agreements", between individual countries. Japan has pledged more than $10bn of official aid over five years but has so far deposited nothing. Spain has promised $528m but released only $85m. Norway, Germany, Australia and others have also pledged but released very little.

A spokesman for CSRL, a coalition of 70 Bangladeshi environment groups, expressed concerns on hard it is to release the funds: "Climate change financing is inadequate and complex. Of 15 projects that Bangladesh designed in 2005, only one has been approved by the GEF but this will only receive a US$3.1m. A co-financer will have to be found to finance the rest."

Alison Doig, a climate spokesperson for Christian Aid, said: "The money available for the poor is a fraction of the annual cost of climate change already happening in developing countries and less than 1% of the $2.8 trillion committed by rich countries to rescuing banks and stimulating economic growth. Diverting funds from development assistance to fight climate change means that the poor suffer twice. The funds are too small and not directed to the most vulnerable. So the poor are left to suffer, and there is less in the pot for poverty reduction actions."

Britain has pledged more than any other country except Japan. It has promised £800m in loans for the World Bank's environmental transformation fund, £50m to protect the Congo basin forests and £75m to help Bangladesh adapt. But no payments are believed to have have reached recipients yet. In addition it has paid $250m for climate change funds for 2006-10.

A spokesman for the UK Department for International Development said: "It is the world's poorest who suffer most and we expect the UK's first contribution to global climate change funds to take place imminently.Progress to date has been ahead of plan - at the end of January, Mexico, Egypt and Turkey were given the green light to apply for funding for clean technology projects and a further eight developing countries were offered funding for adaptation."

"People are feeling the effects of climate change now. We are very willing to do more, but it needs the rich to show more willing", said Muller.

Source - The Guardian

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

First solar-powered phone goes on display

Samsung unveiled the world's first solar-powered mobile phone at an industry show here on Monday where the sector is showcasing the new technology it hopes will drive demand through the economic crisis.

The South Korean manufacturer put its "Blue Earth" phone on display in front of curious crowds at Mobile World Congress, with industry insiders keen to see the mini solar panels located on the back of the phone.

"This type of device would be ideal for developing markets where workers have long hours and don't have access to electricity," commented Nick Lane, chief researcher at consultancy Direct2 Mobile.

"It would also interest consumers with an eye on the 'green' aspects, or companies and their CSR (corporate social responsibility) programmes."

The device is to be launched initially in Europe in the second half of 2009 but is likely to be out of the price range of a worker in the developing world. A Samsung representative said it would be a mid to high-end handset.

A full charge taking 10-14 hours in the sun would offer about four hours of talk time. The phone can also be plugged in to charge, with the solar panels used to top up the battery to extend its power.

Fellow South Korean manufacturer LG Electronics also put a prototype solar-powered phone on display although the handset is not ready for market.

LG showcased a mobile phone-enabled watch, which it said was a world first.

The Mobile World Congress, which runs from Monday to Thursday, is the world's biggest mobile phone show and is set to bring together 60,000 industry insiders from 1,200 companies, according to the organisers, the GSM Association.

As well as the launches and new industry initiatives, the economic crisis has cast a pall over the gathering with cost-cutting the new concern of an industry that has become accustomed to constant growth.

Nevertheless, the chief executive of Russia's Vimpelcom operator, Alexander Izosimov, sought to stress the rosy future of the industry as a whole despite the morose economic climate.

"We are dealing with something that is absolutely guaranteed to expand in the future," he told reporters. "Our growth (as an industry) is absolutely secured."

The chief executive of China Mobile, the biggest Chinese network operator, said that his company had felt the impact of the financial crisis, but he underlined the recession-resistant nature of providing phone connections.

"Even in difficult times, people need to use their mobile phones," CEO Wang Jianzhou told reporters.

All the major network operators such as Vodafone, MTN or Telefonica were present, as well as the major handset makers -- including new entrant Acer, a Taiwanese manufacturer better known for making computers.

Acer unveiled its first range of phones, with the first four high-end models set to go on sale in March or April and another six handsets to follow, marketing manager Sylvia Pan told AFP.

The touch-screen phones were demonstrated mostly in black with a design that resembles the top-selling Apple iPhone.

The move illustrates two trends in the mobile phone industry: the growing attractiveness of the high-end market for "smart phones" and the arrival of traditional laptop computer makers in this segment.

Software giant Microsoft and Finnish handset maker Nokia also announced their responses to the phenomenal success of Apple's AppStore.

Apple launched the AppStore last July, enabling users of its high-end iPhone to download new applications for their devices. The 500,000th download was celebrated at the end of January.

Microsoft hit back with its "Windows Marketplace for Mobile," while Nokia unveiled its "Ovi Store." Both offer the same service as the AppStore, which allows users to personalise their phones with tailored applications.

Like Apple, Microsoft and Nokia will allow outside developers to write applications that can be downloaded on their sites.

In other news Monday, Google got a boost when Chinese manufacturer Huawei revealed only the second mobile phone to integrate the US company's mobile phone operating system called Android.

Rival developers are battling to create the dominant operating system for mobile phones, with Google competing with Microsoft, Nokia and an open-source Linux-based project.

The first phone to use Android was launched last year in October, the G1, made by Taiwan-based group HTC in partnership with German network operator T-Mobile.

Source - Solardaily

Monday, 16 February 2009

The big green giveaway

Pollyanna herself would be hard pushed to find something positive to say about the current economic climate, but even if our financial clout is weakening, our eco-credentials are growing stronger by the day.

Last week, in an attempt to help meet its ambitious goal of reducing household carbon emissions to close to zero by 2050, the government announced plans to offer more than one in four homes an environmental makeover.

The “Great British Refurb”, as it’s been styled, could see the greening of our homes on the same scale that saw them converted to gas central heating in the 1960s – or so the government hopes. Under the Heat and Energy Saving Strategy, launched by Ed Miliband, the energy and climate-change secretary, and Hazel Blears, the communities secretary, homeowners are being urged to be more ambitious by installing ground- or air-source heat pumps, solar heating, solid wall insulation, or to join a community heating scheme.

“We need to move from incremental steps on household energy efficiency to a national plan,” said Miliband. “Wasted energy is costing families on average £300 a year, and a quarter of all our emissions are from our homes. We cannot afford not to act.”

So what does it mean for the home-owner? Since it is only a draft proposal, the details have yet to be finalised (and it’s also not clear how it will affect people who live in flats rather than houses), but these are the basic principles:

— Householders will be offered loans to help pay for energy-efficiency measures and low-carbon heat and power sources. The repayments will be made out of the money saved on energy bills, but will be linked to the property itself, rather than the householder – which should make people more willing to invest in green technology with a long payback time, even if they do not plan to stay in a property for long.

— Property owners will be offered low-cost home-energy audits.

— To protect homeowners from “eco-cowboys”, a special qualification will be established for energy advisers and an accreditation scheme set for installers.

— A scheme under which energy companies subsidise green measures such as loft and cavity-wall insulation, high-efficiency appliances and low-energy light bulbs will be expanded, with 20% more money expected to be available for homeowners.

— People will be encouraged to generate their own electricity on a small scale, with guaranteed payments under what will be called the Renewable Heat Incentive and a Feed-in Tariff.

— A new Community Energy Savings Programme will provide help to about 90,000 homes in low-income areas. This will be backed by an expected £350m in funding from energy suppliers.

The final details will be released after a 12-week consultation process. However, there is a surprising amount of money already earmarked by the government, energy suppliers and local authorities to help you implement energysaving measures in your home – for nothing.

The quickest way to find out what is available is to visit, then click on “Home improvements” and “Search for grants and offers”. I entered my southwest London postcode and the site suggested – among many others – the Mayor of London’s insulation offer, ending on February 28, of cavity-wall insulation from £250 and loft insulation from £274 (based on a typical three-bed semi), plus £100 cashback once work is completed.

At the same time, British Gas (british will pay up to £125 on your council tax bill, provided you live within one of the 64 participating council areas, if you have it insulate your home before March 1.EDF Energy ( is offering a reduced rate of £199 for loft insulation or cavity-wall insulation (price applies to properties with up to four bedrooms).

And it’s not just energysaving measures that are on offer. Right now, for instance, there are some 90,000 solar water-heating systems in Britain; by 2020 there could be up to 7m, thanks to hefty grants and changes in the planning rules that mean solar panels no longer require planning permission.

Visit for details of a scheme run by the Energy Saving Trust, which offers grants of up to £2,500 per household to install wind turbines, wood-pellet stoves, ground-source heat pumps and other eco kit.

It’s also worth keeping your eyes peeled for deals in unexpected places. In January last year, for example, the Great British Light Switch campaign distributed 4.5m energysaving light bulbs in just one day.

Less dramatic, but still worthwhile is the offer on the Act on CO2 website ( Fill in the online questionnaire and you could be one of 10 lucky winners of a free standby saver, which switches off DVD players, set-top boxes and other electronic gadgets connected to your television when you turn off the set. Every little helps.

Source - The times

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

A Solar Deal to Put Mirrors in the Mojave

Just last July, Southern California Edison, California’s biggest utility, announced what was then the largest planned array of solar panels in the world, but today it outdid itself by announcing what it bills as “the world’s largest solar deal.”

The utility has an agreement with BrightSource Energy to buy electricity from a planned suite of solar-thermal power plants — arrays of mirrors that heat fluid to drive turbines — with a total capacity of 1,300 megawatts.

The first 100-megawatt mirror array is to be built in the Mojave Desert in southern California, according to the utility and BrightSource, with construction starting later this year and power flowing in 2013 if regulators approve the project. (By comparison, the average coal-burning power plant has a capacity of about 800 megawatts, but generates electricity day or night.)

The costs of the electricity, the plants and the estimated markup on utility bills were not disclosed.

The credit crisis and recession have hit the solar and wind industries hard elsewhere, but the rapid expansion of solar power capacity (and wind turbines, too) in California is the result of a mandate. Utilities are racing to meet the state’s “renewable portfolio standard” requirement that power providers have 20 percent of electricity flowing from renewable sources by next year.

Vanessa McGrady, a spokeswoman for Southern California Edison, said the utility currently has 16 percent of its electricity coming from renewable sources.

And so the utility remains in a race to find more capacity, and soon. Its Web site has an ongoing list of renewable-energy projects.

There’s a debate out there about the merits of mandates in driving expansion of non-polluting energy options. Advocates for such standards say that the expanded market will drive down the production costs of panels, turbines and other clean power sources. Some say that pursuing efficiency is far cheaper. Others say that any state or federal requirements for non-polluting power should include nuclear reactors, which also produce no greenhouse gases when generating electricity. What do you think?

Source - New york times

Congress seen backing renewables standard

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - There is enough support in Congress to pass legislation requiring utilities to generate a portion of their electricity supplies from wind, solar and other renewable energy sources, the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee said on Tuesday.

The committee held a hearing on draft legislation that would set a national renewable electricity standard, which would help meet President Barack Obama's goal to double renewable energy production over the next three years.

Under the bill, the amount of the U.S. electricity supply coming from renewable energy sources would gradually increase to 4 percent in 2011-12, 8 percent in 2013-15, 12 percent in 2016-18, 16 percent in 2019-20 and 20 percent in 2021-39.

"I think that the votes are present in the Senate to pass a renewable electricity standard. I think that they are present in the House," Sen. Jeff Bingaman, the energy committee's chairman, said. "I think that we need to get on with figuring out what we can pass and move forward."

Qualifying renewable energy sources under the bill would be wind, solar, ocean currents and waves, geothermal, biomass, landfill gas and incremental hydropower.

Creating a renewable electricity standard would reduce U.S. dependence on fossil fuel sources that run power plants and cut those facilities' emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming and other pollutants, Bingaman said.

"This standard would also spur the development of a national green energy economy, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs, many in rural areas," he said.

However, power companies and regulators in southern states, where coal is popular for electricity generation, generally oppose a federal renewable standard. They argue not all states have abundant renewable energy resources like wind.

David Wright, commissioner of the South Carolina Public Service Commission, said a federal renewable standard "fails to recognize that there are significant differences among the states in terms of available and cost-effective renewable energy resources, and that having such a standard in energy legislation will ultimately increase consumers' electricity bills."

Source - Reuters

Congress Shines On Solar

Nearly $100 Billion in spending on green energy and energy efficiency is planned in the House version of the new stimulus package working its way through congress. The renewable energy sector is expected to grow more rapidly than most areas of the economy.

Solar energy provides clean, affordable energy and can be scaled up to meet a substantial portion of America's electrical needs in coming years.

In addition, it can be implemented effectively through a distributed generation model where the power is generated exactly where it is needed. This reduces capital expenditures on distribution networks and storage.

"In the next two years we are expecting to see the largest expansion of clean energy resources in American history," noted Eddie Austin, Chairman and CEO of Sunrise Solar Corp.

"There could not be a better time to be a part of the solar industry as both technology and stimulus spending are set to reach new levels."

The United Sates has set a goal to double energy production from natural sources within three years. Industries worldwide now realize that solar power can reduce operating costs and provide increased energy security during times of energy volatility and economic uncertainty.

Source - Solardaily

Monday, 9 February 2009

Quarter of UK homes to be offered a green makeover

More than one in four homes in the UK will be offered a complete eco-makeover under ambitious plans expected to be announced this week to slash fuel bills and cut global warming pollution.

The campaign is thought to involve giving 7m houses and flats a complete refit to improve insulation, and will be compared to the 10-year programme that converted British homes to gas central heating in the 1960s and 1970s. Householders could also be encouraged to install small-scale renewable and low-carbon heating systems such as solar panels and wood-burning boilers.

In total, it is thought the Department of Energy and Climate Change will commit to cutting a third of greenhouse gas emissions from households by 2020.

The announcement by the energy and climate secretary, Ed Miliband, and the communities and local government secretary, Hazel Blears, which is expected on Thursday, will be widely welcomed by environmental groups and fuel poverty campaigners who have been lobbying hard for more action to tackle emissions from homes. The proposals are likely to require skills training and create thousands of jobs.

Ed Matthew, head of UK climate for Friends of the Earth, said: "Twenty-seven percent of emissions in this country come from people's homes and if they don't cut emissions from homes radically we have got no hope of achieving our climate change targets."

However, campaigners will be worried about how much money the government is prepared to commit. Last year, the prime minister, Gordon Brown, announced nearly £1bn from power companies for energy-saving initiatives. By contrast, various reports have estimated the cost of insulation and small-scale clean energy alone to be £2bn-£12.9bn a year to reach the government's target of an 80% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Matthew said the targets would only be met if each home treated was insulated well enough to cut those emissions by two-thirds, the financial incentives were high enough, and people on low incomes had the work paid for to tackle fuel poverty. It is estimated that more than 5m households are in fuel poverty, meaning they spend more than 10% of their income on heat and power.

"My concern is they will not be investing enough money to take these homes to a high enough energy efficiency standard to insulate them from rising fuel prices," he added.

A report by Oxford University's Environmental Change Institute in 2007 found that carbon dioxide emissions had risen 5% since Labour came into power in 1997, and only four out of every 1,000 homes had any "low-and-zero carbon technologies". The report also warned that with rising population and falling household numbers, emissions from the sector would rise by 23% by the middle of the century "if nothing else changed".

As well as the target of seven million homes, the heat and energy saving strategy is understood to push for a dramatic increase in the level of insulation for each house or flat, and to encourage more small-scale zero-or-low carbon heat.

The schemes will be voluntary, but Miliband is expected to announce financial incentives.

Similar schemes overseas included grants or cheap loans, transferable to a new homeowner if the property is sold. Also, the Sustainable Energy Academy estimates that if homeowners spend £15,000-20,000 they would save that amount in lower bills in 10-15 years, even less if fuel prices rise. Another possibly option is for whole districts to be offered community clean energy schemes, or mass fitting of efficiency improvements.

The Conservatives have proposed grants of up to £6,500 per household, which would be repaid over up to 25 years from expected savings of £160 on gas and electricity bills.

Source - The guardian

Friday, 6 February 2009

Obama urges higher efficiency standards for household appliances

Barack Obama urged the energy department to adopt higher efficiency standards for household appliances that had been blocked for years by George Bush.

In a presidential memo, issued during a visit to the energy department meant to showcase Obama's commitment to the greening of the economy, the president called for new higher standards to be issued as early as next August.

The first round of higher standards would cover nine appliances, including ovens, lamps, micrwoaves, dishwashers and air conditioners. The directive applies to some 30 household and commercial electrical items.

"This will save consumers money. This will spur innovation and this will conserve tremendous amounts of energy," Obama said.

He was flanked by Steven Chu, the energy secretary who has long seen energy efficiency as a crucial part of the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The push for household energy efficiency was seen as a further sign of Obama's determination to break with Bush policy on the environment.

In another development, the Obama administration showed it would take a far more robust approach to enforcing environmental protection. A lawsuit filed by the justice department charged the Westar power company of Kansas with failing to meet its legal obligation to install the best available pollution controls on its coal-fired plant.

Obama also used the visit to try and sell his economic rescue plan, saying the package, now approaching $900bn, would help spur the growth of clean energy, with new well-paying jobs in the wind and solar power industries.

Obama set aside some $30bn for energy efficiency measures in the economic rescue package now making its way through Congress, mainly modernising buildings.

The presidential memo on efficiency would seek to end a logjam at the energy department. The new energy standards demanded by Obama today were long overdue.

Congress has been pushing for nearly three decades for higher standards on household products such as water heaters and refrigerators. But the energy department has regularly missed deadlines for imposing the new standards.

It was not immediately clear whether Obama's directive would also lead to a review and possible tightening of the standards under consideration by the energy department.

The president said he asked the energy department to move ahead on those appliances that would produce the biggest savings for consumers.

The White House said the energy savings from the changes would save Americans $500bn on their electricity bills, or the equivalent of two years worth of emissions from all of America's coal-fired power plants over the course of 30 years.

In the justice department law suit, the Environmental Protection Agency notified Westar Power that it was in violation of pollution control requirements five years ago. However, under Bush, the EPA rarely followed up on enforcement.

The justice department said its suit was "part of a national initiative to stop illegal pollution from coal-fired power plants".

The move stoked expectations of similar actions against a number of other coal-fired plants.

Source - The guardian

Obama surges ahead in the race to be green

The green race is on. Did you notice? Barack Obama fired the starting gun a week ago, but most Europeans were looking the other way. Ed Miliband, the Climate Change Secretary, is on the track, but has no one to hand his baton to - his colleagues in the Government are off expanding Heathrow and coal power. Coming up behind him are people who saw dollar signs flashing in President Obama's strident words about oil last week.

Going low-carbon is no longer a seminar subject for caring greens. It's a real live competition to beat the oil regimes and make profits, in which the new environmentalists will be alpha males.

The President's speech was astonishing. “America will not be held hostage to dwindling resources, hostile regimes and a warming planet,” he said, on his sixth day in office. The US would no longer “bankroll dictators” but would create its own energy from the Sun, wind and soil. Unchecked climate change would lead to “violent conflict, terrible storms and irreversible catastrophe”. It was wrong to deny the science, he said. It was wrong to think that clean energy would damage prosperity. This was not the lukewarm language of appeasement, aimed at the green lobby. It was the language of wartime: a declaration of war on fossil fuels.

In one week America has gone from playing the dirty, recalcitrant schoolboy to auditioning as the world leader on climate change. That's quite a shift. And it has indicated to every energy investor and green entrepreneur that America is now the place to do business.

BP and Shell have abandoned their investments in renewable energy in Britain, in favour of the United States. The German power company e.on is close to pulling out of the London Array, Britain's biggest experiment in wind power. Even the Bush Administration operated a more attractive regime of subsidies for renewables than Britain. Now the world has a White House that will invest and regulate on an unprecedented scale.

The first two executive orders signed by the President were, he said, a “downpayment” towards the green economy. One tightened fuel-efficiency standards for cars, an issue once thought to be politically untouchable. The other gave permission to states to move faster than the Federal Government. This was a triumph for Arnold Schwarzenegger, many of whose attempts to green California have been frustrated by George W. Bush. President Obama seems determined that Washington will not stand in the way of innovation. He is colour-blind: it doesn't matter whether you're from a red or a blue state if you're green.

No country rises to a challenge like America. In the 1990s the US cap-and-trade scheme to limit acid rain worked far more quickly and cheaply than expected because, once companies saw the writing on the wall, they stopped moaning and invented clever alternatives.

Today 23 states have their own cap-and-trade schemes for capping carbon emissions. It will not be a huge step to take that national. Even the Republican Governor of Texas is proposing a $5,000 subsidy for his citizens who buy electric hybrid cars. President Obama faces an almighty fight over his stimulus package, which contains $90 billion of clean energy investments. But he is clearly determined to unleash a “big bang” that will change the energy game fundamentally.

For several years, I have been talking to investors and entrepreneurs who have been waiting for this moment. They want to grab some of the $16 trillion that the International Energy Agency thinks will be invested in energy infrastructure between now and 2030. They know that the low-carbon market could grow very fast.

It is no accident that some of the earliest clean-tech investors, such as Paul Allen, of Microsoft, and Vinod Khosla, of Sun, are dot-com billionaires. They remember how quickly fortunes were built when a critical mass of consumers suddenly shifted online. They know that canal barges ran out of customers long before they ran out of canals.

California has effectively outlawed the building of new fossil fuel plants. If the rest of the US follows suit, the big oil companies will have to move rapidly or risk running out of customers for their ageing infrastructure.

There is a long way to go. But what is particularly impressive about President Obama is his determination in the face of public apathy. By pressing the issue early and hard, he is showing true leadership. He wants to make insulated homes, clean technologies and connecting infrastructure a fait accompli. The risk for European politicians is that their own faltering steps will soon be outpaced. The EU carbon market is failing because its politicians speak green but keep shoring up old-fashioned industries.

Only one European leader seems to understand the need to unleash a “big bang”. Two weeks ago David Cameron launched an ambitious strategy for making Britain a low-carbon economy. It has put the Conservative Party way ahead of the field. While Labour writhes in the stranglehold of vested interests in the aviation and fossil fuel industries, the Tories, who are less naive about business, have plans to decentralise energy supply, invest properly in carbon capture, develop marine power and offshore wind, insulate all homes and build an “electricity internet” to help suppliers to make much more finely tuned decisions.

It is a big vision. It understands the need to offer the public what Mr Cameron calls the “holy trinity” of cheap, secure, low-carbon energy supplies. It also understands - which the Government does not - that Britain has very little time left to gain a commercial advantage in the clean energy field. There will be no prizes for coming third in a race in which the US is setting the pace.

Source - The times

Solar Industry May Be Bright Spot For Professionals In Current Recession

California's solar and renewable energy industry continues to grow dramatically, despite the current financial crisis.

The amount of investment in clean tech in the state nearly doubled from 2007 to 2008, reaching as high as $3.3 billion, according to the 2009 California Green Innovation Index, which reported that the state also holds 38 percent of the nationwide solar energy patent registrations made in recent years.

"Solar installations under the California Solar Initiative were up 100% in 2008, with the last quarter being among the busiest on record," says Adam Browning, Executive Director of Vote Solar.

Browning will be part of an industry panel discussing the future of solar and renewable energy for California businesses, jobs, and government agencies.

The free event will be held on February 12 at 7 pm at UC Berkeley's Alumni House and is sponsored by UC Berkeley Extension which offers a professional program in sustainable energy management.

The event brings together experts from both the private and public sectors of California's solar industry, including Chuck Hornbrook of PG&E, Sue Katley of Calseia, Doug Payne of Regrid Power and Gianluca Signorelli of MMA Renewable Ventures, to discuss the impact of public policy in the state, including HR 1424, and the potential for job growth in the sector.

In addition, energy program officers from the City of San Jose and the City of Berkeley will discuss their cities' innovative energy programs and plans for expanding solar power to city residents.

Jobs at green companies in California grew 10 percent over the past two years, and UC Berkeley Extension has created professional programs to meet the need for education in this expanding sector.

"Whether you're an architect, engineer, contractor, energy consultant or entrepreneur, renewable energy and sustainability education is a growing need," says Stephen Chan, Program Director of Sustainability Management and Systems at UC Berkeley Extension.

"We've created an interdisciplinary approach to provide practical sustainability knowledge to professionals and businesses. Our certificate programs and courses highlight corporate management skills as well as clean technology, green building design and construction, energy, water and natural resources, land use planning, transportation," says Chan, who has a mechanical engineering degree from MIT and twenty years of international management experience in sustainable and technology industries.

Source - Solardaily

Campaign for solar panels feed-in tariffs

Solar panels industry sectors have begun campaigning to secure the feed-in tariff levels they believe will be necessary to support their technologies in the domestic, business and community sectors.

Feed-in tariffs are long-term contracts that will be offered to small-scale generators of renewable electricity to provide an incentive for householders, schools, hospitals and other organisations to invest in micropower technology.

The government gained the powers to set feed-in tariffs for renewable energy projects below 5MW in size through last year’s Energy Act. The solar campaign, which has the support of 30 MPs so far, as well as campaign groups, solar manufacturers, businesses and industry bodies, is aiming to promote solar at a what it sees as a critical time for the development of the industry, with feed-in tariffs (FIT) expected to be launched by April 2010.

Michael Meacher MP, a former environment minister, gave his support to the drive, saying: “Ed Miliband’s decision to introduce a feed-in tariff for solar PV and other small-scale renewable electricity technologies is potentially a real turning point for the UK solar PV sector. It gives the UK a vital new policy tool that should help to maximise the contribution from solar PV to our demanding renewable energy target.” Mr Crosher agreed with the BWEA that the feed-in tariff should relate to the total amount of on-site generation rather than the amount exported to the grid, and went on to suggest a rate that might be suitable.

If tariffs are too high, the temptation will be for the consumer to place technologies on their site that produce relatively small amounts of energy

Stephen Crosher, quietrevolution

“Our view is that the first 25,000 kWh per annum produced should be eligible for a rate of 25p per kWh, the second 50,000kWh energy produced per annum should be eligible for a rate of 20p per kWh, and so on,” he said.

Last month small wind-turbine manufacturer Proven Energy pledged its support for a 40p per kWh rate.

The Renewable Energy Association (REA) has urged the government to address this gap, in regard to both the feed-in tariff and the renewable heat incentive, which Ministers are yet to lay out a definite timetable for.

The director general of the REA, Philip Wolfe, said: “It is vital that both tariffs are introduced early in 2010 and that the industry is supported in ramping up its capacity in the interim. The detail design of these tariffs will also be crucial if they are to optimise the contribution of the many renewable electricity, heat and biogas technologies that could participate.”

However, the REA remained positive about the implications of the tariffs.

“The renewable electricity and heat tariffs introduced in the 2008 Energy Act could open up a whole new front in the war againt climate change and energy supply volatility,” said Mr Wolfe. “For the first time energy users can contribute to a sustainable energy future alongside the suppliers - creating an energy generating democracy in the UK.”

Former Energy Minister Peter Hain, also endorsed the We Support Solar campaign, but warned that the feed-in tariff must be implemented in the right way for it to work.

“The vast potential of solar PV in the UK is undeniable,” he said. “But what the sector needs above all else is a coherent, long term-term policy framework that plays to the UKs strengths in building integrated PV and our solar design and engineering expertise.”

Solarcentury told New Energy Focus that it is pleased at the government’s commitment to the tariff, but said it believes the input of solar manufacturers will be crucial to setting the right rate.

Seb Berry, the firm’s head of external affairs, said: “Ed Miliband is to be congratulated for showing real leadership on the feed-in tariff issue. This has been the vital missing ingredient in UK renewable energy policy and the new Secretary of State has moved quickly to address that.

“It is now essential that the government works closely with the solar PV industry to put in place appropriate tariff levels, so that we can play a full part in helping to deliver the 2020 renewable energy target,” he added.

Source - New Energy Focus

Monday, 2 February 2009

DuPont Installs Its Largest Solar Panel Array

DuPont has announced the installation of its largest photovoltaic solar energy facility at its Pioneer Hi-Bred Waimea Research Center in Kauai, Hawaii.
The Waimea photovoltaic installation is comprised of 1,500 panels - made from several DuPont photovoltaic materials - produced by Evergreen Solar and installed by REC Solar. The one-acre array is capable of generating about 85 percent of the energy needs of the research facility.

It is expected to generate 706,205 kilowatt hours (kwh) annually, or enough power for 64 average-size homes.

By using renewable energy, the facility will avoid the emissions (equivalent carbon dioxide) from approximately 100 cars annually, saving Pioneer about $200,000 per year in avoided purchased electricity costs. The installation was completed and fully operational in December 2008.

DuPont has already installed photovoltaic solar power systems for its R and D and business facilities in Wilmington, Del., and Taoyuan, Taiwan.

"This installation is a great example of our commitment to be both a key materials and technology supplier to the photovoltaic industry, and also a leader of solar power use," said Marc Doyle, global business director - DuPont Photovoltaic Solutions.

"Our products can help make clean renewable energy a reality while also powering our facilities as part of DuPont's sustainability goals."

DuPont offers the broadest portfolio in the solar energy market with eight essential products. DuPont is a leading material and technology supplier to the photovoltaic industry with more than 25 years of experience in photovoltaic materials development.

DuPont technologies enable higher power output with improved productivity and increased solar module lifetime. The company offers a broad and growing portfolio of materials solutions for both crystalline silicon and thin film cells and modules including:

- DuPont Elvax EVA resins for the encapsulant sheet: cushions individual cells from impact and enables the transmission of sunlight to the cells;

- DuPont PV Encapsulant Sheets: Ranging from soft to structural, clear DuPont PV5200 and PV5300 Series encapsulant sheets offer proven safety and laminating performance, and deliver long-term protection for the most sensitive portions of photovoltaic modules;

- DuPont Teflon fluoropolymer film for front sheets and flexible panels: offers mechanical strength and durability against cracking and abrasion, flexibility and nearly 100 percent transparency;

- DuPont Tedlar polyvinyl fluoride films: delivers long-lasting UV and weather-resistant back sheets;

- DuPont Solamet thick film metallization pastes: increases the efficiency and yield of solar cells;

- DuPont Rynite PET thermoplastic resins: increases safety, eliminates corrosion, and provides long-lasting performance for junction boxes and structural supports in harsh environments;

- DuPont Kapton polyimide film for thin film substrates: provides excellent electrical and thermal properties to thin film modules;

- DuPont Teijin Films (Mylar, Melinex and Tetoron polyester films) for backsheet interlayers: provides added protection from the environment;

- Kalrez perfluoroelastomer parts from DuPont Performance Elastomers: provides excellent resistance to aggressive chemicals and high temperatures to help reduce the risk of unplanned maintenance.

DuPont - one of the first companies to publicly establish environmental goals 19 years ago - has broadened its sustainability commitments beyond internal footprint reduction to include market-driven targets for both revenue and research and development investment.

The goals are tied directly to business growth, specifically to the development of safer and environmentally improved new products for key global markets.

DuPont is a science-based products and services company. Founded in 1802, DuPont puts science to work by creating sustainable solutions essential to a better, safer, healthier life for people everywhere. Operating in more than 70 countries, DuPont offers a wide range of innovative products and services for markets including agriculture and food; building and construction; communications; and transportation.

Source - Solardaily

7% of power will come from solar panels sources by 2020

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, has decreed that 7% of power will come from solar panels sources by 2020.

The Middle East nation holds around 8% of the world’s oil reserves and derives the vast bulk of its national income from fossil fuels, but while other OPEC oil cartel members see renewables as a threat, it has taken a different view.

Sultan Al Jaber, chief executive of the state-owned future energy company Masdar, which will oversee the green drive, said at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi that it was natural tomove into this new sector. By doing so Masdar would “provide a comprehensive solution to the world’s energy challenges and maintain Abu Dhabi’s position as a leading supplier of energy to the world.” The Gulf state, a part of the United Arab Emirates, also wants to differentiate itself from neighbour Dubai, and diversify its economy, believing a “green” infrastructure will help its image as a new tourist destination.

Abu Dhabi has already put itself forward as a possible location for the headquarters of a planned International Renewable Energy Agency being promoted by Germany. “Many [Opec members] see renewables as a threat but the crown prince sees them as an opportunity,” said a source close to the Abu Dhabi state. “He knows that the oil will eventually run out and he wants to ensure there is something left for future generations,” he added.

Prince Charles, who has close links to the Gulf royals, has been actively encouraging the green initiative behind the scenes, the source added, explaining that the Masdar executives had been invited to Buckingham Palace last year.

Prince Charles is already a patron of the Masdar City project which aims to build the world’s first carbon-neutral city in Abu Dhabi. He made an appearance by holographic video link at the first World Future Energy Summit held in the Gulf state last year. Prince Andrew has also become involved and was present at the meeting in the throne room at Buckingham Palace.

Masdar expects to mainly use solar energy to reach its 7% targets but is also looking at wind and even geothermal power, where heat from the ground is used as a power source. Masdar has already built links to Britain by investing with E.ON of Germany and DONG of Denmark in the London Array wind farm project of the coast of Kent which is tipped to be the biggest of its kind in the world.

The Abu Dhabi state stepped in when Shell pulled out of the £1bn project. The Anglo-Dutch oil group said it was concentrating its wind investment in the US, a move followed by BP. Masdar has $15bn worth of state-funding and has already started to build up its solar power business through a joint venture with Germany, a leader in the photovoltaics field. A new company, Masdar PV, will build manufacturing plants in both Germany and Abu Dhabi that will serve the growing demand for solar panels, which is beginning to compete on a cost basis with traditional energy sources, even without subsidies.

Dutch solar firm Econcern claimed today at the summit that prices of solar panels would half in the next five to six years. It claimed the global industry had already met the International Energy Agency’s target of 10GW of installed solar power by 2020.

Source - The Guardian