Wednesday, 29 April 2009

The Gas Company to Award Metropolitan Transportation Authority More Than $600,000 for Adoption of Solar Power, Energy Efficiency

As the Obama Administration pushes for increased use of renewables in the fight against global warming, Southern California Gas Co. (The Gas Company) announced today it expects to award incentives of up to $633,000 to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) for installing the nation's largest solar photovoltaic system at a transit facility, as well as a state-of-the-art energy management system.

The 6,720 solar panels at Metro's Support Service Center in downtown Los Angeles -- Metro's central maintenance facility for busses -- represent the largest solar installation in the City of Los Angeles, with a capability of generating 1.2 megawatts of power. Metro expects to cut the facility's annual $1.1 million energy bill in half with the system and reduce carbon emissions by more than 3,700 metric tons -- the equivalent of taking 600 cars off the road.

Metro also installed new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, and compressed air systems, and replaced about 4,000 lighting fixtures, all controlled by a state-of-the-art energy management system.

Metro qualified for the incentives by participating in The Gas Company's Self-Generation Incentive and Business Energy-efficiency programs. Both are state-sponsored programs that provide financial incentives to businesses for generating their own electricity on site and improving energy efficiency.

"Thanks, in part, to The Gas Company's incentives, Los Angeles is now one step closer to becoming the solar capital of the United States," said Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Antonio Villaraigosa. "Today's unveiling of the city's largest solar-powered facility will not only generate clean, renewable energy, but will provide the kinds of green jobs that this economy so desperately needs."

"The Gas Company has awarded more than $70 million since 2001 to customers installing electric-generation systems, providing the state with 77 megawatts of much-needed generation -- enough to power about 50,000 homes," said Hal D. Snyder, vice president of customer solutions for The Gas Company. "Over the past 18 years, our energy-efficiency programs have helped customers conserve more than 386 million therms of natural gas, or enough to supply energy to more than 770,000 homes for one year, at a cost savings of more than $320 million.

"We commend Metro for its leadership in the use of renewable energy and energy-efficient equipment, reducing costs and helping California meet its greenhouse-gas emissions-reduction goals," said Snyder.

The Metro Support Service Center is used for the central maintenance of Metro's bus fleet, which includes more than 2,500 compressed natural gas-fueled busses. Spanning 27 acres, the 400,000-square foot facility consists of five separate buildings where technicians and mechanics keep Metro's bus fleet in all of the agency's 11 operating divisions in top condition.

For more information on The Gas Company's energy-efficiency and self-generation incentive programs, customers can visit the utility's Web site at

Southern California Gas Co. has been delivering clean, safe and reliable natural gas to its customers for more than 140 years. It is the nation's largest natural gas distribution utility, providing safe and reliable energy to 20.5 million consumers through 5.7 million meters in more than 500 communities. The company's service territory encompasses approximately 20,000 square miles in diverse terrain throughout Central and Southern California, from Visalia to the Mexican border. The Gas Company is a regulated subsidiary of Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE). Sempra Energy, based in San Diego, is a Fortune 500 energy services holding company.

Source - marketwire

Bright Future With Solar Lanterns For India's Poor

Solar energy has the potential to improve the living conditions of poor rural households in India as well as contribute to the country’s future energy security, according to Professor Govindasamy Agoramoorthy from Tajen University, who is Tata-Sadguru Visiting Chair, and Dr. Minna Hsu from the National Sun Yat-sen University in Taiwan.

Their study, looking at the benefits of solar lanterns on the livelihoods of village communities in Western India, as well as sustainable use of the environment, has just been published online in Springer’s journal Human Ecology.

In India, approximately 70 percent of rural areas lack electricity and over 60 percent of rural households use kerosene lamps for lighting. Kerosene lamps are not only expensive, they are also inefficient, potentially dangerous and a major source of greenhouse gases. Interestingly, the average number of sunny days in India ranges from 250 to 300 days a year, with a solar energy equivalent greater than the country’s total energy consumption. Energy efficiency is critical to nations such as India with large and growing populations. Solar lanterns, which make the most of the country’s natural and abundant sunshine, could be a practical and clean energy alternative to kerosene lamps in village communities.

Sadguru Foundation, a non-profit agency specializing in natural resources management in India, supplied 100 solar lanterns to socially and economically disadvantaged households in 25 villages in the Dahod District of the Gujarat State between January 2004 and December 2007. Agoramoorthy and Hsu studied the effects of using solar lanterns on energy usage, household savings in terms of kerosene and electricity costs, as well as the family’s quality of life. The women in the households were interviewed a month before and again a month after the introduction of the solar lanterns.

Overall, expenditure on kerosene and electricity dropped significantly in all households, after the solar lanterns were introduced. On average each household made important savings ranging from 150 to 250 US dollars annually. Whereas both households above and below the poverty level used a similar amount of electricity before the lanterns were introduced, after their introduction households below the poverty level used significantly less electricity than those above the poverty level.

The researchers also found that the solar lanterns particularly benefited school-aged children and women. Although 70 percent of the villages are connected to the power grid, they do not receive power early in the morning or in the evening because the state power company redirects electricity to major towns and cities. However, with the six hours of light supplied daily by the solar lanterns, study hours increased which had a positive influence on the children’s performance at school. Women were also able to perform their routine household work both indoors and outdoors during power outages.

The authors conclude that “the use of solar energy will contribute to India’s future energy security, particularly in rural areas where the technology that converts sunlight directly into electricity offers a decentralized alternative to uncertain electricity supplies. If implemented efficiently, renewable energy projects could not only improve the quality of life for India’s rural poor but also enhance sustainable use of the environment.”

Source - Sciencedaily

Barack Obama's 100 days: Green measures

Environmentalists in general have been impressed by the speed and sheer sweep of Obama's efforts to leave behind the George Bush era of climate change denial

Barack Obama's $787bn economic recovery plan contained historic levels of green investment.

Barack Obama promised on his very first day in the White House to help move America towards a new green future. Now, 100 days on, environmentalists in general have been impressed by the speed and sheer sweep of Obama's efforts to leave behind the George Bush era of climate change denial, and try to set in place the foundations of a low carbon future.

So how has he performed? Obama, of course, has not had time to put in place the long-term measures needed to wean America off oil and coal. His administration has also had to scale back some of its ambitions because of opposition from Congress, charged with passing cap and trade legislation, and an American public that – unlike Obama – has yet to see global warming as a priority threat.

The Senate has yet to take up climate change legislation, which sharply reduces the chances of introducing a market-based cap and trade system by the end of this year. The administration has also frustrated some environmentalists.

But most agree that Obama has moved faster, and acted across a wider, than any other president to lay the foundations of a new low-carbon economy.

Here are some of the highlights of the last 100 days:

January 20: Only hours after Obama takes the oath of office, the White House issues a memo staying a number of Bush's "midnight regulations". The regulations, issued in the final hours of the Bush administration, had sought to do away with a generation of environmental protections imposed on polluters from factory farms to the burning of hazardous waste and oil shales development. Obama orders a review of the measures, which had been deplored by conservationists.

January 26: The president signs a pair of executive orders intended to set stricter limits on car exhaust emissions. Obama directs the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider its refusal, under George Bush, to allow California to cut car exhaust by 30%. The president also calls on the Transportation Department to draw up new fuel 35 MPG fuel standard for all cars rolling off the assembly lines from 2012.

February 17: Obama signs a $787bn economic recovery plan. The rescue package contained historic levels of green investment – well over $100bn by some estimates. There were billions for refitting existing buildings to make them more energy efficiency, high-speed rail lines and commuter transit and updating the electric grid.

"In a lot of respects the stimulus package was a gigantic climate and energy bill by itself in a very positive way," said David Gardiner, a senior adviser at the Energy Future Coalition. "We have never had a president who has focused on this ... with [that] intensity."

March 19: He pledges $2.4bn for the development of hybrid cars and advanced batteries.

March 20: Michelle Obama digs up a patch of ground behind the White House to plant the first presidential vegetable garden since the second world war. The Obamas plan to put in lettuce, spinach, herbs such as coriander, and hot peppers – but no beets because the president does not like them.

March 30: Obama sets aside 2m acres of public land spread across nine states as wilderness, from California's Sierra Nevada to Virginia's Jefferson forest, shielding it from mining, logging and other operations. Another provision protects 1,000 miles of river.

April 17: The Environmental Protection Agency formally declares that carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases are a danger to public health and welfare. The so-called endangerment finding is a first step towards regulating coal-fired power plants and to forcing US car manufacturers to make cleaner and more fuel-efficient vehicles.

April 27: The US hosts a two-day forum for 17 of the world's most polluting economies to try to get closer to a deal before the international climate change summit at Copenhagen in December. The secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, declares the US, after eight years of going missing under George Bush, is now committed to helping lead the world towards a planet-saving deal. She also makes a direct pitch to India and China, saying that a move towards a greener economy will not hold back development, but could help them reach greater prosperity.

Source - The Guardian

BP profits slump 62%

Energy giant to cut spending on finding and developing new oil and gas reserves

BP is cutting spending on new projects after suffering a 62% drop in profits following the slump in the oil price.

The energy giant reported this morning that it made a profit of $2.387bn (£1.64bn) in the first three months of this year, down from $6.231bn a year ago. It blamed the fall in the price of oil, which fluctuated between $35 and $50 a barrel during the quarter, while a year ago a barrel cost more than $100.

With profits also lower than in the last three months of 2008, when BP made $2.587bn, the company is now planning to spend less on finding and developing new oil and gas reserves. It warned today that it will spend less than $20bn on capital expenditure this year, down from an earlier target of $20bn-$22bn. This comes after Opec, the group of oil-producing nations, threatened to cut production unless the oil price rose soon.

The cut in capital expenditure could have long-term consequences for BP's future growth. It is not clear which projects will be affected by the cutbacks, but environmentalists are likely to welcome the move, given the controversy over projects such as the tar sands scheme in Canada.

The move comes less than a month after BP said it will reduce the headcount at its solar power division by 620, or nearly a quarter, in a cost-cutting drive.

BP today also reported a drop in sales at its solar division, which makes solar panels. Its sales during the quarter would generate 15 megawatts of power, down from 34 MW in the same period in 2008. BP said this reflected "ongoing weak demand in the market".

Shareholders will receive a dividend of 14 cents per share, the same as in the last quarter and nearly half a cent more than a year ago.

Shares in BP rose by 3p this morning to 486.25p.

Source - The guardian

UK’s energy shortfall

The government fired the starting gun today for the rebirth of Britain’s nuclear power industry, announcing the names of eleven sites earmarked for construction of new reactors.

Each of the new stations will cost £4.5 billion to build and will be powerful enough to supply as many as 2 million homes with electricity for up to 60 years.

Energy experts warned that the first one would not be ready before 2017 at the earliest — too late to avoid a yawning gap opening up in Britain’s energy supplies with a string of ageing coal and nuclear stations set to close over the next few years.

Ed Miliband, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, said that the list of new sites — all of which are located at or close to existing nuclear stations and which span the country from West Cumbria to Kent and Somerset — represented “another important step towards a new generation of nuclear power stations”.

“Nuclear power is part of the low-carbon future for Britain. It also has the potential to offer thousands of jobs to the UK and multimillion-pound opportunities to British businesses.”

The public now has one month to respond to the list of sites, including Hinkley Point in Somerset and Sizewell in Suffolk, considered the frontrunners for the first two stations to be built by the French power giant EDF.

Other sites thought to be among the first wave of new reactors include Wylfa in Anglesey; Oldbury in Gloucestershire; and Bradwell in Essex.

The list also includes Dungeness in Kent; Hartlepool in Cleveland; Heysham in Lancashire; and three separate sites in West Cumbria at Sellafield, Braystones and Kirksanton.

Craig Lowrey, head of energy markets at EIC, an independent consultancy, pointed out that the new plants would arrive too late to help Britain avoid a dangerous slide towards an unhealthy dependency on electricity produced from gas-fired power stations.

This was an unwelcome development because of the carbon emissions associated with burning gas and because the UK was running short of its own supplies in the North Sea,forcing it to import more and more of the fuel from countries such as Russia, Algeria and Qatar, Dr Lowrey said.

Britain’s current fleet of power stations — including coal, gas, nuclear, hydroelectric, wind and biomass stations — have a generating capacity of about 83.5 gigawatts. Roughly a quarter of that (22-23 gigawatts) is set to close in the next few years as ageing nuclear plants are retired from service, while a big chunk of coal-fired generation is set to close by 2015 to meet tough new European rules on the use of coal and oil-fired power stations.

The announcement of the nuclear sites also triggered a wave of protest from environmental groups, which argue that the high costs involved and the waste produced by nuclear stations do not justify the contribution they will make in cutting UK carbon emissions.

“We urgently need to end our addiction to fossil fuels, but breathing new life into the failed nuclear experiment is not the answer,” said Robin Webster, energy campaigner for Friends of the Earth. “Nuclear power leaves a deadly legacy of radioactive waste that remains highly dangerous for tens of thousands of years and costs tens of billions of pounds to manage.

Source - The Times

Schwarzenegger’s optimistic solar panel forecast

THE world’s economy and its glaciers are experiencing a simultaneous meltdown for many of the same reasons. The solutions to our economic and climate change challenges are also intertwined, and present us with a fantastic opportunity for a century of unparalleled growth and prosperity for everyone — if we start by changing the way we think about energy.

Did you know that enough sunlight falls on the Earth every hour to power all of humanity’s energy needs for a year?

Or that there’s enough hydrogen in the water discharged by sewage treatment plants to power all of our cars, trucks, trains and aeroplanes?

Add to these the potential of biomass, geothermal, tidal power, wind and other renewables and it’s clear that there are enough clean, renewable energy resources — if only we deploy the technology to use them, especially technologies that make more of what we already have.

We’ve done it in California — for example, setting energy efficiency standards for appliances and buildings that now make us 40 per cent more energy efficient than average Americans.

Source - The Sun

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

The solar panels revolution begins

The solar panels photovoltaics industry is the fastest-growing green energy industry in the world. Growth in 2008, announced this week, was fully 89%, notwithstanding deep recession. 2008 venture capital investments in “cleantech” have also been totted up of late.

More than 50 families of green energy technology interest venture capital investors, but in 2008 more than 50% of all their cleantech investment globally in went into solar photovoltaics. There is a solar revolution in the making, and UK plc ought to be part of it – not just for the sake of our competitiveness, but also our oft-stated desire to lead in fighting climate change, and in generating new green jobs to pave the way out of recession.

All this fast growth, globally, is because many governments are now actively building domestic solar industries, using market-enablement mechanisms such as feed-in tariffs and subsidies.

As with all technology, this kind of support is needed if the kit is to be commercialised fast. It needs to stay in place only long enough for the price of solar electricity to be driven firmly below the price of conventional electricity. From that point – “grid parity”, in the jargon – a mass market becomes inevitable.

A recent report by the UK Photovoltaics Manufacturers Association showed that grid parity in Britain may be as close as 2013 for the residential sector, and 2018 for the commercial sector, notwithstanding our cloudy skies. This proximity is another reason for a burst of market-enablement support: we need to build a domestic industry rapidly if we are to meet demand, come the mass market.

Knowing all this, it was with hope in my heart that accepted an invitation from the government to speak at its jobs summit in January, about the scope for a UK green new deal. In March, I attended the Low Carbon Summit in similar mood. There, Gordon Brown called for a global green new deal, using those exact words. Peter Mandelson said that the UK must play a full role in the unfolding green industrial revolution. Ed Miliband said we are in race, both because our competitors are forging ahead, but also because climate change is speeding up faster than expected.

But a few days later, the government cut its main support programme for solar photovoltaics without warning. Scarcely being able to believe what I was hearing, I remonstrated with No 10, and the Department of Energy and Climate Change. I was told that ministers hadn’t known about the decision, which had been taken by DECC officials – wait for this – because solar PV was proving more popular than the other technologies in the programme, and the civil servants wanted the others to catch up. I waited, hoping for corrective action. It hasn’t happened. Job losses have started in solar companies, and still nothing has been done.

Funding for solar PV has been cut before in recent years, only to be reinstated later. The industry in the UK has been put on a kind of stop-start drip-feed. Overseas, in contrast, governments have opted for the kind of reliable commitments that allow businesses to make realistic plans, and hire people, while attracting investors. Its almost as though Whitehall has decided it actually wants to kill this industry in the UK, for some reason. I can’t bring myself to believe in such a conspiracy, but if you did want to kill an industry, in a Yes Minister kind of way, you’d do just what the government is doing.

On 20 April a letter will be delivered to Gordon Brown signed by the National Federation of Roofing Contractors, the Federation of Master Builders, the Electrical Contractors Association, leading architects, and most of the UK solar industry. Essentially, it asks the government to act consistently with its rhetoric on the green new deal, and give the domestic solar PV industry the chance to play a role in the creation of new jobs that this country so badly needs.

It really shouldn’t be this difficult to make reality sit comfortably with rhetoric.

Source - The guardian

Solar Panels At Budweiser Brewery Now Providing Power

The Anheuser-Busch Fairfield brewery has announced that more than six acres of photovoltaic solar arrays, installed and operated by SunEdison, are now generating the equivalent of three percent of the brewery's electricity needs.

"Operating with care and concern for the environment has been a hallmark of Anheuser-Busch for more than century," said Kevin Finger, general manager, Anheuser-Busch Fairfield brewery. "Our increased use of alternative energy sources is the latest example of how we strive to be the best beer company in a better world."

Last year, the brewery entered into an agreement with SunEdison to host the solar power plant on brewery property.

The brewery also constructed a Bio-Energy Recovery System, or BERS, which provides more than 15 percent of the brewery's fuel needs by turning nutrients in brewing wastewater into renewable biogas used to decrease the use of natural gas.

These two projects are the latest in a series of conservation and efficiency improvements at the Fairfield brewery. Examples of recent efforts include a project to recover steam to heat water in the brewhouse, which reduced greenhouse gas emissions; installation of more efficient boiler burners and new energy-efficient air compressors; and replacing brewery lighting with energy-efficient fixtures on timers.

Through resource conservation and alternative fuel usage, the brewery has decreased fuel use by 38 percent, water use by 32 percent and electricity use by 14 percent since 2004.

"Anheuser-Busch has been a good neighbor to Fairfield and the surrounding communities for more than 30 years," said State Senator Lois Wolk (D-5), who represents the region. "They have earned their reputation as not only a top employer in the area, but as a business doing the right thing for the environment, even before it was popular."

The brewery also currently recycles more than 99 percent of the solid waste it generates, continuing a tradition dating back to the late 1800s when Anheuser-Busch first recycled brewers' grain into cattle feed.

Materials recycled at the Fairfield brewery include scrap aluminum and metal, glass, cardboard, wood, brewing grain, beechwood chips, stretch wrap and labels, electronic equipment and batteries.

This amounted to nearly 200 million pounds of recycled materials in 2008 alone. For these efforts, the Fairfield brewery has been honored 15 times by the Waste Reduction Awards Program (WRAP) from the California Integrated Waste Management Board.

"Anheuser-Busch has taken a strong leadership role in protecting natural resources and using energy wisely and efficiently. By hosting a PV solar energy system, Anheuser-Busch is part of America's new energy future. SunEdison is proud to support them today and for decades to come," said Kirk Roller, vice president of SunEdison.

The ground mount solar system, sizeable at nearly 1.2 MW, is located on Anheuser-Busch property near California Highway 80. As part of the solar power services agreement, SunEdison financed, installed, and is operating and monitoring the photovoltaic solar energy system.

The system will also generate Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) for businesses or individuals to purchase to offset their use of fossil fuel energy and greenhouse gas emissions. The brewery is also evaluating the installation of a wind turbine and additional photovoltaic solar arrays on-site to generate more renewable energy.

Renewable fuel at Anheuser-Busch's U.S. breweries is anticipated to reach more than 15 percent by the end of 2009.

This means more than five billion 12-oz. servings of beer - or about one in seven beers brewed by the company in the United States - are expected to be brewed using renewable fuel by the end of 2009*, thanks to efforts at Anheuser-Busch's 12 U.S. breweries.

As a member of the U.S. EPA Climate Leaders Program, Anheuser-Busch has committed to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions to 5 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2010 for all of its U.S. operations. The company has also committed to increasing the total use of renewable fuel from 8 percent to 15 percent in the same time period company-wide.

Source- Solar Daily

Budget to include £500m spending on reducing carbon emissions

Alistair Darling will use this week's budget to announce an extra £500m of government spending on reducing carbon emissions, including a pledge of £40m to top up and keep open a grants programme for renewable-energy technologies.

The chancellor has been coming under increasing pressure from Britain's fledgling renewables industry not to allow a key part of the controversial low carbon buildings programme to come to an end this summer, nearly a year before a new support system offering a feed-in tariff kicks in.

The industry has been warning that many small companies that install solar panels, wind turbines or biomass boilers would go out of business if the LCBP were closed. In any case, the programme's budget was significantly underspent and firms were worried that the unspent money – over £20m – would be reallocated elsewhere.

Firms have already been laying off staff due to the recession and the fact that grants for the LCBP's most popular technology – solar photovoltaics – have already been suspended because the PV part of the grant pot had been spent.

But Darling is understood to be determined to make good on the government's rhetoric that it wants a "green jobs revolution" and will make money available on Wednesday despite the dire state of public finances.

November's pre-budget report provided a green stimulus of about £500m in total. This week's budget is expected to deliver a further £500m, plus other policy measures that will support billions in investment in low-carbon industries and secure tens of thousands of jobs.

Ministers believe the new funding will provide much needed support for the renewable supply chain in the lead-up to the introduction of feed-in tariffs for electricity in 2010 and the renewable heat incentive in 2012.

Industry representatives gave a cautious welcome to the news. "This is good news but we will need to see the detail," said Seb Berry, spokesman for solar panel company Solarcentury. "We look forward to sitting down with the government to work through how the money can be spent."

Several companies and campaign groups are planning to deliver a petition to Downing Street today demanding that the government put greater support for renewable energy in place. Britain is the second-worst performer in the European Union in terms of the amount of energy coming from renewables, and is a long way behind Germany, Denmark, Spain and Portugal.

Source - The guardian

South Korea lights the way on carbon emissions with its £23bn green deal

The secretary for future vision is considering how many South Koreans it takes to change a million lightbulbs. No joke.

Kim Sang-hyo, the president's extravagantly titled right-hand man, is trying to create more than 940,000 green jobs and improve his country's energy efficiency at the same time. Switching every bulb in every public building in South Korea to light-emitting diodes by the end of this year is one, very small, element in the master plan of what has been described as the greenest new deal on the planet.

Since the start of the financial crisis last year, governments across the globe have been talking up the environmental content of their fiscal stimulus programmes and being judged by their efforts to save the planet. US president Barack Obama and the Chinese government have been praised for their ambitious plans to invest in renewable power, clean transport and energy-efficient buildings. Britain, by contrast, has been castigated for the relatively miserly sums it has so far committed to green projects. Alistair Darling's budget tomorrow will be closely scrutinised from the same perspective.

But no matter what the UK promises, it will pale in comparison with the green boasts of South Korea's 50tn won (£23bn) plan. According to an international ranking by the bank HSBC, 81% of the money is earmarked for green projects, easily the highest proportion in the world and vastly more than the 7% share in the UK.

So how will South Korea spend all that money? The first challenge for Kim is co-ordinating how this huge sum - equivalent to 2.6% of GDP - should be doled out. He must face both drooling construction industry conglomerates and suspicious environmental groups while creating jobs and lifting a nosediving economy. Many Koreans believe the apparently green spending will turn out to be heavily grey.

At his office in the presidential Blue House, Kim says he is tasked with a fundamental restructuring of the South Korean economy and energy structure, which is 97% dependent on expensive imported fuel. "The president realises that now is the time for change," he says.

Over the next four years, the government promises to build a million green homes, improve the energy efficiency of a million more, invest £1.2bn on research into low-carbon technologies and spend £4.8bn on high-speed railways and other forms of "clean" transport.

More than 2,500 miles of bicycle expressways will be built, including a 175-mile stretch alongside the demilitarised zone boundary with North Korea. By 2020, expanded subway, railway and electric car ownership is expected to reduce greenhouse gases from transport by 20%. The forestry sector will employ an extra 50,000 people to increase carbon sink capacity and build the country's first wood pellet fuel mill.

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, has praised the example set by his homeland. But environmental groups warn the plan is not nearly as green as it seems.

The biggest and most controversial item of expenditure is the "renewal" of four rivers, ostensibly to reduce the risk of drought. The project is likely to mean more dams and concrete embankments. Critics suspect it will be used as a cover to push through the president's widely opposed goal of building a canal through the centre of the country. There are fears too that developers will use the excuse of "ecohome" building to tear up strips of green belt outside Seoul.

Many also question the wisdom of building long-distance cycle paths they think will benefit the cement industry more than the environment.

"This is just old-style fiscal spending with a new label. At the end of this 'green new deal', Korea will definitely be a greyer country," said Oh Sung-kyu, general secretary of the Citizen's Movement for Environmental Justice. "The problem is that in Korea, jobs equals concrete."

With few specific details about how the money will be spent and no estimate of the impact on carbon emissions, environmental auditing of the plan is difficult. Diplomats and local journalists said the true amount of green spending was likely to be far below 81%. In the short term, some suggest, South Korea's carbon footprint could even go up as a result of the burst of construction. But Kim denies these accusations. "Our projects are all related to lowering emissions. They will definitely reduce our carbon emissions."

President Lee Myung-bak may have a long way to go before he can persuade sceptics that he has turned over a green new leaf. Lee is a former head of Hyundai Construction, one of the world's biggest cement pourers. As mayor of Seoul, his best-known "green" project was the development of Cheongye stream, which was uncovered and now runs on a concrete bed, beside concrete walkways and neon-illuminated concrete walls.

Concern for the environment has traditionally been a low priority in South Korea's development, which has long centred on energy-intensive heavy industry. Green groups say the world's 13th biggest economy pours almost twice as much cement as Japan and is three times worse for energy inefficiency.

However, the business-oriented president says the country must turn green to improve its corporate competitiveness. To sell his green growth plans to the nation's conglomerates - known as chaebol - he has stressed that moving early on low-carbon technology will give South Korea a head start over rivals around the world.

Hi-tech companies, such as Samsung, Hyundai and SK, have already begun investing in energy-saving technologies that use their expertise in semi-conductors and information technology.

The government hopes to accelerate the move to green-tech powerhouses by offering incentives and support for research and development. Hyundai and Kia will get financial support to develop electric and hybrid vehicles. South Korea also aims to be the first country in the world to have a "smart national grid" that uses information technology to maximise the efficiency of electricity transmission.

Given the huge sums spent in other areas, the renewable energy spending share of South Korea's green new deal is a disappointingly low £80m, mostly on solar-powered homes, photovoltaic heating and geothermal power sources for apartment blocks. Part of the reason is that the government had previously announced plans to invest 37tn won from 2009 to 2022 on new power plants, including 12 nuclear plants, to improve fuel efficiency and lower emissions.

Government advisers say South Korea's relatively small and crowded land area limits the potential for large-scale wind and solar projects and the rivers have far less hydro-power potential than those in China and the US. But even before the green new deal, engineers had begun work on the world's biggest tidal power plant. When it is finished later this year, the 254MW capacity plant at Siwha will supply the energy equivalent of 862,000 barrels of oil a year. A three times bigger tidal power plant is planned at Ganghwa.

Over the next 20 years, the government says it will invest 110tn won in renewables so that by 2030, they make up 11%of the overall energy mix. While this is far less ambitious than China, Europe or the US, it is a big improvement on the 2.4% share in 2007. Chung Rae-kwon, South Korea's climate change ambassador, said that by June, the government will announce its first target for reducing greenhouse gases: "The green new deal is just the start."

John Ashton, special representative for climate change for the UK Foreign Office, said South Korea was moving fast. "There seems to be growing consensus in Korea that being an early mover in the low carbon transition is good for the Korean economy, and good for Korean manufacturers."

At the Blue House, Kim says South Korea is on the point of embracing green technology with the same fervour that it adopted broadband in the late 1990s.

"By 2020, we'd like to be at least in the top five nations for green technology," says the presidential secretary for future vision. "As a nation, we want to be charming, to get respect from global society, to be seen as more than an economic animal.

"It has been only seven months since the president made the speech calling for low-carbon, green growth, but so much is changing. Everyone is now talking about green things. It may be a strength or a weakness of Korean people, but once we reach a consensus we move very quickly," he said.
Key projects:


$6bn for the construction of 1m green homes, energy efficiency upgrades for a million more, energy conservation improvements in villages and schools, and the installation of LED lighting in public facilities.


$1.8bn to support the development of fuel-efficient vehicles, such as electric and hybrid cars, by automakers

Hyundai and Kia.

Trains and bikes

$7bn to upgrade the transport infrastructure through the expansion of electrified tracks, new high-speed rail links and the construction of more than 2,500 miles of bicycle paths.


$11.1bn on river "restoration" and water resource management that will controversially include building dams

and concreting some embankments.


$1.7bn on forestry management,

including tree planting to improve

carbon sink capacity, and new facilities to use wood as biomass energy.


$670m on resource recycling, including rubbish incineration plants that burn methane emissions to generate electricity.

Source - The Guardian

Saturday, 18 April 2009

San Francisco, CA, USA: Del Monte Foods and SunPower Corporation Dedicate 1.9-megawatt Solar Project

Del Monte Foods and SunPower Corporation will dedicate today a new 1.9-megawatt solar power system installed at two of Del Monte's manufacturing plants.

Del Monte estimates the system will deliver approximately $500,000 in savings on electrical costs in the first year of operation, and $25 million over its expected 30-year lifetime. The celebration will take place at Del Monte's Hanford, Calif. plant, which is hosting a 1.2-megawatt SunPower solar installation.

At the company's Kingsburg plant, just 33 miles from Hanford, SunPower designed and built a 759-kilowatt installation. In recognition of the importance of this milestone for Del Monte, California State Senator Dean Florez will be in attendance for the event.

"With this new solar power system at our Hanford and Kingsburg plants, we recognize Del Monte's continuing commitment to environmental sustainability and the communities in which we work, a commitment that literally extends from the fields to the grocery shelf," said Del Monte Foods Chairman and CEO Rick Wolford. "Since our beginning 150 years ago, the sun has fueled the growth of our fruit and tomato products. It will now help to power our California canneries as well, as we continue to provide our consumers with nutritious, great-tasting products produced with the addition of even more sunlight. At Del Monte, our environmental efforts support our mission of Nourishing Families, Enriching Lives, Every Day. Today, we are truly 'Enriching Lives with Light'."

Combined, the new solar system features 9,080 solar panels, covering nearly 200,000 square feet of rooftop - roughly the equivalent of three and a half football fields. The system will produce enough energy to power approximately 7,519 homes over the next 30 years.

Environmental sustainability also makes good business sense. Under the California Solar Initiative program, this system qualifies Del Monte for a rebate on utility rates for the first five years of operations. Del Monte is realizing additional savings as a result of California's net metering program, which requires customers to pay only for the net amount of electricity their regional utility company supplies over-and-above the amount of electricity generated by an on-site solar power system.

"This SunPower system is powering Del Monte's facilities with clean, renewable solar power during the times of day when demand is at its highest, easing stress on the utility grid when electricity is most needed and most expensive," said SunPower CEO Tom Werner. "We applaud Del Monte's vision and commitment, which is serving to significantly reduce both operational costs and the levels of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere."

"Del Monte Foods is committed to utilizing innovative programs and technologies that help minimize our impact on the environment," said Nils Lommerin, Del Monte Foods chief operating officer. "From working with our growers to conserve water and reduce pesticide use, to reducing fuel consumption by eliminating 25 million miles from our distribution network, to harnessing the power of the sun to fuel these two plants, we continue on our journey to protect our planet and the communities where we operate."

Source - Solarbuzz

Berkeley Pioneers Home Solar Financing Tax Bonds

Many of us could make money by investing in energy efficiency improvements and solar systems for our homes. Yet we stubbornly resist making these improvements. Why?

Buying power from your utility is a simple, pay-as-you-go service. Solar and energy efficiency projects, on the other hand, require tens of thousands of dollars up front and a long-term commitment to see a return on investment. Put another way, how many of us would have cell phones if we had to buy 20-years of minutes upfront? Many of us have a hard time justifying pre-purchasing 20-years of electricity, even if it is a good deal.

We can turn our homes and business to clean energy quickly, but to do so we need to make paying for solar and energy efficiency projects in our homes and businesses much more like paying our utility bill. The City of Berkeley, California is now pioneering what many experts believe may be just such a solution: Berkeley FIRST.

Berkeley launched the program last November. The initial pool of funding made available to property owners for energy efficiency improvements sold out in less than ten minutes. And as we're seeing in communities throughout the country, demand for affordable solar conversions is high.

Berkeley FIRST
Berkeley FIRST (Financing Initiative for Energy Efficiency Renewable and Solar Technology) allows property owners to install solar systems and make energy efficiency upgrades with no upfront cost.

Berkeley pays the upfront costs through the issuance of a new kind of municipal bond. The bonds are repaid from a line item on participating property owners' property tax bills over 20 years. Participating property owners pay for only the costs of their energy project.

The program is 100% "opt-in" and property tax expenses remain unchanged for those who choose not to participate.

The result: solar and energy efficiency projects are paid for over a long period of time, in bi-annual installments. The interest rate is fixed. Property owners do not need to access their own capital or credit. And if the owner sells the property, the repayment obligation transfers along with the property itself.

How does it work?
Berkeley FIRST is just a new twist on a common method of financing improvements in communities. California, like most states, has long provided cities and counties with the power to pay for certain projects such as sewers, parks, and the undergrounding of utilities by passing the cost directly on to the property owners that benefit from the project.

To do this, the city creates a "land-secured" financing district that includes the properties that would receive a benefit from the project. It then sells bonds to cover project costs and the property owners who receive a benefit - connection to the municipal sewer system, for example - pay back the costs through an addition to their property tax bill.

Berkeley created a slightly modified version of this type of finance district - in their case, a Mello-Roos Community Facilities District - that allows for the financing of energy efficiency and solar projects on private property. The California legislature has since authorized all cities and counties to follow suit using a similar type land-secured finance district, called a Contract Assessment District, with the passage of AB 811. The City of Palm Desert, California has created its own innovative new solar and energy efficiency financing district using this method.

There are a couple of other significant changes to the usual financing district. First, the Berkeley FIRST program is entirely voluntary. You only pay additional property taxes if you "opt-in" and you only pay for the cost of your project. Second, the City has a private financial partner to handle the financing and bond purchase for lots of small projects instead of the usual one large, expensive project.

Property owner experience
The process for participating Berkeley property owners is straightforward. They apply to the program online through a dedicated Berkeley FIRST website. Assuming they are not late on taxes or in foreclosure, each applicant receives a reservation for funding. They have nine months to install their solar system and return to the website to request payment.

After signing forms and providing documentation, the check is issued to the property owner. Behind the scenes, a tax lien is placed on the property and a small bond is sold to provide the funding necessary to pay for the project.

The City contracted with Renewable Funding, the nation's leading private financing company for this type of small-scale solar conversion, to finance and administer the pilot program. Who is next?
There is no reason for your community to wait. Berkeley and Palm Desert have approved the financing of hundreds of solar and energy efficiency projects in their communities. Sonoma County, CA and Boulder County, Colo., are launching their own programs with San Francisco and San Diego close behind. New Mexico just adopted enabling legislation and ten more states are considering similar laws.

A study by a team from the UC Berkeley Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory found that should this type of financing go national it would inject up to $280 billion in renewable energy and energy efficiency investment into our economy and reduce CO2 by up to a gigaton at a time when our country is desperate to both stimulate the economy and reduce our contributions to climate change. Even better, participating homeowners will save an average of $190 a year, all at no net cost to government.

So if you want the chance to go solar with no upfront costs, contact your local leaders to see what they are doing to bring this program to your area. Renewable Funding provides a turn-key program that makes it easy for local government to implement the program and for homeowners to participate. There never was a better time to get started.

Source - Solar Daily

EDF spied on environmentalists in Britain, court documents suggest

A French investigation into allegations that France's state energy giant EDF spied on Greenpeace has taken a new turn after a suggestion in court documents that the company may have monitored environmentalists across Europe, including Britain.

EDF, the world's biggest nuclear-reactor operator, owns the main UK nuclear power company British Energy, and is a major sponsor of the London Olympics.

Last month judges opened an investigation into allegations that state-owned EDF hired a private detective agency run by a former member of the French secret services to illegally spy on environmentalists and infiltrate their ranks.

Last week, in front of the investigating judge, the head of Kargus Consultants confirmed his involvement in hacking into Greenpeace computer systems and said a senior EDF official knew about the operation.

A computer expert from the detective agency admitted hacking into Greenpeace computer systems. The scandal sparked outrage among anti-nuclear campaigners in France, where the state has a troubled history with activists. Twenty-four years ago, the French secret service bombed the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior.

French news website Mediapart, which has seen documents from the investigation, this week published extracts of the testimony by an EDF security executive and former police commander who is under investigation for conspiring to conduct illegal surveillance.

He denied ordering private detectives to use illegal means, saying the private investigators had been asked to monitor environmentalists' work and activities.

Asked about a CD-rom of information from detectives that was found in his office safe, he said it contained information about environmental group structures and summaries of meetings.

"It was a question of the [Greenpeace] non-governmental group's organisation in Belgium, Spain, perhaps Britain, let's say Europe," he added.

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, told the Guardian: "This case appears to be much more extreme in nature than we thought and raises serious questions."

Today Sauven wrote to EDF Energy's chief executive, Vincent de Rivaz, asking for immediate disclosure of any knowledge or evidence of "monitoring, illegal or otherwise" of Greenpeace staff members in Britain and worldwide.

Sauvan wrote: "What alarms me most is the evidence cited in official investigation files alleging that EDF was also seeking intelligence on Greenpeace activities in the United Kingdom, Belgium and Spain."

Greenpeace, which is opposed to building new nuclear reactors in the UK, previously wrote to EDF on 1 April asking for assurances that spying tactics had not been used against its staff.

De Rivaz wrote back on 9 April that EDF was co-operating with the legal investigation. "EDF of course strongly condemns any methods which attempt to fraudulently enter IT systems," he added. But Greenpeace said the letter failed to answer the question of whether UK staff had been targeted.

The French scandal has intensified in recent days. Last week, two senior EDF officials involved in the judges' investigation were suspended in what the company said was a "precautionary measure following an internal inquiry". Mediapart reported this week that EDF had two contracts with the private detective firm Kargus in 2004 and 2007.

EDF Energy's London office declined to comment, referring all inquiries to the Paris headquarters. A French spokeswoman said EDF would not comment on the claims that Greenpeace had been monitored across Europe.

The two EDF senior executives have maintained their innocence. In a statement last week, EDF said it "wholeheartedly condemns any method aimed at obtaining information illegally". The company has lodged a civil action for damages saying it was a "victim" of the detective firm Kargus.

Source - The Guardian

US power company to tap solar energy in space

A leading American power company is hoping to turn science fiction into reality by supporting a project to set up solar panels in outer space and beam the electricity generated back to Earth.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company, which serves San Francisco and northern California, has agreed to buy electricity from a startup company claiming to have found a way to unlock the potential power supply in space.

The firm, Solaren Corp, says it will launch solar panels into orbit and then convert the power generated into radio-frequency transmissions, which will be beamed back down into a depot in Fresno, California. The energy would then be converted into electricity and fed into the regular power grid, PG&E said.

Although spacecraft and satellites routinely use solar panels, the project marks the first serious attempt to take advantage of the powerful and near-constant supply of sunshine in space.

Nasa and the Pentagon have been studying the idea of orbiting solar farms since the 1960s, and a number of private researchers have been looking at ways to tap into space-based solar energy.

But Solaren Corp, founded by a former spacecraft engineer, says it has developed a technology that would make it commercially viable within the next seven years to transmit electricity generated in space to a terrestrial power grid.

PG&E announced this week that it had agreed to buy 200 megawatts of electricity from Solaren starting in 2016. The deal has yet to be approved by California state government regulators and PG&E has not put any money into Solaren, but the promise alone has turned the notion of space based solar power from fantasy to reality.

"There is a very serious possibility they can make this work," said PG&E's spokesman Jonathan Marshall.

Unlike on earth, with its cycle of nights and days and where there can be clouds, sunshine in space is practically constant – aside from a few days around the spring and autumn equinoxes. That means the space-based solar panels could potentially produce a steady supply of electricity.

The sunlight hitting solar panels 200 miles in space would be 10 times as powerful as the light filtering down to Earth through the atmosphere. The satellite would then convert the energy into radio waves and beam them down to a receiving station on Earth. Spirnak did not give details of how this would work but said the technology was based on that now used by communications satellites, describing it as "very mature". He added that power losses via the radio-wave route are lower than transmission cables used on Earth. Another advantage of the plan is that it does not require large amounts of real estate. Ground-based solar installations require huge tracts of land.

Solaren has released relatively few details about the project. But Solaren's CEO, Gary Spirnak, said the company, a group of about 10 former satellite and aerospace engineers, was confident in the technology and timing behind the venture.

He argued that the science behind the orbiting solar farms was little different to that of communications satellites. "This is the exact same thing that satellites do every day. The basic technology is there," said Spirnak. "The bottom line is that this is not really a technology issue."

Daniel Kammen, a professor in energy and resources at the University of California, Berkeley, agreed: the most daunting challenge to Spirnak is cost.

"The ground rules are looking kind of promising. Whether we can do it at scale, whether we can do it affordably, whether it is too much of a technological leap or not, those are all factors," Kammen said. "It is doable. Whether it is doable at a reasonable cost, we just don't know."

Spirnak argues that a confluence of recent events now make the project more commercially viable. The cost of rocket launches – though still prohibitive – has been dropping because of the commercialisation of space, making it cheaper to send up and service solar panels.

Spirnak will face a difficult task raising funds for his project though, especially in this time of global economic recession. He said he was seeking in the low billions of dollars in investment – much higher than the usual $100m (£67m) to $200m costs for projects in renewable energy.

Source - The Guardian

Sunday, 12 April 2009

UK goes into ecological debt on Easter Sunday

Britain is living beyond its environmental means and is increasingly dependent on the rest of the world for its natural resources, a thinktank study has revealed.
Britain, Environmental, ecologically self-sufficient, UK
The recession may have slowed consumption but the New Economics Foundation (Nef) says we are now drawing deep on the cropland, pasture, forests and fisheries of other countries.

The research also shows that by tomorrow the country will have used the levels of resources it should consume in an entire year if it were to be ecologically self-sufficient.

Andrew Simms, Nef's policy director, said: "We are consuming more and more, and as our ecosystems become more stressed the day in the year on which we effectively go beyond our environmental means, and move into ecological debt, is moving ever earlier in the year. In 1961 it was 9 July, but this year it falls on Easter Sunday."

The UK's ecological debt and reliance on the rest of the world are revealed in our dependence on imports of food and energy, says Nef: "National food self-sufficiency is in long term decline, and we are increasingly dependent on imports at precisely the time when the guarantee of the rest of the world ability to provide for us is weakening."

A combination of global factors such as climate change, competition for energy resources, economic instability and changing consumption patterns are all now compromising Britain's economy. "The impact of our lifestyles is felt worldwide and solutions to problems like climate change are unlikely until greater changes are made here in the UK."

Nef argues Britain is part of a "bizarrely" wasteful system of world trade. "Virtually identical amounts of gingerbread, fresh boneless chicken, chocolate covered waffles, are imported and exported ... In 2007, the UK exported 1.8m tonnes of essential oils, perfumes and toilet preparations, while it imported 1.5m tonnes."

Source - The guardian

Developer plans all-solar city

A Florida developer says he wants to build a 19,500-home city powered entirely by solar energy.

Babcock Ranch will be developed by Kitson & Partners on 17,000 acres northeast of Fort Myers, Fla. The developer said it will be the "first city on Earth powered by zero-emission solar energy," The Miami Herald reported Saturday.

The city will include the world's largest photovoltaic power plant, to be operated by Florida Power & Light. The facility will cost about $300 million.

"We're out to prove that it works economically," developer Syd Kitson was quoted as saying. "And it's the right thing to do for the long-term solutions in this country."

The newspaper said researchers are working to develop storage capability for sunlight-generated power since solar electricity is available only during daytime hours.

Solar panels to power the city will sit on 350 acres within the development. The newspaper said more than half of the city's 17,000 acres will be permanently protected as greenways and open space, and will adjoin the 73,000-acre Babcock Ranch Preserve, which has been purchased by the state.

Source - Solar Daily

Millions promised to raise recycling rate in Manchester

A £640 million private finance initiative intended to push Manchester’s recycling rate to 50 percent was signed yesterday in one of the biggest deals of its kind.

The deal, to create a state-of-the-art recycling centre to help increase the city’s recycling rate from 30 per cent to 50 per cent by 2015 and should see significant reductions in the quantity of rubbish sent to be buried in landfill sites.

An estimated 5,000 jobs will be created during the construction stage and a further 116 permanent jobs will be created within Manchester’s waste network which handles 1.3 million tonnes of municipal rubbish a year.

Among the technologies that will be introduced are a Materials Recovery Facility to increase recycling, and anaerobic digestion units to reduce the quantity of organic material sent to landfill.

Solid fuel produced at five new mechanical biological treatment facilities, four of which will be supported by anaerobic digesters, will be sent to a combined heat and power generator at Ineos Chlor in Runcorn. Methane extracted during the process will be used as a fuel.

The PFI was agreed between a consortium led by the companies Viridor and John Laing, the Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority (GMWDA) and nine distict councils and will account for 5 per cent of Britain’s municipal waste over the next 25 years.

Hilary Benn, the environment secretary, welcomed the PFI: “Diverting one million tonnes of waste through these world class waste facilities will be a major step in reaching our 2013 and 2020 landfill targets and play an important role in battling climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions created by landfill.

“But it’s not only the environmental benefits we should be celebrating. The creation of 5,000 new jobs in the North West is a boost for the regional economy at a welcome time.” Colin Drummond, Chief Executive of Viridor said: “This iconic project is a very important component of the UK’s waste management and renewable energy strategies.

“It is designed to bring world class recycling, waste management and renewable energy infrastructure to Greater Manchester. It is a concrete example of major investment in the green economy and will be a showcase of what the UK can offer.” By diverting waste away from landfill sites, where they attract tax at £32 per tonne rising to £48 by 2011, the PFI should reduce the future cost of disposing of rubbish.

It was calculated that the deal will put £1 per week on residents’ council tax bills but without the landfill reductions being brought about they would have had to have paid an extra £2 per week to cover landfill taxes.

Councillor Neil Swannick, of the GMWDA, said: "There are lots of different technologies that are being brought into play. We believe we have the best anywhere in the world.”

He said one of the main drivers for the deal was the impact of waste on greenhouse gas emissions especially methane which is at least 20 times more powerful in warming the atmosphere than carbon.

By extracting methane and reducing carbon emissions the authority believes it will have taken preventative action against climate change.

The integrated waste system will serve 3 million people in 1 million households.

Source - The Times

Green energy feels the chill in harsh economic climate

Britain’s wind energy industry increased its call for state aid yesterday, after new figures showed that investment in the sector has collapsed by nearly 80 per cent.

The amount invested in British renewable energy schemes, including wind, solar and wave power, fell from £377 million during the first three months of last year to £79 million during the same period this year, according to figures from New Energy Finance, a research group that monitors industry trends. The figures have raised fresh questions over the Government’s ability to fulfil its pledge to slash Britain’s carbon emissions and produce more than one third of the country’s electricity from green energy by 2020.

Adam Bruce, the chairman of the British Wind Energy Association, (BWEA), said that the figures reflected the need for the Chancellor to introduce new measures to support the industry, which is struggling to secure finance because of the credit crunch. It is also suffering from the weak pound, which has driven up the cost of turbines and other equipment — most of which is produced outside Britain — and the falling price of coal, oil and gas.

There were signs yesterday that the Government was considering the inclusion of measures in the April 22 Budget to prevent the cancellation of large projects such as the London Array, a £3 billion scheme to build the world’s largest offshore wind farm in the Thames Estuary, which Gordon Brown has backed.

Its developers are already seeking a bailout from the European Investment Bank to allow the scheme to proceed. Its 341 turbines would produce enough electricity for 750,000 homes.

Paul Golby, chief executive of E.ON UK, one of Britain’s “big six” energy companies and one of the project’s backers, told The Times he now thought that it would be impossible for the country to meet its target of generating 15 per cent of total energy from renewable sources by 2020, which amounts to 35 per cent of its electricity. The target is a key part of Britain’s promise to cut its carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

Lord Smith of Finsbury, chairman of the Environment Agency, said that it was crucial to Britain’s future in the renewables sector that more funding, including public funding, was made available. “We’ve already seen some companies pull out. We will see more of these things happening if we don’t improve the funding,” he said. “Over the past 10-15 years we have tended to come too late to the table, as a country, when it comes to the development of renewable energy.”

Although investment in renewable energy has been falling everywhere in the recession, the British decline was unusually steep. Globally, investment fell by 53 per cent to £9.1 billion in the first three months of this year, compared with £19.3 billion at the start of last year, according to New Energy Finance. Delays securing planning consent and access to the national grid have compounded the problems.

The news comes as the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) prepares to publish a report next week that will warn that Britain must act now if it is to take the opportunity to build a thriving offshore wind energy industry that could employ as many as 70,000 people. The institute said that only 700 people were employed in the sector at present.

The BWEA is calling on Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, to introduce incentives and grants to support the industry in the Budget. It also urged the Government to accelerate planning decisions and reduce the cost to developers of hooking up schemes to the national grid.

Some companies, such as BP and Shell, have already left the wind industry, while others, such as Iberdrola Renovables, the world’s largest wind-farm operator, have cut their investment programmes.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change said that Mike O’Brien, the Energy Minister, was exploring options to help the industry.

Source - The Times

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Empire State Building gets a green makeover to cut CO2 emissions

The Empire State Building, the symbol of New York's pre-eminence that held the title of the world's tallest skyscraper for 41 years, is seeking to pierce through the pall of economic gloom that has descended on Manhattan by turning itself green.

The owners of the building announced yesterday they were investing an additional $20m to reduce its carbon footprint and energy consumption. The retrofit is being added to a renovation of the art deco structure that starts this summer already costing half a billion dollars.

It takes a certain pluck to announce such a substantial investment in the middle of a recession. But then the Empire State Building was born in hard times.

Work on the site in midtown Manhattan began in January 1930, months after the Wall Street crash. It went up as the New York and US economies went down.

Now the current owners of the 102-storey office block, Wien & Malkin, hope to buck the economic trend again by improving the building and charging higher rents. Part of the hard sell to potential new clients will be its "greenness" once the work is completed in 2013.

The plan aims to cut the use of energy by almost 40%, which would in turn reduce the emissions of CO2 from the building by some 105,000 metric tonnes a year. That is no easy feat, bearing in mind that the Empire State has some 6,500 windows, 73 elevators and a total floorspace of 2.6 million square feet.

All the windows will have an extra layer of insulation added by secreting a coated film between two glass panes - done in situ to avoid pollution caused by transporting the glass from an outside destination. Insulation will be added behind radiators, and the cooling system in the basement will be replaced with new more efficient machines.

Individual workers in the office spaces will be encouraged to take responsibility for their own emissions by being given access through their computers to monitors which will tell them how much energy is being expended in their part of the building.

None of the changes though will be visible to the outside world. The owners have decided that the famous coloured lights - the top of the Empire State turns green, for instance, on St Patrick's day and was a patriotic red, white and blue for several months after 9/11 - will remain intact, arguing they are responsible for relatively little energy consumption.

Source - The Guardian

Recession takes bite out of organic product sales

Official confirmation that the organic revolution has stalled came today as the leading industry body admitted sales of many popular and premium products fell last year.

The Soil Association, which certifies about eight out of ten products on sale in UK shops, said the value of sales in 2008 rose by 1.7% to a little over £2bn, but inflation in food prices masked a slump in sales by volume.

The rise in income compared to a 7% increase in overall food prices, said the organisation. "We're inferring from this 7% rise that volume has probably gone down," said a spokeswoman.

Hardest hit were premium brands and prepared foods, such as frozen meals, while popular fruit and vegetables - two of the three biggest selling organic lines - both saw declines.

However, some products appeared to be riding out the recession, especially those linked to high-profile TV shows highlighting animal welfare problems, said the association. The celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's series Hugh's Chicken Run may have contributed to a 17.7% increase in poultry sales, while organic milk and cheese sales both rose more than 10%. Textiles and health and beauty products sales increased strongly, although they make up a tiny part of the total market.

Previous reports suggested sales of organic produce have fallen even more steeply: retail research specialist TNS said that at the end of January annual volume sales of bread were 29% lower, fruit 20% lower, eggs 12% lower and vegetables 8% lower.

Martin Cottingham, author of the Soil Association report, said it was "impossible" to predict yet when the organic market would recover because this would be closely linked to the economy.

However, he said there were tentative signs that the market was stabilising after a particularly sharp drop in confidence during the last few months of last year. "October, November and December was something like panic non-buying ... because suddenly it was a recession," said Cottingham. "Some of the people have told me they experienced a demand dip at that time [but] some have said they have either levelled off or modestly picked up in the new year."

The report also said there was a "core" of shoppers who would continue to buy organic and said that long term, the industry should benefit as the UK needed to cut greenhouse gases, including emissions from chemical fertilisers used in intensive farming.

Source - The Guardian

Climate Cops awards enterprising green-agers

Winning schools named by power company

One of the UK’s major energy propviders, npower, has announced the winning schools of the Climate Cops Green SOS competition with a class of school pupils who petitioned their local shops to ban all plastic bags emerging as the winners of the national competition, scooping £20,000 for its school to invest in eco projects.

Hellesdon High School in Norwich beat hundreds of schools to win the npower Climate Cops Green SOS at a ceremony held at the Science Museum, London. The project impressed the panel of judges, including award ceremony presenter Fearne Cotton as well as Piers Morgan and eco-activist Eugenie Harvey.

The panel were impressed with the way the intrepid youngsters lobbied local shopkeepers to ban bags, with 23 out of 56 local stores committing to stopping the use of plastic in their stores.

Hellesdon was selected out of ten shortlisted schools. Other top projects included runners up Penrice Community College, Cornwall, for their fight to make house numbers clearer to help the emergency services and reduce carbon emissions of delivery vans and the pupils of Gateways School in Leeds, who worked with the Women’s Institute and the world’s fastest speed knitter to make recycled fashion items.

Piers Morgan, head judge and champion of the campaign, says: “I’ve been impressed by the dedication to green issues demonstrated by each of the shortlisted schools. Their determination to mobilise their schoolmates, families and local communities is just the sort of green campaigning we need to make a difference to climate change.”

Source - Npower

Eco-towns cannot go ahead without support of local community say townhalls

Eco-towns could be illegal because of a failure to consult properly, according to legal advice given to town halls.

The Department for Communities and Local Government want to build up to 10 of the towns, each containing thousands of new environmentally-friendly homes, across England.

However, the Local Government Association said the towns should be reconsidered in areas where there is strong local opposition. Furthermore in new legal advice, commissioned by the LGA, it was argued that it could be illegal to go ahead without local consultation.

John Steel QC said the government's plans are "unfair, illogical and unreasonable" because they circumvent the normal planning process. He said the plans would be susceptible to judicial review with a strong likelihood of being declared unlawful.

His view adds to the opinion of John Hobson QC, who also said the Government could find itself open to legal challenges by allowing developers to avoid well-established local development plans.

Eco-towns have proved unpopular in many areas because of the threat to the countryside with celebrity protesters including Judi Dench and Ben Fogle.

Cllr Margaret Eaton, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said the government should reconsider developments where there is strong local authority opposition.

"It is not the concept of eco towns that other local authorities object to – it is the way the government is going about deciding where they will be built. Eco-town schemes should be led locally and not imposed on people by central government," she said.

A judicial review of the planning process around eco-towns was rejected by the High Court earlier this year.

The DCLG insisted the process is legal.

A spokesman said: "We have made it absolutely clear throughout that the eco-town promoters whose locations make our final shortlist [later this year] will have to submit planning applications and these will have to be considered in the same way as any other major development proposal."

Source - The Telegraph

Monday, 6 April 2009

Climate warning as Antarctic ice bridge shatters

An ice bridge which held a vast Antarctic ice shelf in place shattered at the weekend and could herald a wider collapse linked to global warming, a leading scientist has warned.

"It's amazing how the ice has ruptured. Two days ago it was intact," said David Vaughan, a glaciologist with the British Antarctic Survey.

A satellite picture from the European Space Agency showed that a 25 mile-long strip of ice believed to pin the Wilkins Ice Shelf in place had splintered at its narrowest point, about 500 metres wide.

The Wilkins, now the size of Jamaica, is one of 10 shelves to have shrunk or collapsed in recent years on the Antarctic Peninsula, where temperatures have risen in recent decades apparently because of global warming.

The satellite image showed a jumble of huge flat-topped icebergs in the sea where the ice bridge had been on Friday. Mr Vaughan, who landed on the flat-topped ice bridge in January in a ski-equipped plane said change in Antarctica was rarely so dramatic. It was his first – and last – visit to the area.

In January, the remaining ice bridge had been surrounded by icebergs the size of shopping malls, many of them trapped in sea ice. A few seals were visible lolling on sea ice in the low Antarctic sunshine.

The loss of the ice bridge, jutting about 20 metres out of the water and almost 100km (62 miles) wide in 1950, may now allow ocean currents to wash away far more of the Wilkins shelf. "My feeling is that we will lose more of the ice, but there will be a remnant to the south," said Mr Vaughan. Ice shelves float on the water, and can be hundreds of metres thick.

Nine other shelves have receded or collapsed around the Antarctic Peninsula in the past 50 years, often abruptly like the Larsen A in 1995 or the Larsen B, further north, in 2002. Cores of sediment on the seabed indicate some of these ice shelves had been in place for at least 10,000 years.

Temperatures on the Antarctic Peninsula have risen by up to about 3C in the past 50 years, the fastest rate of warming in the southern hemisphere. "We believe the warming on the Antarctic Peninsla is related to global climate change, though the links are not entirely clear," Mr Vaughan said. Antarctica's response to warming will go a long way to deciding the pace of global sea level rise.

About 175 nations have been meeting in Bonn, Germany, since 29 March 29 as part of a push to negotiate a new treaty ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, from 7 to 18 December of 2009. The current talks end on Wednesday.

The loss of ice shelves does not affect sea levels – floating ice contracts as it melts and so does not raise ocean levels. But their loss can allow glaciers on land to slide more rapidly towards the sea, adding water to the oceans.

Source - The independent

Global warming forecast says Spain will run dry

The rain in Spain no longer falls mainly in the plain.

Global warming could cause rainfall in the Iberian peninsula to fall by up to 40 per cent by the end of the century, according to a European Commission report.

Spain and Portugal could be the hardest hit by climate change, according to the commission white paper, which predicts that food harvests could fall 30 per cent in the region because of a lack of water.

There has been an increase in the number of heat waves as in 2006, when thousands of people died and reservoirs such as the one in Ancora, Spain, right, dried out.

“For Europe as a whole heat waves are expected to increase in frequency, intensity and duration,” the report said.

The reduction in agricultural production could have a dramatic social impact, the report said, “where whole local rural populations could be affected if the local farmland was abandoned or if the local farming profitability was reduced substantially”.

The report warned that global warming could affect tourism, agriculture and energy sectors.

Spain currently gains about 10 per cent of its GDP from tourism but the sector is under pressure, partly because of the recession.

Source - The times

G20 - George

“We, the Leaders of the Group of Twenty, will use every cent we don’t possess to rescue corporate capitalism from its contradictions and set the world economy back onto the path of unsustainable growth. We have already spent trillions of dollars of your money on bailing out the banks, so that they can be returned to their proper functions of fleecing the poor and wrecking the Earth’s living systems. Now we’re going to spend another $1.1 trillion. As an exemplary punishment for their long record of promoting crises, we will give the IMF and the World Bank even more of your money. These actions constitute the greatest mobilisation of resources to support global financial flows in modern times.

Oh - and we nearly forgot. We must do something about the environment. We don’t have any definite plans as yet, but we’ll think of something in due course.”

The G20’s strategy for solving the financial and economic crisis, in other words, is detailed, innovative, fully costed and of vast scale and ambition. Its plans for solving the environmental crisis are brief, vague and uncosted. The environmental clauses - which contradict almost everything that goes before - have been tacked onto the end of the communique as an afterthought. No new money has been set aside. No new ideas are proposed; just the usual wishful thinking: let’s call the whole package green and hope for the best.

So much for the pledge, expressed in different forms by most of the governments present at the talks, to put the environment at the heart of decision-making. Though the economy is merely a measure of our engagement with the environment; though, as most of the leaders acknowledge, continued prosperity is impossible without sustainability, the communique shows that the environment still comes last. No expense is spared in saving the banks. Every expense is spared in saving the biosphere.

This suggests to me that our leaders have learnt nothing from the financial crisis. It was caused by allowing powerful agents (the banks) to exploit a common resource (the global economy) without proper control or regulation. Governments deployed a form of magical thinking: that the boom would go on forever, that a bunch of predatory psychopaths would regulate themselves, that profits, dividends and share prices could grow indefinitely even though they bore no relation to actual value.

They treat the environmental crisis the same way. Climate breakdown, peak oil and resource depletion will all dwarf the current financial crisis, in both financial and humanitarian terms. But, just as they did with the banks, the G20 leaders appear to have decided to deal with these problems only when they have to - in other words, when it’s too late. They persuade themselves that getting the economy back to where it was - infinite growth on a finite planet - can somehow be reconciled with the pledge “to address the threat of irreversible climate change”.

Next time this magical thinking fails, there’ll be no chance of a bail-out.

Source - The Guardian

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

BP axes 620 jobs from solar business

BP is to axe 620 jobs from its solar power business – more than a quarter of that workforce – in a move it said was part of the long-term strategy to "reduce the cost of solar power to that of conventional electricity."

Two cell manufacture and module assembly plants near Madrid, will be shut with the loss of 480 posts while module assembly will also be phased out at its Frederick facility in Maryland, US, with a further 140 redundancies.

BP blamed the cutbacks on the credit crunch and lower-cost competition saying its global manufacturing capacity would still increase during this year and next via a series of strategic alliances with other companies.

"We deeply regret the impact of this business decision on our employees and the local communities," said Reyad Fezzani, chief executive of BP Solar. "We have a long history at both the Madrid and Frederick sites. Competitive hi-tech manufacturing of ingots, wafers and cells will continue at Frederick. Engineering, technology product development, sales and marketing and other business support functions will also remain at both Frederick and Madrid."

He said solar markets had been "unsettled by the impact of the global economic environment", adding that the market had been over-supplied as competition increased and prices had fallen.

Fezzani said the cuts would lead to lower prices for solar power: "The decision is part of the long term strategy to reduce the cost of solar power to that of conventional electricity."

The decision by a cash-rich oil group to reduce its direct manufacturing capacity and cut 620 out of 2,200 jobs will raise further questions about whether BP is retreating back to its core hydrocarbon business despite marketing promises to go "beyond petroleum." The London-based company said last year it was going to concentrate its alternative energy business on wind and solar in the US, while rival Shell has also been cutting back.

The moves will also send further shock waves through the wider renewable energy sector which is reeling from a retreat by the banks from higher risk investments such as green power schemes.

Andrew Mill, who sits on the UK government's Renewables Advisory Board, told the Guardian 10 days ago that the renewables sector was heading for crisis and British ministers' climate change targets would not be met. "The government has done a lot in terms of policies and targets, but the reality is that it was always going to take a lot of money to make it happen. And that money is not coming through quickly enough."

The UK is a relatively small solar market and will rely largely on wind to meet its goal of producing 15% of its energy from renewables by 2020.

Source - The guardian

G20 protesters set up camp on City fringes

Demonstrators converging on the G20 summit this evening began taking over squats on the border of London's Square Mile to use as bases from which to launch a series of co-ordinated "direct action" protests.

The occupation of four buildings prompted the first confrontations with police, and marked the start of two days in which officers are expected to play cat and mouse with protesters determined to bring the financial heart of the capital to a standstill.

Protests are expected to centre around the Bank of England, where anti-capitalists and anarchist groups will converge at noon, and the European Climate Exchange in Bishopsgate, where at 12.30pm environmental activists say they will "swoop" on to the street and set up an overnight camp.

Financial institutions across the capital are on high alert, with police fearing that dozens of small, organised cells of anarchists are planning to peel away from the main demonstrations to force their way into office buildings, tube stations or banks.

Protesters have circulated a map of City targets that includes the offices of scores of banks, law firms and energy companies. It identifies 138 targets across the City, with more than 50 financial institutions pinpointed, including some of those blamed for sparking the economic crisis.

Many offices in the City of London will be closed and boarded-up tomorrow, including branches the Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds TSB. Hundreds of workers have been told to work from home. Those who are venturing into work have been told to "dress down" to avoid potential attacks.

Organisers of the expressed dismay a their portrayal as violent thugs and accused police of exaggerating the threat. They did, however, say they feared police warnings of "very violent" clashes may have attracted agitators who will infiltrate the demonstrations.

Police earlier arrived at an occupied derelict pub, in Shoreditch, moments after supporters posted the address online, advertising it as "conversion space" "for all anti-G20 action … and almost ready for the summer of rage". Officers stopped and searched people entering the building. They arrested three, one on suspicion of assaulting a police officer, one for carrying a saw and one for going equipped with weapons.

Nearby, around a dozen protesters had barricaded themselves into an empty Victorian office block.

The activists, their faces covered with scarves, said they hoped to use it as a base for hundreds of other protesters arriving in the capital ahead of the summit.

Police sealed off the short street for a period with vans and around a dozen police officers.

"They were being quite heavy-handed for a while," said Charlotte, 24, a protester. "The police were opening people's wallets and pulling out cards to look at their name." Friends of hers had been arrested, she added.

Inside the cavernous office block around 40 protesters were planning how they could accommodate and feed others who might arrive.

At a meeting they planned rotas to search skips for food and arrange for friends to bring cooking equipment and other supplies.

On one wall of the meeting room an activist had written instructions in marker pen about what to do if you were arrested, including the telephone number of a firm of solicitors.

Five other activists affiliated to the group Climate Camp said they were stopped and searched under anti-terrorism legislation at a cafe around the corner from the squat.

"A lot of police came in and very forcefully told use they were stopping and searching under the Terrorism Act," said Bradley Day, 22.

"We were meeting in the cafe to organise food for our camp, so all they found on us were recipes for cakes and lists of ingredients." Scotland Yard said it had no record of the searches.

The majority of protesters are likely to attach themselves to one of three events. Climate Camp will alert around two thousands campaigners by text message about the whereabouts of their planned "camp", to be set up somewhere in the Square Mile. The provisional plan is to meet at 12:30pm at the Climate Exchange.

G20 Meltdown will see a coalitions of anti-capitalist, anarchist and single-issue protest groups converge on the Bank of England.

Four groups will walk to the Bank from separate tube stations. At 2pm, Stop the War Coalition is leading a separate march from the US Embassy in Grosvener Square to Trafalgar Square, to demand that Barack Obama pulls US troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Small bands of protesters have also indicated they may convene at the ExCeL Centre in Docklands, where the summit will take place tomorrow.

David Howarth MP, who yesterday mediated last-minute talks between protesters and police, warned there was still "mutual misunderstanding" between the sides. He said the meeting between Climate Camp organisers and Scotland Yard's Commander Bob Broadhurst and chief superintendent Ian Thomas, had been "business-like" and both sides had exchanged numbers.

But he was concerned police appeared to believe that causing disruption to commuters would warrant intervening to stop a demonstration.

"I still think the two sides have different views on what's proportional," he said. "Police still seemed to think that any disruption of traffic is worth stopping a demonstration for. It's a shame this meeting did not happen earlier – there are points of mutual misunderstanding and the police really don't like the way in which Climate Camp is a non-hierarchical organisation."

Police have still not met with the organisers of G20 Meltdown, although the co-ordinator of the group, Marina Pepper, has said she would "talk about the plans" with police.

Confrontations, she said, would only occur if police attempted to prevent the protesters from reaching their destination. "When you've got the side of right on your side you won't be stopped, will you?" she said, adding that protesters would be bringing pillows. "And yes, we are prepared to fight truncheon with pillow."

Source - The guardian

Team California Begins Construction On 2009 Solar Decathlon House

Tool belts and hard hats have replaced the backpacks and the laptops of some students at Santa Clara University and California College of Arts in San Francisco.

While thousands of students have been away on spring break, a handful of them stayed behind to begin construction on their solar-powered house for the U.S. Department of Energy's 2009 Solar Decathlon.

The Solar Decathlon is a biennial, international competition that focuses on a crucial global problem-the ever-increasing need for energy. The contest, which takes place in Washington, D.C., October 8-16, gives students the opportunity to offer real solutions, including renewable energy sources and ways to use energy more efficiently.

Santa Clara University is competing in the Solar Decathlon for a second time. The collaboration with California College of Arts in San Francisco has created Team California. The partnership combines SCU's strength in engineering and CCA's expertise in architecture.

On Friday, April 3, from 3 to 5 p.m. in the multi-purpose room of Bannan Engineering Laboratories at Santa Clara University, Team California will present their plans to the public. Students will share the blueprints and show the green building materials and the state-of-the-art solar technology that together minimize the environmental impact but maximize comfort and livability.

Students will also provide models, full scale mock-ups, and give tours of the construction site and of the 2007 house that won third place. Students will also explain how they came up with the unique shape of the house and how they're planning to bring the outdoors in.

Media Preview
Friday, April 3, 2-3 p.m.

Santa Clara University

Tours, demos, and interviews with students and faculty will be available for reporters/photographers on deadline.

+ Chuck Reed, San Jose's mayor

+ Mike Splinter, chairman and CEO of Applied Materials

+ Michael Engh, S.J., president of Santa Clara University

+ Godfrey Mungal, dean of SCU's School of Engineering

+ Allison Kopf, SCU student project manager

+ Kyle Belcher, CCA student project manager

Solar Decathlon
The U.S. Department of Energy selects 20 university and college teams from around the world to compete in the Solar Decathlon.

There are ten areas of the competition: architecture, engineering, market viability, communications, comfort, appliances, hot water, lighting, energy balance, and transportation.

The house must not only produce enough electricity and hot water to perform all the functions of a home, but it must also power an electric car.

"Our design is based on the 'California lifestyle' of indoor/outdoor living and spaces that function as much to frame the outdoors as to shelter the interiors," said Raphael Stargrove, CCA architecture student.

"We're trying to show that you don't have to sacrifice the beauty of your home to have an energy efficient house," said Allison Kopf, SCU sophomore and student project manager.

"Silicon Valley is on its way to becoming the world center of clean-tech innovation, and solar is at the core of this effort," said San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed.

"Young innovators like the Solar Decathlon team from Santa Clara University and California College of the Arts showcase the talent and creativity that this region fosters. The 2007 team showed the world how solar homes can be practical, livable, and attractive. I'm looking forward to another successful effort in 2009."

"As Silicon Valley's clean-tech ambassadors, these students will show Washington, D.C., and the world that our region has the leadership, technology, and talent to drive the global, clean energy economy," said Mike Splinter, chairman and CEO of Applied Materials.

"By creatively incorporating solar and energy efficient design into buildings, the students are demonstrating how we can improve the environment and the way people live."

Source - Solardaily