Tokelau leads the world!
I’ve been looking for some positive stories for Christmas. What can be more positive than Tokelau going almost completely to renewables?
I guess it helps if you’ve got only 1,500 people and three cars.
Harnessing desert sun power
We’ve posted before on Desertec, the plan to generate solar power in North Africa and pipe it to Europe, to supply up to 15% of its energy by 2050. They expect to see the first solar electricity flowing from Morocco to Spain as early as 2014.
This report tells us that Morrocco itself “wants to produce 42% of its electricity from renewable sources – solar, wind and hydro-electric – by 2020.” That’s got to be good.
There are critics, however:
Valentin Hollain of Eurosolar, a German non-profit organisation that promotes renewable energy, queries the entire concept of Desertec.
He argues that big corporations are using large-scale projects like Desertec and Medgrid to retain their position into the next generation, and that a mix of renewable power supplied locally can meet demand while keeping prices down for consumers.
UK carbon-cutting targets exceeded
Between 1990 and 2010, emissions fell by 25.2%, and the 34% carbon-cutting target for 2022 is likely to be exceeded.
the report made clear that the carbon cuts of the past two decades were much easier to achieve than those needed in the next 20 years. These will require investments of hundreds of billions of pounds and the transformation of the UK’s energy, transport and industrial sectors.
I’ve had a very quick look. A 50% cut in emissions by 2027 is impressive, as is zero emissions from land transport vehicles by 2041.
Frankincense on the way out
The bad news is that frankincense production is in decline. The numbers of the Boswellia tree, which produces the fragrant resin, are in decline in the Horn of Africa due to fire, grazing and insect attack. Production may be halved over the next 15 years, but long term it’s “doomed” if current trends continue.
The report didn’t mention climate change, but it wouldn’t be helping.
Climate change may bring major ecosystem shifts
According to a NASA computer modelling study:
By 2100, global climate change will modify plant communities covering almost half of Earth’s land surface and will drive the conversion of nearly 40 percent of land-based ecosystems from one major ecological community type – such as forest, grassland or tundra – toward another.
The greatest changes are expected in high latitudes and at higher altitudes, as illustrated below:
The original paper is downloadable from here.
US rolls out tough rules on coal plant pollution
The Obama administration on Wednesday unveiled the first-ever standards to slash mercury emissions from coal-fired plants, a move aimed at protecting public health that critics say will kill jobs as plants shut down.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson revealed the rules, which have been about 20 years in the making, at a Washington, D.C. children’s hospital. Mercury can harm the nervous systems of developing fetuses and infants and can enter the food stream through contaminated fish.
“By cutting emissions that are linked to developmental disorders and respiratory illnesses like asthma, these standards represent a major victory for clean air and public health,” said Jackson, whose agency hopes to start enforcing the rules over the next several years.
The power companies are claiming that jobs will be lost and some coal-fired plants will close. The Republicans will try to overturn the rule.
Dick van Steenis has been going on about this issue, and open cut coal mines and other industrial faclities, for years. You can find him at George Monbiot’s place, at Late Night Live and at Lock the Gate. Go here for the transcript of a talk he gave in NSW this year.
Giles Parkinson posts about a report Think Small: The Australian Decentralised Energy Roadmap:
A new report by the University of Technology’s Institute of Sustainable Futures released today throws up a serious challenge to the network operators who plan to spend $45 billion on network upgrades in the current five year period, and will likely do the same in the next.
The report, Think Small: The Australian Decentralised Energy Roadmap, says one third of this expenditure – $15 billion in the current period – could be avoided if Australia adopted decentralised energy technologies, such as efficient use of energy, peak load management and distributed generation, which means generating plants of 30MW or below, such as small wind farms, biomass plants, solar farms, rooftop PV, small hydro, fuel cells, cogeneration and trigeneration. The study, completed in collaboration with the CSIRO and four other universities, says these are the quickest and cheapest options to reducing emissions and meeting peak demand.
The report is downloadable here.
It’s time for a smarter grid
Parkinson again reorting on a study by Professor John Bell, of the Queensland University of Technology, and Warwick Johnston, a leading solar analyst with Sunwiz.
Using Queensland network operator Energex as an example, and its forecast peak demand growth of 1.25GW over the five years to 2014/15, the study analysed the existing approach of spending $2.6 billion augmenting the grid, or investing a comparable amount in either 25GWh of storage, or 1.25GW of solar PV and 10GWh of storage.
The study concluded that a combination of battery and solar PV produced a far better outcome, because of the ability to generate revenue from the energy produced, and the use of battery storage to resell energy.
They say that the integration of distributed PV and battery storage into the existing energy system has the potential to be cost effective now. Moreover:
Interestingly, this is a theme picked up by the Australian Energy Market Operator in the latest update of its National Transmission Network Development Plan (NTNDP) that has been released on Wednesday. The AEMO has been pushing its NEMLink proposal, which is designed to reinforce the backbone of the National Electricity Market, and transform it into a truly national market (except WA) rather than a series of interconnected regional markets.
However, under the strict guidelines of the current regulatory framework, AEMO says that it cannot justify the investment, even though its studies conclude that on a broader economic perspective (such as the increased build out of renewables and other generation, avoided losses etc), it would deliver a net benefit of $3.5 billion.
You’ll need to read the article as to why. It seems previously held assumptions are now being questioned.