Wednesday, 23 July 2008

World Bank should improve environmental record, review says

By Andrew C. Revkin
Published: July 22, 2008

NEW YORK: The World Bank and its partners need to do a far better job of considering the environmental effects of projects they finance in poor countries, its internal review group concludes in a new report.
The review, released on Tuesday, examined some of the $400 billion in investments in nearly 7,000 projects from 1990 to 2007. It found that recent commitments to environmental sustainability by the bank and sister institutions, including the International Finance Corporation, were often not matched by changes within the lenders' bureaucracies or on the ground where dollars were turned into dams, pipelines, palm plantations and the like.
Authors of the 181-page environmental report, the first by the bank's Independent Evaluation Group since 2002, said it was vital for the bank and its partners to intensify their focus on measurable environmental protection, given rising vulnerability to environmental risks and the increasing flow of financing for projects related to climate change. The report is on the Web at
"They need to begin to see the inextricable link between sustaining environment and reducing poverty," Vinod Thomas, the director-general of the evaluation group, said in an interview. "It is clear now from the Amazon to India that if environmental sustainability is not raised as a priority then all bets are off."
The report by the internal group included a response from the bank's management that acknowledged some of the gaps while asserting that in many areas it was already moving to improve its environmental accounting and find ways to make sure that beneficiaries - both developing countries and private banks and businesses - changed practices as well.

Cheryl Gray, the director of the review group for the World Bank, said the lack of consistent internal tracking of the environmental facets of projects was an indicator of how much work needs to be done.
The World Bank Group approved its first set of common environmental standards in 2001, for the first time making environmental stewardship part of its core mission of reducing poverty.
But the new evaluation found a persistent lack of environmental focus in each step along the lending chain - from the priorities that shape development projects to the environmental standards and monitoring required in the field.
Environmental campaigners largely agreed with the findings of the internal group.
Korinna Horta, an economist at the Environmental Defense Fund, described how the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank's private-sector arm, can promote the expansion of livestock herds, soy bean field and palm oil plantations, all of which tend to propel deforestation in the tropics, even as the World Bank simultaneously warns about the problems of forest loss and has created a fund to support avoided deforestation.
"Even now, the Bank does not have an appropriate accountability structure in place to ensure that its well-meaning environmental and social policies are actually implemented on the ground," Horta said.

Brazilian ethanol plants to get $260m loan

By Richard Lapper in São Paulo
Published: July 22 2008 22:16

Latin America’s biggest development institution is prepared to defy growing environmental concern about biofuels by lending money to a $1bn-plus Brazilian ethanol project.
The board of the Inter-American Development Bank is set on Wednesday to approve proposals to provide a 15-year loan of $260m (€164m, £130m) to three new ethanol plants being built by Santa Elisa Vale do Rosario, a Brazilian company, and US private equity groups.

The facility – which will sit alongside a $360m commercial bank credit – would be the biggest ever by a multilateral institution for a green fuel initiative. But it may not be popular among the IADB’s European minority shareholders. “It is a hard project for the IADB,” said Sylvia Larrea, the executive managing the project at the bank. “There are heated debates in the market.”
Steady rises in the international oil price have spurred interest in green fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel, but initiatives have become increasingly controversial in recent months as a result of steep rises in the prices of grains and other basic foods.
Ban Ki-Moon, United Nations secretary-general, last week warned about the impact of growing crops for biofuels, suggesting that it was contributing to increased food prices.
Latin American supporters of biofuels such as Ms Larrea, however, argue that Brazil produces its ethanol from sugar cane rather than edible grains such as maize, a process widely regarded as being more energy-efficient.
They also reject accusations from environmental critics that Brazilian ethanol-related sugar production is contributing to deforestation of the Amazon, saying sugar is grown largely in the south and centre of the country, thousands of miles from the rainforest.
“The choice isn’t really between food and fuel,” said Luis Alberto Moreno, president of the IADB. “The choice is between sustainable and unsustainable biofuels. We’re convinced that certain Latin American countries have ideal conditions for producing biofuels in a sustainable way.”
Ms Larrea noted that interest in the new fuels was growing in Colombia, and sugar growers in Central America and the Caribbean had also invested in alternative fuels.
She justified the bank’s support for the project by arguing that offering longer-term finance on more flexible terms would allow the project’s managers to invest more in rapidly evolving new technologies.
The plant will include a facility to convert into energy the waste material produced after sugar cane is crushed, helping to increase overall efficiency.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Venezuelan, Russian Firms in Energy Pact


LONDON -- Three Russian energy companies signed deals Tuesday with Petróleos de Venezuela SA, or PdVSA, as Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez visited Moscow.
Mr. Chávez has been holding talks with President Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and several top managers of Russian corporations. The leaders also sketched plans for military, aviation, transport and space cooperation.
The agreements, which set no production or sales targets, focus on exploration of Venezuela's Orinoco basin, with one of the richest oil deposits in the world. Last year, Mr. Chávez nationalized four multibillion-dollar projects in the region that had begun in the 1990s.
OAO Gazprom will jointly conduct an evaluation of the Ayacucho-3 block with PdVSA, Gazprom said. It also said it is interested in developing a liquefied-natural-gas project in Venezuela.
Lukoil Overseas, a subsidiary of OAO Lukoil, signed a two-year agreement on joint study of the Junin-3 block. Lukoil Overseas signed an agreement with PdVSA in 2005 on the quantitative assessment and certification of heavy-oil reserves at the block and started exploration drilling in December 2006.
Anglo-Russian joint venture TNK-BP Ltd., embroiled in shareholder conflicts, signed a joint-study agreement on the Ayacucho-2 block.
Analysts say there is more politics than business in the agreements. "It's rather difficult to underestimate the significance of the agreements, judging by Lukoil's rather modest progress in Venezuela," said Pavel Kushnir of Deutsche Bank in Moscow. He said Lukoil signed its first agreement with PdVSA almost three years ago but still has yet to nail down a final deal.
"It looks like a political decision to show that there is genuine energy cooperation between the two countries, but the economic effect of the deals looks rather minor at the moment," he said.
Write to Alexander Kolyandr at

Shipping: The greening of the ocean waves

Last Updated: 4:01pm BST 22/07/2008

Although not included in the Kyoto Protocol, the maritime industry's CO2 emissions rival those of aviation. But new initiatives from port authorities look set to make shipping more eco-friendly. Jimmy Lee Shreeve reports "Commercial shipping emissions have been one of the least studied areas of all combustion emissions," says Daniel Lack, a scientist at the Washington DC-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

He's right. But it isn't just formal studies that are lacking. Shipping, like aviation, plays a major role in the global economy and is also a big contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

Yet it has never been included in progammes like the Kyoto Protocol. As a result, its impact on the environment goes largely unreported.Daniel Lack and his team, however, have uncovered damning evidence showing that emissions from shipping are worse than previously thought.
Large cargo ships, for example, merrily emit more than twice as much black carbon (otherwise known as soot, which is thought to be the second largest contributor to global warming, after CO2) than was estimated in earlier studies.
Even the humble tugboat pumps out more black carbon for the amount of fuel it burns compared to other vessels.
"The two previous studies of soot emissions examined a total of three ships, [but] we reviewed plumes from 96 different vessels," explains Lack, whose department's findings were published in the July issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Lack and his colleagues measured emissions from commercial vessels in open sea, channels and ports along the southeast coast of America during the summer of 2006.
They estimate that commercial shipping releases around 130,000 metric tons of black carbon a year, or 1.7 per cent of the global total - with much of it pumped out near highly populated coastlines.
Include the whole gamut of greenhouse gases and the picture is even bleaker.
The commercial or merchant shipping industry shifts about 90 per cent of the world's goods and commodities. These are carried on huge ships that burn low-grade fuel.
According to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), these vessels belch out 3.5 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions (some estimates give an even higher figure). Currently, the organisation is drafting new rules to limit sulphur emissions from ship exhausts and is generally trying to get shipping firms to burn cleaner fuels.
But it isn't just the merchant marine that is eco-unfriendly; cruise liners are too. In its annual report, Carnival Cruise Lines admitted that its operations pump out 401 grams of CO2 per passenger. This is 36 times more than the per-passenger emissions of Eurostar, and more than three times that of a passenger on a Boeing 747.
According to Justin Francis of, which provides eco-friendly travel information, this is only the half of it. "Some cruises involve a flight to the departure destination, something of a double-carbon whammy."
On top of this, statistics from the United Nation's OurPlanet magazine reveal that a cruise ship passenger produces on average 3.5kg of rubbish every day, compared to the 0.8kg generated by local people on shore.
Despite this, cruise liner companies insist they are working hard to reduce their environmental impact. Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, for example, says it is installing smokeless gas-turbine engines on up to six of its vessels and burns biofuel when it is available.
But it's ports authorities that are at the forefront of the race to make shipping cleaner. During mid-July, representatives from ports around the world met in Rotterdam (the world's third busiest port) to draw up plans to cut emissions from shipping.
The World Ports Climate Conference was organised by the Rotterdam ports authority and the Clinton Climate Change Initiative. Although delegates were divided on the exact contribution of shipping to global warming (studies put it at anything from 1.4 per cent to 4.5 per cent), they did agree that the shipping sector is set to grow in "leaps and bounds" and that it is imperative that measures are taken to help save the planet.
"The climate is changing every minute as we sit here," said Ogunlade Davidson, co-chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

"Human beings have to solve it [global warming] because we created it. The marine environment has to take its own responsibility as do all of us."
He said the best solutions lay in technologies like the use of hydrodynamics in propellers, which could reduce CO2 emissions by up to 30 per cent on new ships and by 20 per cent on older ones. He added that renewable fuels, speed reduction and fleet maintenance also had a role to play.
Davidson went on to say that the potential is there to cut the global fleet's CO2 emissions by 17.6 per cent by 2010, and by 28.2 per cent by 2020.
"But this will not be enough to offset the projected fleet growth," he concluded.
Just about all the targets put forward at the conference had issues associated with them. The International Maritime Organisation, for example, is pushing hard to put emission targets in place that would come into effect by February 2010.
The problem is, these targets are unlikely to be met unless developing countries sign up to be part of the initiative. This is because the developed world accounts for only 25 per cent of the world's merchant fleet.
"In my view, if reduction in CO2 emissions from ships are to benefit the environment as a whole, they must apply globally to all ships in the world fleet regardless of their flag," said Efthimios Mitropoulos, secretary-general of the IMO.
"It seems completely incongruous that two ships carrying similar cargo, loaded at the same port, sailing at the same speed and having the same destination, should be treated differently because they are registered under two different flags."
Although China (which has one of the world's largest ports in Shanghai) didn't attend the conference, the country is onboard for the proposed cleanup plan.
"They're behind us all the way," said conference chair and former Dutch prime minister Ruud Lubbers. He added that China's representatives "couldn't come for budget reasons."
Various measures were put forward at the July conference for dealing with emissions from shipping, including:
Increasing the number of power points for providing ships with electricity when they're in harbour. Currently, the majority of ships burn fuel when idle to generate electricity.
Limiting the amount of containers that can be moved by trucks within a port - and moving more goods to and from ports by cleaner transport such as trains and barges.
Replacing the trucks used to move containers in ports with hybrid vehicles.
Working with "clean coal" organisations to pipe carbon dioxide emissions from port power plants into empty underground gas fields. (Rotterdam and Royal Dutch Shell are to open a test reservoir in 2010).
In a taped message, Bill Clinton told conference delegates that, "If widely implemented, these ideas can have a significant impact."
The conference concluded with the adoption of the World Port Climate Change Declaration, in which delegates from over 50 ports from 35 countries committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality - all of which could mark the beginning of the ocean waves becoming greener.
A follow-up conference is scheduled for November in Los Angeles.

Weather Eye: a complicated climate

Paul Simons

Climate change is a complicated subject. To predict the future, we need to understand what happened in the past, but several myths have grown up.
Since the end of the last ice age, the climate has gone and up down quite naturally. But some of the stories are not quite what they seem. Much has been made of a warm period in medieval times that became a golden age for growing vines in England. But vines were not that widespread and, in any case, vine-growing carried on for the next millennium, even when the climate turned cooler. As Phil Jones, of the University of East Anglia, pointed out recently in Weather: “Past vine-growing in England reflects little, if any, on the relative climate changes in the region since medieval times.” When the Romans invaded England, the climate was supposed to be very warm. But in The Winelands of Britain Richard Selley describes how vineyards flourished largely in southern England, whereas today’s vineyards grow further north.
Critics say that the warm Roman and medieval periods prove how today’s high temperatures are simply another natural bout of warm climate. But today’s climate is the warmest in history, and the temperatures are rising unlike anything we have seen before.

Nissan says electric cars will be quickly profitable

By Nick Bunkley
Published: July 23, 2008

FRANKLIN, Tennessee: The electric cars that Nissan Motor plans to start selling by 2010 will have varying capabilities depending on a given country's driving patterns, but all will be priced competitively and will generate profits, company executives said Tuesday.
Nissan's chief executive, Carlos Ghosn, said that any electric car the company sold in the United States would need a range of at least 100 miles between charges to be practical, but that European drivers could make do with about half that range. Tolerance for the time it takes to recharge such a car may vary widely as well, he said.
One aspect that Ghosn said would remain constant, however, is that the cars would produce zero tailpipe emissions, unlike some vehicles being developed by rivals that have range-extending gasoline engines to power the car after its battery is depleted. Building cars powered by alternative fuels but that still use oil is "unsustainable," he said.
"I want a pure electric car. I don't want a range extender. I don't want another hybrid," Ghosn told reporters after a ceremony to dedicate Nissan's new North American headquarters in Franklin, an affluent suburb in the hills south of Nashville. "It's not going to be zero emissions in certain conditions. It's going to be zero emissions."
In May, Ghosn asserted that Nissan would, within two years, become the first automaker to sell a mass-market, zero-emission vehicle in the United States. The company plans to sell such cars globally by 2012.

But Nissan does not intend to reach those milestones merely for show, said Dominique Thormann, its senior vice president for finance in North America. In an interview, Thormann said Nissan would not sell the cars unless it could make a profit immediately, at an affordable price.
"Everything that we develop, we develop for profits," he said. "We make money on all our cars. We do not have loss leaders."
To help in its development of electric cars, Nissan said Tuesday that it would work with the state of Tennessee and its largest electric utility, the Tennessee Valley Authority, to study and perhaps install infrastructure like charging stations. The automaker has begun similar efforts in Denmark, Israel and Portugal, but the United States presents a far greater opportunity for Nissan to market electric cars.
Separately, General Motors said Tuesday that it was working with the nonprofit Electric Power Research Institute, which represents more than 30 large electric utilities in North America, to encourage development of electric vehicles. GM is developing the Chevrolet Volt, also for introduction in 2010, which can go 40 miles on battery power before switching to its gas-powered engine.
Nissan is opening its 450,000-square-foot headquarters here in Franklin two years after it pulled up stakes in Southern California for temporary quarters in downtown Nashville. And overseas automakers in the South, particularly in Tennessee, are growing rapidly. Last week, Volkswagen of Germany selected Chattanooga as the site of its first United States car plant.
Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Toyota and Hyundai also have factories in the region. Meanwhile, the Detroit automakers have been laying off thousands of workers and closing plants across the Midwest and other parts of the country.
"The arrival of the auto industry in Tennessee has transformed our lives," Senator Lamar Alexander, a Republican, told Nissan employees during the dedication ceremony, which was followed by country music, tours of the energy-efficient building and a pie-baking contest. "You put the South on a path to become the new center of the American auto industry."

Ghosn says Nissan going electric as company dedicates new North America HQ

The Associated Press
Published: July 23, 2008

FRANKLIN, Tennessee: Twenty-five years after Nissan Motor Co. became the first foreign automaker in the South, its chief executive dedicated a new $100 million North America headquarters and said the company's future on the road will be "electric."
Speaking to reporters after a ceremony Tuesday attended by Gov. Phil Bredesen, Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and Nissan employees wearing commemorative T-shirts, Carlos Ghosn said the company working with its partner Renault is focused on making zero-emission, electric vehicles.
Nissan has said the first electric models will arrive in the U.S. in 2010 and will be selling internationally in 2012.
Ghosn said Nissan wants to "also be in the battery business" and that hybrids and other alternative fuel technologies are at risk of becoming outdated.
Ghosn predicted Nissan's 2009 auto sales will not increase from this year's level. Nissan NA sold 106,921 vehicles in the fiscal year that ended in March — a 6.7 percent share of the market.

"We are not working on one way of making electric cars. We are working on different ways," he said. "It's going to take some time before we decide how we are going to do it."
The design of the electric car has not been selected, but Ghosn said Nissan is "not proposing a boring car."
Nissan, however, must determine if the current appetite for small cars is possibly due only to the high cost of gasoline, Ghosn said.
Ghosn also announced a regional "zero-emission vehicle partnership" with the state of Tennessee and the Tennessee Valley Authority to promote the vehicles.
Nissan executives leading a tour of the new Nissan headquarters said it was primarily designed to provide maximum employee and energy efficiency.
Rob Traynham, the Nissan executive who oversaw the construction of the building 20 miles south of Nashville, says planners didn't start by saying, "Let's make a building that looks cool."
The glassy, sleek, S-shaped structure just turned out that way.
The 10-story building has sunshades with computer-designed blades to reduce glare and summer heat, an interior light harvesting system and employee discussion areas at open stairways connecting 460,000 square feet (42,735 square meters) of offices. The goal is to save energy and foster collaboration.
"When you do all that and the building looks great too, that's a wonderful thing," Traynham said.
Nissan employees are moving from leased office space in downtown Nashville into the headquarters 25 years after the company became the first foreign automaker to build cars in the South by opening an assembly plant in Smyrna. Since then Nissan has added an engine plant in Decherd, and another assembly plant in Canton, Mississippi.
Nissan's own facilities engineers, working with Gresham Smith & Partners of Nashville and contractor Skanska USA, developed the headquarters.
"We really understand our employees and the way they work and how people interact with each other," said Traynham.
The building came in below budget and is expected to consume about 35 percent less energy than a traditionally designed building. Traynham said it's too early to put a dollar figure on the projected energy savings.
"The building is absolutely performing the way we expected," he said.
The employees aren't the first to occupy the new site. A restored wetland on the 50-acre campus already has attracted new wildlife to move in, Nissan officials said.
The Nissan headquarters is being dedicated while Tennessee officials are still celebrating Volkswagen's announcement last week that it plans to build an assembly plant in Chattanooga.
"We don't look at it as sharing the stage," Traynham said of Volkswagen's announcement. "If it's a great thing for Tennessee, it's a great thing for us."

Texas oilman tells Congress: Either build wind-power lines or get out of private sector's way

The Associated Press
Published: July 22, 2008

WASHINGTON: Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens asked Congress on Tuesday to "clear the path" for his plan to boost use of wind and natural gas for U.S. energy needs.
Pickens has been on a $58 million publicity tour to promote his plan to erect wind turbines in the Midwest to generate electricity, replacing the 22 percent of U.S. power produced from natural gas. The freed up natural gas then could be used for transportation.
Testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, Pickens said the government should begin building transmission lines for wind-generated power or provide the right of way on private land and extend tax credits so the private sector can build the lines.
"If the government wanted to build a grid, I mean, do it," he said. "But if they don't want to do it, I think the money is there to do it private, and so it's kind of like either do it or get out of the way, but give us the corridors to put it in and it'll be done. You could do this on a very, very fast track if you wanted."
Pickens suggested that Congress follow the lead of former President Dwight Eisenhower, who declared an emergency to build the interstate highway system in the 1950s and 1960s.

He warned that oil could cost $300 a barrel in 10 years as supplies drop, if the nation continues to "drift" on energy policy.
Pickens has leased hundreds of thousands of acres (hectares) for a giant wind farm in West Texas, where he plans to erect 2,700 turbines and produce energy for urban areas such as Dallas and Fort Worth. He has run into some opposition from West Texas landowners who are unhappy with his efforts to obtain rights of way to build the wind farm and a pipeline for a separate water project.
Specifically, Pickens asked Congress to extend a 2005 law intended to speed up the creation of energy corridors, and to give him control over any transmission lines he builds for wind-generated power. All electric transmission lines are now regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Pickens also called for a 10-year extension of a tax credit for energy producers. He estimated it would cost taxpayers $15 billion a year in production tax credits for 200,000 megawatts of wind power.
"When you look at $700 billion dollars going out of country every year for purchase of oil, $15 billion is somewhat insignificant," he said.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman called Pickens' plan bold and said he hoped Pickens' testimony would "infect people in a position in Washington to do something about it."
But the oilman's plan raised questions with Sen. George Voinovich, who asked if it would hurt the chemical industry, which relies on natural gas as raw material. He said the industry probably won't like seeing natural gas costs increase.
Pickens estimated it would cost about $500 billion to increase wind energy production from the 4,000 megawatts to be generated at his Texas wind farm to 200,000 megawatts, the amount needed to power 20 percent of U.S. energy needs. Transmission lines and the tax credit would add another $15 billion.
At that level, he said, "You're approaching about one year's supply of oil that you're buying. But don't get the idea that replaces that oil, it doesn't. It will only replace 38 percent."
In addition to the hearing, Pickens also met privately Tuesday with Democratic and Republican members of Congress as well as Texas senators.

Green light for big Scottish wind farm

By Sanjay Odedra and Andrew Bolger
Published: July 22 2008 03:20

Europe’s largest onshore wind farm has been given the go-ahead in Scotland – just as plans to erect the UK’s biggest individual onshore wind turbine in Northumberland were approved by ministers.
The £600m ($1.2bn) Clyde wind farm will have 152 turbines and total capacity of 456MW, enough to power more than 250,000 homes.

The turbine to be built at Blyth will reach 163m, almost 30m taller than the London Eye, and will have generation capacity of up to 7.5MW.
Alex Salmond, first minister, hailed the Clyde wind farm decision as another step towards making Scotland the green energy capital of Europe. His devolved Holyrood government aims to generate 31 per cent of Scotland’s required electricity from renewable sources by 2011, and half by 2020.
Mr Salmond said the announcement meant it was now virtually certain the 2011 target would be met early – a significant milestone on the way to achieving the 2020 target.
The wind farm will be built on either side of the M74 motorway near Abington in south Lanarkshire by Scottish and Southern Energy. It became part of the utility’s development portfolio when SSE bought Airtricity, the Irish wind farm operator, earlier this year for €1.45bn (£1.2bn).
At present, the largest wind farm in Scotland for which planning consent has been granted is Whitelee, on Eaglesham Moor, south of Glasgow. It is under construction and will have a total capacity of 322MW. Currently the biggest operational wind farm in Europe is the 208MW Maranchon development in Guadalajara, Spain.
At Blyth, six smaller 2.5MW machines will also be built nearby as the Northumberland town strives to rejuvenate its outdated wind infrastructure.
Charles Rose, director of Hainsford Energy, which is behind the project, claimed it would transform the site into an “iconic landmark” and help create hundreds of jobs in the former shipbuilding centre.
However, Paul Crossland, chairman of the North Blyth Residents Association, criticised Wansbeck district council and the government for “totally ignoring” concerns over the development’s visible and audible impact on his village.
This view was supported by the Renewable Energy Foundation, a charity that calls for balanced and sustainable energy policy, which labelled the current legislation governing noise emissions from wind farms a “disgrace”.
Newcastle international airport had also objected to the giant structures on the grounds that they could interfere with its radar, but was overruled.
Wansbeck Blyth Harbour Wind Farm will achieve a tenfold increase in generation output by replacing nine existing turbines, installed at East Pier in 1993.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Brazil vows tough environmental conditions for construction of 3rd nuclear plant

The Associated Press
Published: July 23, 2008

BRASILIA, Brazil: The Brazilian government says it is setting what it calls tough environmental terms for the construction of the country's third nuclear power plant.
Environment Minister Carlos Minc says his agency will issue a preliminary license Wednesday for construction of the Angra 3 plant.
But Minc said Tuesday that the license will include "brutal demands" on waste treatment, independent monitoring of radiation levels and investments in environmental protection.
Brazil currently has two operating nuclear plants with an installed capacity of about 2,000 megawatts.
Construction on Angra 3 has been held up since the 1980s because of financing problems and environmental concerns. It will require an investment of US$3.7 billion (€2.3 billion).

£37bn plan to power EU with the Saharan sun

Alok Jha
The Guardian,
Wednesday July 23, 2008

Vast farms of solar panels in the Sahara could provide clean electricity for the whole of Europe, according to EU scientists working on a plan to pool the region's renewable energy.
Harnessing the power of the desert sun is at the centre of an ambitious scheme to build a €45bn (£35.7bn) European supergrid that would allow countries across the continent to share electricity from abundant green sources such as wind energy in the UK and Denmark, and geothermal energy from Iceland and Italy.
The idea is gaining political support in Europe, with Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, recently backing the north African solar plan.
Because the sunlight is more intense, solar photovoltaic panels in north Africa could generate up to three times the electricity compared with similar panels in northern Europe.
Arnulf Jaeger-Walden of the European commission's Institute for Energy explained how electricity produced in solar farms in Africa, each generating around 50-200 megawatts of power, could be fed thousands of miles to European countries. The proposed grid would use high-voltage direct current (DC) transmission lines, which lose less energy over distance than conventional alternating current (AC) lines.
The idea of developing solar farms in the Mediterranean region and north Africa was given a boost by Sarkozy earlier this month when he highlighted solar farms in north Africa as central to the work of his newly formed Mediterranean Union.
Depending on the size of the grid, building the necessary high-voltage lines across Europe could cost up to €1bn a year every year till 2050, but Jaeger-Walden pointed out that the figure was small when compared to a recent prediction by the International Energy Agency that the world needs to invest more than $45tn (£22.5tn) in energy systems over the next 30 years.

Solar power from Saharan sun could provide Europe's electricity, says EU

· Huge £35bn supergrid would pool green sources · Brown and Sarkozy back north African plan
Alok Jha, science correspondent
The Guardian,
Wednesday July 23, 2008

A tiny rectangle superimposed on the vast expanse of the Sahara captures the seductive appeal of the audacious plan to cut Europe's carbon emissions by harnessing the fierce power of the desert sun.
Dwarfed by any of the north African nations, it represents an area slightly smaller than Wales but scientists claimed yesterday it could one day generate enough solar energy to supply all of Europe with clean electricity.
Speaking at the Euroscience Open Forum in Barcelona, Arnulf Jaeger-Walden of the European commission's Institute for Energy, said it would require the capture of just 0.3% of the light falling on the Sahara and Middle East deserts to meet all of Europe's energy needs.
The scientists are calling for the creation of a series of huge solar farms - producing electricity either through photovoltaic cells, or by concentrating the sun's heat to boil water and drive turbines - as part of a plan to share Europe's renewable energy resources across the continent.
A new supergrid, transmitting electricity along high voltage direct current cables would allow countries such as the UK and Denmark ultimately to export wind energy at times of surplus supply, as well as import from other green sources such as geothermal power in Iceland.
Energy losses on DC lines are far lower than on the traditional AC ones, which make transmission of energy over long distances uneconomic.
The grid proposal, which has won political support from both Nicholas Sarkozy and Gordon Brown, answers the perennial criticism that renewable power will never be economic because the weather is not sufficiently predictable. Its supporters argue that even if the wind is not blowing hard enough in the North Sea, it will be blowing somewhere else in Europe, or the sun will be shining on a solar farm somewhere.
Scientists argue that harnessing the Sahara would be particularly effective because the sunlight in this area is more intense: solar photovoltaic (PV) panels in northern Africa could generate up to three times the electricity compared with similar panels in northern Europe.
Much of the cost would come in developing the public grid networks of connecting countries in the southern Mediterranean, which do not currently have the spare capacity to carry the electricity that the north African solar farms could generate. Even if high voltage cables between North Africa and Italy would be built or the existing cable between Morocco and Spain would be used, the infrastructure of the transfer countries such as Italy and Spain or Greece or Turkey also needs a major re-structuring, according to Jaeger-Walden.
Southern Mediterranean countries including Portugal and Spain have already invested heavily in solar energy and Algeria has begun work on a vast combined solar and natural gas plant which will begin producing energy in 2010. Algeria aims to export 6,000 megawatts of solar-generated power to Europe by 2020.
Scientists working on the project admit that it would take many years and huge investment to generate enough solar energy from north Africa to power Europe but envisage that by 2050 it could produce 100 GW, more than the combined electricity output from all sources in the UK, with an investment of around €450bn.
Doug Parr, Greenpeace UK's chief scientist, welcomed the proposals: "Assuming it's cost-effective, a largescale renewable energy grid is just the kind of innovation we need if we're going to beat climate change."
Jaeger-Walden also believes that scaling up solar PV by having large solar farms could help bring its cost down for consumers. "The biggest PV system at the moment is installed in Leipzig and the price of the installation is €3.25 per watt," he said. "If we could realise that in the Mediterranean, for example in southern Italy, this would correspond to electricity prices in the range of 15 cents per kWh, something below what the average consumer is paying."
The vision for the renewable energy grid comes as the commission's joint research centre (JRC) published its strategic energy technology plan, highlighting solar PV as one of eight technologies that need to be championed for the short- to medium-term future.
"It recognises something extraordinary - if we don't put together resources and findings across Europe and we let go the several sectors of energy, we will never reach these targets," said Giovanni de Santi, director of the JRC, also speaking in Barcelona.
The JRC plan includes fuel cells and hydrogen, clean coal, second generation biofuels, nuclear fusion, wind, nuclear fission and smart grids. De Santi said it was designed to help Europe to meet its commitments to reduce overall energy consumption by 20% by 2020, while reducing CO² emissions by 20% in the same time and increasing to 20% the proportion of energy generated from renewable sources.
High voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission lines are seen as the most efficient way to move electricity over long distances without incurring the losses experienced in alternating current (AC) power lines. HVDC cables can carry more power for the same thickness of cable compared with AC lines but are only suited to long distance transmission as they require expensive devices to convert the electricity, usually generated as AC, into DC. Modern HVDC cables can keep energy losses down to around 3% per 1,000km. HVDC can also be used to transfer electricity between different countries that might use AC at differing frequencies. HVDC cables can also be used to synchronise AC produced by renewable energy sources.

Solar power from Sahara will keep Europe’s lights on

Foreign Staff

European politicians are discussing ambitious plans to harvest the energy of the Saharan sun, connecting a vast network of solar panels to electricity grids across the continent. According to The Guardian, the project, estimated to cost up to £35.7 billion, is backed by Gordon Brown and President Sarkozy of France.
The project is still at an early stage and faces daunting financial and technological obstacles. Solar power’s supporters say it will take ten years for it to become economically competitive, and while undersea cables to Sicily and Spain are planned for construction in 2010-2012, it is not known how they will be financed.
As the world grows increasingly anxious about climate change and dwindling fossil fuels, ideas that once sounded like science fiction are becoming ever more plausible.
The EU last year set a mandatory target of producing 20 per cent of its energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020, and there are also big political imperatives in play.

GM offers Gordon Brown deal on green cars

By Andrew English, Motoring Correspondent
Last Updated: 10:50pm BST 22/07/2008

General Motors offered Prime Minister Gordon Brown a deal - support our green cars in Europe and we'll build them in the UK.
The US giant, which owns Vauxhall, is seeking a sponsor to gain extra credits against stiff new European fuel consumption targets.

It wants the British Government to support its plan for a "super credit" in return for a commitment to build its new Flexstream Hybrid at Vauxhall's Ellesmere Port factory, which employs 2,200 staff building Astra cars and vans.
"It's a matter of give and take," said General Motors Europe President Carl-Peter Forster. "If the Government supports our idea for super credits, we would consider putting the Flexstream into Ellesmere Port."
The Prime Minister was visiting the opening day of the London International Motor Show when he met Mr Forster, other motor industry bosses and representatives from the Electricity Generating Companies for a 45-minute meeting on environmental technologies and electric cars.
More on autos
Mr Forster showed Mr Brown over the Flexstream project, a hybrid vehicle that uses a main rechargeable lithium-ion battery with a small biofuel motor to charge the battery.
It is sighted for launch in the US in 2010 and Europe in 2011 at a price of about £33,000.
"He asked how many we could build by 2011/2012," said Mr Forster, "I said about 30,000 in Europe, with up to 10pc of our fleet (about 220,000 vehicles) two years after that. He was clearly not satisfied with this, it was not enough, and he was looking for more."

GM, 30 utilities join to study impact of next-generation rechargeable electric cars

The Associated Press
Published: July 22, 2008

SAN JOSE, California: General Motors Corp. has joined with more than 30 utility companies across the U.S. to help work out electricity issues that will crop up when it rolls out new electric vehicles in a little more than two years.
The Detroit automaker said the partnership, which includes the Electric Power Research Institute and large utilities such as Southern California Edison and Duke Energy Corp., will deal with issues from tax incentives for the vehicles to where and when they can be plugged in for recharging.
GM is working to bring the Chevrolet Volt rechargeable car to showrooms in late 2010. It's being designed to run on an electric motor powered by lithium-ion batteries. When fully charged, it will be able to go 40 miles on battery power. For longer trips, a small internal combustion engine will recharge the batteries to keep the Volt moving.
"This vehicle is real. It's coming into production," said Britta Gross, a GM engineer who is helping to build the infrastructure for cars of the future. "We know that when the vehicle is in the showroom and ready for sale, it's got to work seamlessly with the infrastructure. It's the whole picture. We've got to make sure the infrastructure is ready."
GM and the utilities planned to announcement the partnership Tuesday at a conference on plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in San Jose.

The consortium will work on everything from policy issues including tax incentives for purchasing what is likely to be an expensive car to whether the electric generation system can handle the increased power demand.
The cars will have to be designed so recharging them can be timed to low-demand periods for electricity, Gross said. The speed of the recharging, voltage, amperage and other issues all have to be worked out, she said. The group also will address issues such as how apartment dwellers can charge their cars and where the vehicles will be charged at work or on trips — and who pays for the electricity, Gross said.
"We want this to sell in just huge volumes, so we want to get it right," she said.
A team of GM engineers and designers is working on the Volt, hoping to be the leader in plug-in electric vehicles. Other automakers, including Toyota Motor Corp., also are working on similar vehicles.
GM already is showing Volt prototypes to focus groups and is testing a new generation of batteries that can carry enough juice to run the vehicles 40 miles (64 kilometers). It is being designed so it can be recharged from a conventional household electrical outlet.
But the car will be priced anywhere from $30,000 to $40,000, far more expensive than most conventional cars.
The group, Gross said, likely will seek government tax incentives for buyers because of the benefits the car brings to society, such as lowered greenhouse gas emissions and reduced dependence on foreign oil.
"The price to the consumer has got to be affordable," she said.
Utilities, she said, can benefit from the cars because they will sell more electricity during off-peak hours when they have idle generating capacity.
But automakers and utilities will have to work out ways to decide how to stagger recharging so local substations do not become overloaded, Gross said.
The Volt likely will need about 8 kilowatt-hours of energy to recharge, Gross said. The average U.S. utility charges about 10 cents per kilowatt-hour, so it would cost the consumer about 80 cents to go the 40 miles (64 kilometers), she said.

GM eyes Merseyside plant for electric car

By John Griffiths
Published: July 23 2008 03:00

Vauxhall's Ellesmere Port plant on Merseyside is being studied as the possible European production centre for General Motors' revolutionary Volt electric car, it emerged yesterday.
The Volt, which is powered by advanced batteries and an electric motor coupled to a small petrol engine to extend its range, has potential fuel costs as low as £100 a year. It is due to be launched in North America in 2010.
The prospect of the Merseyside plant being used for the venture was raised yesterday by Carl-Peter Forster, president of GM Europe, after a meeting with Gordon Brown at the British motor show. The prime minister announced the government would put up £90m in funding over the next five years to support electric, hybrid and other environmentally clean car projects.
Mr Forster, who said GM would be "seriously considering" Ellesmere Port, indicated that a climate of tangible government goodwill towards the project would be influential in making a decision.
To date GM has given no estimates of likely production volumes for the Volt either in North America or Europe. However, there is much enthusiasm within GM for the project, which offers potentially substantial reductions in carbon dioxide emissions while freeing drivers from some of the pain of soaring petrol and diesel prices. Company officials said that only a single European plant would be required to build the Volt under all three of its planned brand names: Opel, Vauxhall and Chevrolet.
Well advanced in its development, the Volt has a range of 40-50 miles on batteries alone after a four-hour charge, but can travel much further as a result of additional engine - petrol or diesel - kicking in to provide recharging on the move.
There is considerable industry research to suggest that a large percentage of motorists cover an average of less than 50 miles in a day. Anyone fitting this category could therefore have an annual fuel bill for off-peak electricity of less than £150, GM engineers believe.
Company executives indicated to the FT yesterday that the Volt could have a list price in the UK of around £20,000, several thousand pounds dearer than an equivalent petrol or diesel Astra. However this could be fairly quickly offset by reduced fuel costs, exemption from congestion charges and much lower vehicle excise duty.
The Volt is claimed to emit little more than 50 grammes of carbon dioxide per kilometre, less than half that of a "hybrid" vehicle.
The £90m investment plan was the most important of a raft of initiatives to encourage "green" motoring at the show at London's ExCel Centre in Docklands, where the prime minister, Ruth Kelly, transport secretary, and John Hutton, business secretary, met automotive and energy industry executives.
Setting out the prospect of large-scale installation of electric vehicle charging points in "thousands" of British streets, Gordon Brown said the oil price surge had opened up "a huge opportunity for technological innovation . . . a once-in-a-generation opportunity". Industry and government officials suggest electric car recharging could become an opportunity for supermarkets and other retail outlets.
Richard Milne talks to the head of GM Europe at
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

MPs urge emissions deadlines for power stations

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Carsten Koall/Getty
Cleaner coal is being touted by the coal lobby as an alternative to oil

The Government must set a deadline for coal-fired power stations to install technology to massively cut their emissions or be shut down, a committee of MPs urged today.
The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) said "urgent and ambitious" steps were needed to develop measures to capture and store underground the carbon produced by burning fossil fuels. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) can cut emissions by as much as 90%, and power stations should face limits of that order to ensure it is employed.
The Government is "very unlikely" to meet its own greenhouse gas reduction targets unless it sets a deadline after which unabated emissions from power stations are outlawed, the MPs said. The EAC said CCS had the potential to contribute significantly to reducing emissions both domestically and internationally.
But even with the promise of CCS - which is not yet commercially available - coal should be seen as a last resort in the UK, the committee warned. "The possibility of CCS should not be used as a fig leaf to give unabated coal-fired power stations an appearance of environmental respectability," an EAC report on carbon capture and storage published today said. The committee said it was concerned the Government was considering a new era of coal power stations because it was the easy option, warning such an approach was extremely dangerous.
With no certainty over when the technology will be commercially available, plans to develop new coal-fired power stations will lock the country into a high-emissions future, the MPs said. The committee criticised suggestions that coal-fired power stations could be given planning permission if they were "capture ready", meaning the technology could be installed later. Such a measure would be meaningless unless the Government put a requirement on all power generators to fit CCS as soon as it was available and continued investing in the technology.
The committee also said it was "extremely disappointed" with the progress on carbon capture and storage, with the Government backing proposals for just one demonstration plant. Ministers must give the development of the technology much higher priority, they urged. The committee's chairman Tim Yeo said: "Carbon capture and storage has undoubted potential, but there is a real question about when it will become technologically and, equally importantly, commercially viable. "We cannot afford to develop new coal-fired power stations when we have no guarantee about when they will be fitted with CCS, if at all. "It is absolutely crucial for the Government to take a strong line on this. It must tell the industry that carbon capture and storage will be required and that coal-fired power stations will not be permitted to operate unabated.
"By setting a deadline for power stations to meet a certain emissions standard, the development and deployment of CCS will be given a much needed push in the right direction, and the environmental damage caused by these stations will be minimised."
The report's recommendations were welcomed by the World Development Movement, which has been campaigning against the construction of new coal-fired power stations in the UK - such as the one planned for Kingsnorth in Kent. Tim Jones, climate policy officer at WDM, said: "The Government should be closing down dirty coal power stations, not allowing new ones to be built. "And the Government certainly should not be relying on carbon capture and storage - an unproven technology - to justify new coal power stations. New coal power stations must not be allowed to go ahead without carbon capture technology. If even one new coal power station goes ahead without CCS, the UK will almost certainly miss its own carbon reduction targets."
Following the report's publication, Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said: "Gordon Brown must now show he has the courage to tackle the threats of energy security, climate change and high energy prices by introducing tough new standards for power stations that limit global warming emissions. And, in doing so, he must rule out current plans for Kingsnorth. Any rational energy policy must aim to exploit the efficiency benefits of combined heat and power or potentially in the future carbon capture and storage alongside renewables and energy efficiency."
The Royal Society urged the Government to only give the go-ahead for new coal-fired power stations on the condition that they will lose their permit to operate if the plant fails to capture 90% of its CO2 emissions by 2020. The Society's president, Martin Rees, said: "This will give a clear signal to industry and provide the conditions in which the Government and industry can work together to take a lead on developing a very valuable technology."
Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks said he was pleased the committee had recognised the steps the UK was taking towards developing clean coal technology, with the demonstration plant and a strong record on research and development. "We are committed to the development and deployment of CCS technology and we intend to be one of the first countries in the world to demonstrate the technology on a coal-fired station at a commercial scale," he said.
Mr Wicks said coal would remain a vital part of the global energy mix, and its flexibility would play a crucial role in backing up renewable energy capacity and providing a stable electricity supply. The report said the Government should not rely on the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to excuse any increase in emissions that new coal-fired power stations would create.
But Mr Wicks said: "The EU ETS caps the electricity generation industry's emissions across Europe so any new coal fired capacity would not add any thing to total carbon emissions. "The key is to get the level of the cap right. The Government support current proposals for the cap to tighten year on year from 2013 - by 2020, the cap would be 21% below 2005 emission levels."

Greening the streets

There are times when the issue of climate change seems so huge, so daunting, there is a temptation to want to thrust the entire problem of dealing with it on to international organisations and governments. They have the clout, if they are prepared to use it, to make a difference. By comparison the contribution of the individual is just a drop in the (rising) ocean.
Not so. British Gas and the Institute for Public Policy Research thinktank are conducting a "green streets" trial - a year-long experiment to demonstrate how much energy families can save.
Five months in and results from the 64 families taking part are encouraging. Energy usage is down by nearly 30% and carbon emissions have dropped.
Granted, not everyone has the readies to rush out and buy a new highly efficient boiler, install solar panels or the latest word in home insulation (though the IPPR has some interesting maths to back the investment case).
However, the experiment is drawing attention to some simple ways of changing our behaviour to minimise energy use: not over-filling the kettle, washing clothes at lower temperatures, turning the lights off and not leaving electrical equipment on stand-by.
It all sounds just so insignificant. But "Green Streets" suggests it does make a difference - both to fuel bills and the environment.

Arctic lake a laboratory for studying climate change's effects on ecosystem

McClatchy newspapers,
Tuesday July 22, 2008

Scientist Anne Hershey paddled a small inflatable raft across an arctic lake, pausing in her stroke to consider how the melting permafrost caused a landslide of mud and sediment spilling down the bank into the water.
Since the bank collapsed two years ago, the water has grown cloudy with sediment, providing scientists a natural laboratory for studying how warmer temperatures may play out in ecosystems far and near.
Global air and water temperatures are inching up, causing seas to warm and expand, and polar ice to melt. Alaska is warming more quickly than lower latitudes of the United States, so scientists can observe changes from global warming here first. The average annual temperature in arctic Alaska has increased about 4 degrees Fahrenheit in 50 years, according to the Alaska Climate Research Center.
Hershey, an aquatic ecologist at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, heads a team of researchers who are studying arctic lakes and how the surrounding landscapes affect what lives in them. Increasingly, a focus of their research is the effects of climate change.
"As time has gone on, it's become more and more important," Hershey said. "The Arctic is very sensitive to climate change. We're experiencing that."
Hershey, 55, has spent parts of nearly every summer at Toolik Field Station in northern Alaska since she was a graduate student at North Carolina State University in the late 1970s.
Toolik - its name is the Eskimo word for "loon," the water bird whose tremulous cries provide a summer evening soundtrack - houses scientists trying to develop a blueprint of the Arctic ecosystem. A hodgepodge of large tents and drab-green laboratory trailers sits beside the research outpost about 150 miles south of the Arctic Ocean.
The surrounding grassy tundra is pocked with thousands of pristine glacial lakes undisturbed by development and beyond the reach of roads. As a result, the lakes are accessible only by foot or aircraft such as a helicopter.
Such unspoiled ecosystems are ideal laboratories for Hershey and other scientists.
"We can really understand basic science because the lakes are not affected by many aspects of human activity," said Hershey, who has studied about 200 lakes in the region.
One of the things researchers might expect to see is that the sediment from the collapsing lake banks could add more organic matter to the lakes. That would affect what grows in them, including algae and the creatures that feed on algae. So far, Hershey said, they haven't observed that, but they're still studying it.
"It could be the lakes are changing as a result of climate change, but not in ways that were expected," she said.
While Hershey collected water samples from different depths of the lake for analysis, graduate student Matt Bostick of Greensboro lowered a heavy steel tube into a different part of the lake to collect cores of sediment.
Bostick, 27, is comparing differences in methane gas levels between undisturbed arctic lakes and lakes where melting permafrost is dumping extra organic matter from decomposed plants.
Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, more than 20 times as potent at trapping heat in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Any methane that is not consumed by microorganisms in the lake would go up in the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.
"The thermokarsts are getting bigger in the lakes," Bostick said, referring to the phenomenon of collapsing banks along rivers and lakes. "This is something I can see. It seems to be such a rapid process."
Hershey said it appears that methane is becoming a more important part of the diet of bacteria and animals that eat bacteria in the lakes, but they're studying how climate change is contributing.
"That's science," Hershey said. "That's what we're doing up here, trying to find answers to these questions."

Green Streets project reduces carbon footprint and energy bills

Paul Eccleston
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 23/07/2008
Families taking part in a greener living experiment have made big cuts in their carbon footprint.

Organisers of the Green Streets challenge say if all UK households did the same the UK could save £4.6bn on energy bills.Green Streets, a year-long social experiment in energy saving, is organised by British Gas and monitored by the think-tank Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR), and involves 64 families in eight different cities.
Interim results based on the first five months of the Challenge reveal the best performing households managed to achieve savings on gas of more than 50 per cent.
Families who live in the Green Streets - a mix of British Gas customers and other energy suppliers - were given a budget of £30,000 per street to spend on energy efficiency measures, with advice from British Gas energy experts.
The street which produces the best energy and CO2 savings figures over a year will win £50,000 to spend on making a community building more energy efficient.

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The savings they have produced so far are a result of installing energy efficient technology such as better insulation, solar panels and modern boilers working alongside simple energy saving behavioural changes.
British Gas and ippr claim the success of the experiment points the way to how the UK can reach the legally-binding government target of reducing CO2 emissions by 20 per cent on 1990 levels by 2010.
Analysis of the results so far found:
The highly-motivated households almost halved their energy use;
Expert advice on energy efficiency helped lead to sustained interest and behaviour change;
Behavioural change can be as important as new equipment - one London household reduced its gas use by 45 per cent by installing loft insulation and thermostatic heating controls;
Green Streets produced better community spirit and neighbourliness, bringing together neighbours who hadn't met before and creating both peer pressure and support to maintain energy efficient behaviour.
The success of the Challenge has led to organisers making three specific recommendations:
1. The adoption and extension of neighbourhood energy advisers scheme with one adviser for every 20 streets. IPPR say 10,000 advisers would cost £500m per year but would produce potential savings of £4.6bn.
2. The creation of new green mortgage packages by banks and energy companies to pay for the installation of energy saving technology. A £524 package for cavity wall and loft insulation, paid for under a 7 per cent APR finance package on a three year loan, would pay for itself within the three years and generate a £395 return on the investment every year after that.
3. Communities rather than individual households should be offered incentives to change their behaviour possibly through a £4m annual national energy saving prize-fund.
A clear policy framework and Government funding would be needed to underpin the recommendations and providing regulation and incentives for energy companies to invest in making them happen.
Chart showing precentage of energy use reduction
The report's author Matthew Lockwood, Senior Fellow in the Climate Team at the IPPR, said: "If the UK is to meet its target of reducing CO2 emissions by 20 per cent from 1990 to 2010, and by 60 per cent by 2050, radical new approaches to public policy will be needed.
"We need to recognise that three in four of the homes we will live in by 2050 have already been built. If we want householders to make up front investments in energy efficiency equipment that will curb bills and emissions for years to come, we will need creative approaches to financing the installation of energy efficiency measures in our homes."
Phil Bentley, managing director, British Gas, said: "The UK now buys energy on the world market and competes toe to toe with countries prepared to pay higher prices than we've seen before. Reducing energy consumption is the single most important thing households can do to reduce bills and cut emissions.
"With our advice and assistance, Green Streets households have saved up to 30 per cent on their energy use in just five months. The challenge for everyone is to see if they can do the same, and this report shows what we can all achieve."
Streets participating in 'Green Streets'
A representative cross section of residents (including British Gas and non-British Gas customers) from each of the following streets have been participating in British Gas' Green Streets challenge:
Greenend Road, Chiswick, London W4Green Street, Middleton, Greater Manchester M24Green Lane, Great Barr, Birmingham B43Green Lane, Southampton, S031Green Lane, Leeds, LS16Colinton Mains Green, Edinburgh, E13Green Park Road, Plymouth, PL9Greenway Road, Cardiff, CF31

Coal-fired power stations will lock UK into a high-emissions future, say MPs

· Energy CO2 capture must be made mandatory, report urges · Protesters target planned plant in Kent next month
David Adam and Terry Macalister
The Guardian,
Tuesday July 22, 2008

No clean-coal plant that buries carbon has yet been built to replace coal-fired power stations such as Drax in North Yorkshire. Photograph: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images
The government will come under increased pressure today to ban new coal-fired power stations such as the one planned for Kingsnorth in Kent unless they are equipped to trap and store carbon pollution underground, as a committee of MPs publishes a critical report.
The environmental audit committee urges ministers to make it clear that coal power plants that do not fit carbon capture and storage (CCS) equipment will be closed down. It says the government must set a deadline, after which the operation of unabated coal-fired power stations should not be permitted.
Tim Yeo, chairman of the committee, said: "We cannot afford to develop new coal-fired power stations when we have no guarantee about when they will be fitted with CCS, if at all."
A failure to set such a deadline would make it difficult for the UK to meet carbon-reduction targets, the committee said.
The government is debating whether to allow the German-owned utility E.ON to press ahead with a new coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth in Kent. The company wants to proceed with the scheme, promising to fit CCS later if it can be proved to be technically and financially viable.
Environmentalists see the Kent project as a vital test of the government's green credentials and want Kingsnorth given the go-ahead only if CCS is installed. Greenpeace believes the environmental audit committee's conclusions support its case and leaves the government with its back against the wall.
John Sauven, Greenpeace's executive director, said: "Gordon Brown must now show he has the courage to tackle the threats of energy security, climate change and high energy prices by introducing tough new standards for power stations that limit global-warming emissions. And, in doing so, he must rule out current plans for Kingsnorth."
Last month, David Cameron said a future Conservative government would impose such emissions restrictions, to in effect ban new coal plants without CCS.
Today's report said CCS technology could "contribute significantly to emissions reductions" and could play a decisive role in the battle against global warming. But that progress has been "regrettably slow".
No full-scale CCS project that buries pollution from a power plant has yet been built, though the UK government is running a competition that aims to demonstrate the technology by 2014.
Supporters say the technology could remove 90% of the carbon emissions from coal and will be critical in developing countries such as India and China. However, critics say it is unproven and that governments have underestimated the scale and expense of the vast infrastructure that would be needed.
Even with the promise of CCS, the committee warned that coal should be seen as a last resort in the UK. The committee said the government could be considering a new era of coal-fired power stations because it was the easy option, and warned that such an approach was extremely dangerous.
With no certainty about when the technology will be commercially available, the MPs said, plans to develop new coal-fired power stations would lock the country into a high-emissions future.
Tim Jones, climate policy officer at the World Development Movement, which campaigns against new coal-fired plants, said: "The government should be closing down dirty coal-power stations, not allowing new ones to be built. And the government certainly should not be relying on carbon capture and storage to justify new coal-power stations." Next month's planned climate protest camp will target the Kingsnorth site.
The Royal Society wrote to ministers in April to suggest that new coal-fired power stations were only allowed on the condition that they lose their permit to operate if they failed to capture 90% of carbon dioxide emissions by 2020.
Sir Martin Rees, president of the society, said: "This will give a clear signal to industry and provide the conditions in which the government and industry can work together to take a lead on developing a very valuable technology."
The energy minister, Malcolm Wicks, said he was "pleased" that the environmental audit committee recognised the steps Britain had taken towards developing clean coal technology with the UK carbon capture and storage demonstration project, but insisted that coal was vital for the future.
"We are committed to the development of CCS technology and we intend to be one of the first countries to demonstrate the technology for a coal-fired station on a commercial scale," he said. "Coal is and will remain a vital part of the global energy mix, and this will be the case for many years to come."
Which plants meet EU directives
Plants with sulphur and Nox filters
Drax (Drax Power) 3,960MW; Eggborough (British Energy) 2,000; Cottam (EDF) 2,000; Ferrybridge (SSE) 1,000; Fiddlers Ferry (SSE) 2,000; Ratcliffe (E.ON) 2,000; Rugeley (International Power) 1,000; West Burton (EDF) 2,000; Longannet (Scottish Power) 2,304; Aberthaw (RWE npower) 1,500; Kilroot (AES) 520; Uskmouth (Uskmouth Power) 393. Total 20,677MW
Opted out - due to close by 2015
Ferrybridge (SSE) 1,000; Didcot A (RWE nPower) 2,000; Tilbury (RWE npower) 1,520; Kingsnorth (E.ON) 2,000; Ironbridge (E.ON) 1,000; Cockenzie (Scottish Power) 1,152. Total 8,672MW

Lack of funds limits potential of carbon capture

By James Kanter
Published: July 23, 2008

PARIS: There is such a buzz around renewable energy that you might think these technologies are developing fast enough to meet the majority of our power needs in coming decades. Think again.
The use of wind, solar and geothermal energy is growing rapidly, but from very low levels in many of the most energy-hungry nations. Fossil fuels make up two-thirds of the global energy mix and would still make up almost half by midcentury - even under scenarios where annual emissions are kept at the same level as today. That is why many experts say developing technologies to capture carbon dioxide and store it deep underground in empty wells and aquifers is critical in the fight against climate change.
"There will be a dramatic increase in the number of windmills and solar facilities in coming years and there will be more nuclear, but this is not enough" said Cecilia Tam, an economist at the International Energy Agency. "We still will be dependent on fossil fuels to keep the lights on, and that means deep emission reductions simply won't be possible without using carbon-capture technologies."
Statoil of Norway is already pumping under the seabed significant quantities of unwanted carbon dioxide from a natural gas field. Sonatrach, the Algerian natural gas and oil company, has a similar project to store unwanted carbon dioxide at its In Salah field. In Canada, EnCana, an energy company, injects unwanted carbon dioxide piped from a coal gasification plant in the United States into its Weyburn, Saskatchewan, field to make it easier to recover hard-to-reach oil.
These and other experiments show that carbon dioxide can be trapped underground with little or no leakage. But commercial-scale facilities to capture and bury the carbon emitted by utilities and installations like refineries still do not exist. Two high-profile projects - one in Scotland led by the British oil company BP, and another in Illinois led by a consortium called FutureGen that includes the coal giant Xstrata - were dealt setbacks over the past year because of ballooning costs and shortfalls in public funding.

"The really striking thing is the tremendously powerful view that carbon capture has pride-of-place in the pantheon of low-carbon technologies, and yet it is the one that very little private money is going to," said Michael Grubb, the chairman of Climate Strategies and a professor at Cambridge University.
This seems odd.
Some of the wealthiest countries and companies in the world earned their riches producing and exporting fossil fuels. Some countries in the Gulf like the United Arab Emirates even are considering importing coal to meet their energy needs while selling their oil and gas at record prices on the global market.
If emitting carbon by burning fossil fuels becomes expensive or drastically restricted, then carbon-capture technologies could keep them in business. In fact, members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries have allocated funding for developing carbon capture. But generally, they say developing the technology is not their responsibility.
"We contributed to industrialization with cheap energy," Abdalla Salem el-Badri, the secretary general of OPEC, said in an interview this month. "The world should not forget our contribution."
OPEC members include developing and poor countries like Angola and Nigeria, and they "cannot solve the problems of the world," he added.
Companies like Royal Dutch Shell, the second most profitable company in the world last year after Exxon Mobil, also are contributing resources to carbon capture. But they say it is too soon to make the technology mandatory, and that public - meaning taxpayer - support is vital.
"The scale of this activity is simply enormous," said Graeme Sweeney, the executive vice president for future fuels and carbon dioxide at Shell. "It is difficult for private companies to solely shoulder that burden because the specific experiment they participate in may not be the winning experiment."
Sweeney is also chairman of the European Technology Platform on Zero Emission Fossil Fuel Power Plants, a coalition of European utilities, oil companies, scientists, and environmental groups that support technologies for carbon capture. According to that group, 10 to 12 demonstration plants - enough to test all the combinations of technologies to capture, transport and bury carbon dioxide, and choose the most efficient model - would cost as much as €10 billion, or about $16 billion.
Sweeney said he supported a proposal under consideration by the European Parliament to allocate free carbon credits to companies that participate in carbon-capture projects that can then be sold on the carbon market to raise funds for demonstration plants.
But that approach worried Grubb, the Cambridge professor. He said a more direct and transparent way to promote carbon capture in Europe would be for governments to allocate directly money that is raised from auctioning carbon allowances, rather than from an additional system of free allowances.
Beyond Europe, Grubb said, there could be further stagnation in the development of carbon capture technologies unless many more parts of the world moved swiftly to introduce laws making polluting more expensive.
Some fossil fuel companies and exporting countries "are not yet convinced that governments have the guts to impose a carbon price that would make carbon capture a viable proposition," he said.

From mph to mpg: Motor industry displays its eco credentials

Patrick Barkham at ExCel, London
The Guardian,
Wednesday July 23, 2008

With its muscular sports cars presented by curvaceous models, the British International Motor Show has always been a shrine to the power of the internal combustion engine. But petrolheads will be shocked by the sacrilegious centrepiece of this year's show: a green "village" crowded with dinky electric cars, electric bicycles, and even a Lotus Eco Elise partly made out of hemp.
Mph and bhp are out. Mpg and grams of CO2 per km are the statistics every manufacturer is shouting about. On pedestals where gull-winged V8s used to revolve, now stand hydrogen and hybrid machines with dashboard components made from cork; the manufacturer's boast is that it is the only wood that can be harvested without killing the tree.
Faced with rising fuel prices, a growing consciousness of carbon tyreprints, and lower revenues (car sales fell by 6.1% last month compared with June 2007), does this motor show mark the end of our passion for the petrol engine?
"The new technology is exciting people as much as the supercars this time, and that's really good to see," said Nikki Rooke of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
Lotus's Eco Elise features solar power for its electrics, hemp body panels, seats upholstered in wool, sisal carpets, and water-based paint. The design of Citroen's C-Cactus uses 60% fewer parts for its interior. Cadillac's Provoq uses a hydrogen fuel cell. Mercedes are showcasing the electric Smart car.
Every manufacturer, regardless of its carbon emissions, is getting in on the act. In front of photos of trees, Land Rover is displaying a fleet of Range Rovers (turbo diesel, V8, 294g/CO2 per km; the car industry's modest target is a new-vehicle average below 140g per km by 2020). For its wealthy customers, it claims it is "working hard to protect the richness of the world we live in".
Even Hummer, its stand tucked away behind General Motors' lavish "fuel for thought" stand promoting hydrogen power, has a green offering: the Hummer HX. It features a 3.6 litre V6 "highly economical, lightweight aluminium engine," said Simon Prior, product manager for Hummer, Cadillac and Corvette, with a straight face.
He denied its parent, General Motors, is embarrassed by this symbol of gas-guzzling excess: "Hummer has been very successful for us. It's a very iconic brand. Taking that forward with more fuel-efficient engines and diesel engines in Europe is a very positive view."
Every large cloud of oil-based emission, it seems, has a green lining. During a presentation, the man from Morgan, the classic sports car manufacturer, claims a Cardiff University study found its vehicles to be a more environmentally correct purchase than a Prius, because they were so long-lasting, and its bespoke manufacturing used relatively little energy.
The green concept cars look impressive, but they are all years away from production. Cadillac's Provoq is still "15 to 20 years away", according to General Motors. Even Mercedes' electric Smart will not be in production until 2010 - and the familiar Smart car was designed for electric power anyway.
In the electric village, most of the vehicles are still cottage industries in comparison with the major marques. One company says it was "begged" by show organisers to set up an exhibit to help boost its green credentials.
Away from the electric village, the real motor show is still alive and revving. Every green offering is more than matched with an ungreen one. On one side of the show, Lotus shows off its Eco Elise; on the other, two women in revealing cocktail dresses present its new Evora sports car in the traditional motor show manner.
That's nothing compared with the red Corvette ZR1 6.2 V8, which does 205mph, or the Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT 4.2 V8, which will reach 167mph.
Everyone connected with the industry denies it has been slow to investigate climate-saving forms of power. Tom Morrison-Jones of Mercedes stressed that it takes millions of pounds and several years to develop new production lines. "It's not possible to bring in an electric car at the flick of a switch," he said.
Price war at the pumps
Supermarkets started a petrol price war yesterday. Asda announced a 3p cut on a litre of unleaded and diesel. Morrisons' followed with a 4p cut. Sainsbury's launched a two-week promotion offering 5p off for customers spending £50 or more in its stores, while Tesco said it was lowering prices by up to 4p. BP, which owns 223 petrol stations across the UK, said it would reduce prices by an average of 1p.

US utilities say grid will be able to handle rechargeable cars

The Associated Press
Published: July 23, 2008

SAN JOSE, California: Which draws more juice from the electric grid, a big-screen plasma television or recharging a plug-in hybrid car?
The answer is the car. But the electricity drawn by plasma televisions is easing the minds of utility company executives across the nation as they plan for what is likely to be a conversion of much of the United States' vehicle fleet from gasoline to electricity in the coming years.
Rechargeable cars, industry officials say, consume about four times the electricity as plasma TVs. But the industry already has dealt with increased electric demand from the millions of plasma TVs sold in recent years. Officials say that experience will help them deal with the vehicle fleet changeover.
So as long as the changeover from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles is somewhat gradual, they should be able to handle it in the same way, Mark Duvall, program manager for electric transportation, power delivery and distribution for the Electric Power Research Institute, said Tuesday.
"We've already added to the grid the equivalent of several years' production of plug-in hybrids," Duvall said at a conference on electric vehicles in San Jose. "The utilities, they stuck with it. They said, 'All right, that's what's happening. This is where the loads are going, and we're going to do this.'"

Automakers, such as General Motors Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp., are planning to bring rechargeable vehicles to the market as early as 2010. But speakers at the Plug-In 2008 conference say it will take much longer for them to arrive in mass numbers, due in part to a current lack of large-battery manufacturing capacity. Auto and battery companies still are working on the lithium-ion battery technology needed for the cars, and on how to link the battery packs to the vehicles.
"We see the vehicle penetration levels coming at a rate that's manageable," said Efrain Ornelas, environmental technical supervisor with Pacific Gas and Electric Co. in San Francisco. "It's not like tomorrow the flood gates are going to open and 100,000 vehicles are going to come into San Francisco or something like that."
Instead, the vehicles will show up by the thousands throughout Northern California, he predicted. PG&E will be able to track their charging patterns and plan accordingly for the future, he said.
Utility officials say they already are coping with increased demand, especially during peak-use periods in the afternoon and early evening. But the rest of the day, most utilities have excess generating capacity that could be used to recharge cars.
But the preparation doesn't mean electric vehicles will be accommodated without problems and good planning, the officials say.
Since most electric cars will likely be charged during off-peak electric use times, utilities should have no problem generating enough electricity. But since people with the means to buy electric cars likely will live in the same areas, utilities worry about stress on their distribution systems, Ornelas said.
That means consumers will face a lot of choices about when and where they charge up their cars and how much they want to pay for the electricity.
The choice for consumers will come because utilities likely will raise rates to charge cars during peak use times, generally from around noon to 8 p.m., and lower them for charging during low-use hours, industry officials say.
In California, utilities already are installing meters that track use by time of day. PG&E charges 30 cents per kilowatt hour to charge an electric vehicle during peak hours, he said, but charges only 5 cents from midnight to 7 p.m.
Duvall said utilities still have to be wary that high gasoline prices could push sales of rechargeable electric vehicles well into the millions by 2020, because that could stress the system. Other possible problems include electric vehicles getting larger and requiring far more electricity for recharging, and demands from people that their vehicles be recharged quickly, drawing more electricity during peak times.
Also, companies such as the Campbell-based Coulomb Technologies, are starting to develop recharging stations for sale to parking lot operators, office buildings and cities, which will draw more electricity.
There's also talk of the cars storing electricity and sending it back to the power companies during peak times, but officials say that's a long way off.
Industry officials say they can manage the fleet changeover as the cars and the utilities each have computers in place to manage when the cars are recharged.
"From our perspective I think it's something that's really manageable," said Ornelas.

London Motor Show power players quick to emphasise their green credentials

Christine Buckley, Industrial Editor

Two hundred special Minis will hit the road next year as drivers from BMW’s Oxford plant put the latest developments in hybrid technology to the test.
The news emerged yesterday at the London Motor Show, which opens today at ExCel, in Docklands, as General Motors (GM) also put hybrid technology at the top of its agenda. The giant carmaker held out the prospect of its electric hybrid car being manufactured at its Ellesmere Port factory. Until now production of the Volt, due to go on sale in 2010, had been planned for the United States only.
Carl-Peter Forster, head of GM’s European operations, said that the company could consider making it on Merseyside as well, particularly if the Government backed its aims on emission reductions in Europe.
GM wants Europe to give emissions “super credits” to carmakers that manufacture vehicles with very low emissions. Mr Forster said that he had told Gordon Brown: “If you support us on super credits, we might consider Ellesmere Port. Initially, we had just considered the US, but we believe that it is important to have a relationship between industry and government.”

The prospects for more electric cars on the road were boosted at the show by the Prime Minister when he promised more government help to build up an infrastructure to allow easier battery-charging. EdF, the French power company, also attended a meeting with Mr Brown, Ruth Kelly, the Transport Secretary, and John Hutton, the Business Secretary, and leading carmakers. Its presence was an indication that the manufacturers are beginning to forge alliances with power companies as they look increasingly to alternative low-carbon sources of fuel.
Carmakers are concerned about the mileage range of battery-powered cars, however, and the lack of infrastructure. They are also concerned about Britain’s lack of battery technology and David Smith, managing director of Jaguar and Land Rover, said: “It is important that we develop that and the electric mechanisms that go with the battery.”
As the price of fuel soars, car manufacturers are putting resources into improving fuel consumption. Oliver Zipse, managing director of BMW’s Oxford plant, said that the efficiency of some of the Mini range had increased by 25 per cent over recent years.

Living in an eco-town will cost £500 a year extra

Developers plan to levy an annual charge on residents to pay for the subsidised bus travel they will need and management costs
Jill Sherman, Whitehall Editor

Householders wanting to live in Gordon Brown's pioneering eco-towns face service charges of more than £500 a year on top of their annual council tax bill.
Developers in several of the 13 proposed sites are planning to levy annual charges for subsidised bus travel and management costs to be paid to a local community trust.
The disclosure coincides with government proposals, to be published tomorrow, that only one person per household in eco-towns should drive to work. Developers will be expected to provide trams, buses, trains and jobs in a town to ensure that more than half of all journeys are made by bicycle, foot or public transport.
Residents would be expected to make a huge “behavioural change” to meet the targets and it is unclear who would fund the extra public transport.

The proposals will be announced by Caroline Flint, the Housing Minister, as part of a progress report setting out the key requirements of an eco-town.She will make clear that only developments adopting the toughest green standards will make it on to the final shortlist.
Yesterday the Local Government Association stated that the proposals were open to judicial review because ministers had imposed new planning guidelines to bypass councils and speed up developments.
Only one of the thirteen eco-towns on the present shortlist has been put forward by a town hall, with the rest submitted by developers.
Senior civil servants have so far been disappointed at the calibre of projects proposed, with many failing to tackle water supply, waste and particularly sustainable transport.
Under the new requirements, all eco-towns will have to achieve carbon neutrality across the development and all houses will have to be built at “code level 4” or higher, which would make them 44 per cent more energy efficient.
Reduced dependency on cars should allow 50 per cent of journeys to be made by walking, cycling and public transport compared with the current average of 13 per cent.
Developers have already pulled out of Curborough, Staffordshire, and New Marston, Bedfordshire, and the district council has pulled out of a development in Manby, Lincolnshire.
There is now uncertainty over the proposed eco-town at Hanley Grange near Cambridge, which faces strong local opposition.
Jarrow, the developers of Hanley Grange, and Tesco, which would have a store on the site, are considering offering a one-off “dowry” to a community trust made up of residents and parish councillors to safeguard the town.
“But this will be supplemented by an annual service charge for subsidising bus services and managing parks and open spaces,” Sebastian Hanley, a spokesman, said. Several other developers were also considering levies, he said, which would all be on top of council tax.
A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said that the charges would not be mandatory for eco-towns but developers would be allowed to impose them. “There will be carrots and sticks,” he said. “The sticks will include remote parking at town edges, charges for leaving town and fewer car parking spaces. When you live in an eco-town you will have to have big behavioural changes.”
Julie Redfern, chairman of the Stop Hanley Grange campaign, said that most of the opposition was because the site was totally inappropriate.
“We already have 43,000 homes proposed in this area. The roads are already congested and the new development will be built on a triangle of road-locked arable land. It will be too far to bicyle to Cambridge [12 miles, 19km] and extra buses will just add to congested roads.
“On top of that we are now being told we will be charged for parking, for taking cars out of the town and have to pay annual services on top of council tax. Nobody wants this development to happen,” she said.

Legal setback to eco-towns proposal

By Jean Eaglesham, Chief Political Correspondent
Published: July 23 2008 01:54

Gordon Brown’s plan to build up to 10 new “eco-towns” will on Wednesday suffer another setback, with the publication of lawyers’ advice suggesting the flagship scheme would be vulnerable to a legal challenge.
The advice, commissioned by the Local Government Association, is the latest blow to the scheme to build thousands of “green” new homes. A core pledge when Mr Brown moved into Number 10 last June, the proposal has become mired in controversy.

The Local Government Association will on Wednesday call on ministers to reconsider the process that will be used to approve the new towns. The legal opinion commissioned by the LGA warns that the government’s intention of using a new “planning policy statement” for the developments “is likely to be unlawful”.
The government approach “would be promoting a policy and process which would be inherently flawed,” according to the joint opinion by John Steel QC and James Strachan. It advises that there would be “sound grounds” for a local authority to seek a judicial review.
Opposition parties seized on the advice. “This must sound the death knell for the attempt to bypass the local planning process and local public opinion,” said Julia Goldsworthy, the Liberal Democrat local government spokesman.
Grant Shapps, the shadow housing minister, said Mr Brown’s “completely cack- handed” way of trying to railroad through the developments had undermined potential support.
But the department for communities and local government rejected the legal critique. “We absolutely disagree with the LGA’s claims and believe this legal advice can only have been obtained on the basis of a misrepresentation of our policy,” an official said. “Eco-towns will be different and will have higher environmental standards than a normal development and the applications will also have to be considered through the normal planning process.”
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008