Thursday, 23 October 2008

Power station to slash University of East Anglia's carbon emissions

PAWednesday, 22 October 2008

The University of East Anglia said today the launch of a biomass power station would slash its carbon emissions.
The university hopes the £8m plant will help it become the most sustainable campus in the country.
The power station, which will use locally-sourced wood chips, is expected to cut the university's emissions by a third after two years.
And, at a time of souring energy prices, the university said it should have paid for itself within five years.
Vice-chancellor Bill Macmillan today laid the first foundations for the scheme, expected to be up and running on at the Norwich-based university in about a year.
"As you would expect from a university with a world-renowned School of Environmental Sciences, we take our energy efficiency seriously and are committed to practising what we preach in tackling climate change," he said.
The university said wood chips would be "cooked" to produce gas used to generate "clean electricity" for the campus.

UN: Rebuild global economy through green investment

Terry Macalister,
Wednesday October 22 2008 13.00 BST

The United Nations today called for a refocusing of the world's economy towards investments in clean technologies and natural infrastructures such as forests in a Green New Deal that could revive the stumbling global economy, combat climate change, and cut poverty.
The UN's Environment Programme (UNEP) said the financial, fuel and food crises of 2008 highlighted the need for an innovative approach similar to the state-funded scheme used by US president Franklin D Roosevelt, in response to the Great Depression.
The organisation, supported by governments and top economists, is calling for - and believes it will achieve - decisive government action when finance ministers meet for the Financing for Development-Doha Review conference next month in New York.
"Transformative ideas need to be discussed and transformative decisions taken," said Achim Steiner, the US undersecretary general and UNEP executive director.
"The alternative is more boom and bust cycles; a climate-stressed world and a collapse of fish stocks and fertile soils up to forest ecosystems," he added.
It was only a matter of time before investments would begin pouring back into the global economy but they should no longer be aimed at the "old, extractive, short-term economy of tomorrow," but a new green economy that could provide opportunities for the poor and well-off alike, said Pavan Sukdhev.
Sukdhev, a head of global markets for Deutsche Bank, has been seconded to work on UNEP's Green Economy Initiative, which is funded with £2m of cash from the European commission, Germany and Norway and which draws strong links between ecosystem losses and the persistence of poverty in the developing world.
"The economic models of the 20th century are now hitting the limits of what is possible - possible in terms of delivering better livelihoods for the 2.6 billion people still living on less than $2 a day and possible in terms of our ecological footprint," explained Sukdhev.
The initiative highlights five sectors which are likely to offer the best payback in terms of economic returns, environmental sustainability and job creation.
These are clean energy and new technologies including recycling; rural energy including renewables and biomass; sustainable agriculture including organic cultivation; ecosystem infrastructure and reduced emissions from deforestation, and sustainable cities including green building and transport.
The UN points out that £150bn is spent annually on agricultural subsidies with very little going into reforestation. It says that roughly the same amount of public investment currently goes into energy - much to fossil fuels - yet 2 billion people globally do not have electricity, oil or gas to cook food and provide heat and light.
Sukhdev added: "Here you have some of the choices in a nutshell. If we are to lift 2.6 billion people living on less than $2 a day out of poverty, do we put them into making more and more motor cars, TVs and PCs, or do we invest in the protected area network and develop its potential for green and decent new jobs?"
An additional investment of £25bn a year in some 100,000 conservation areas worldwide would secure the £2.5tr worth of services provided by these natural assets "while generating millions of new jobs and securing livelihoods for rural and indigenous peoples," he said.
Andrew Simms, the policy director at the New Economics Foundation in London, which called this summer for its own Green New Deal, said the UNEP initiative was highly important.
"The UN report has seen what several governments, including our own have failed to. It's 'now or never,' with the clock ticking on the global oil economy and the countdown to a new, more perilous phase of climate upheaval. Instead of scrabbling to return the economy to business-as-usual, this could be our last chance save the economy and prevent environmental bankruptcy."
Last month, the UN published another major report, which claimed that far from destroying jobs, tackling climate change would boost employment.
The Green Jobs study was hailed as being crucial to overcoming global resistance from the labour movement, which for many years opposed the Kyoto agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions amid fears that members would lose their jobs.

EU presses China and India to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

European environment ministers urge developing countries to cut emissions by 15-30% under post-Kyoto climate change deal
David Gow in Brussels,
Wednesday October 22 2008 13.40 BST

The EU is pressing emerging economies such as China and India to agree to cut their greenhouse gas emissions under the proposed new post-Kyoto agreement on climate change.
European environment ministers this week urged developing countries to cut their emissions by 15-30% below "business as usual" under any new global deal to take effect from 2013.
Emerging economies are not bound by the current Kyoto protocol targets on the grounds that global warming is the result of emissions from rich nations and they should be allowed to enjoy catch-up growth.
But the EU now says they should agree to reduce their emissions compared to what would be released under accelerated economic growth, which is 9% in China. That would not mean absolute cuts, as is required of developed nations under Kyoto.
Senior Brussels officials say emerging economies would be asked first to slow the growth of their emissions and gradually reduce them as their contribution to achieving a global 50% cut on 1990 levels by 2050.
The new EU policy has been adopted in the run-up to the United Nations conference on climate change that will take place in Poznan, Poland, in early December. This is due to prepare the way for the final UN conference in Copenhagen at the end of next year.
Senior European commission officials, pointing particularly to China, acknowledge evidence that emerging economies are already taking measures to reduce their emissions.
They say that the new post-2012 targets have received a favourable response from these countries in the run-up to the Poznan meeting: "They welcome the clarity about what they may be expected to achieve."
The EU move comes as its own ambitious plans to cut its emissions by at least 20% by 2020, through increased use of renewable energy and greater energy efficiency, are in disarray because of the impact of the global financial crisis.
Earlier this week, environment ministers failed to resolve the impasse about how to distribute the financial burden of reaching the targets, how to exempt energy-intensive industries such as steel and cement from competition from emerging economies through so-called carbon leakage and to what extent "green energy" projects supported outside the EU should count towards meeting individual countries' targets.

Bureauracy, rules delay Indonesia CDM projects

Thursday October 23 2008

By David Fogarty, Climate Change Correspondent, Asia

SINGAPORE, Oct 23 (Reuters) - U.N.-backed carbon-offset projects in Indonesia are taking at least two years to yield saleable credits because of bureaucratic delays and complex rules, a manager at a global carbon project developer said.
A weak economy, limited government backing for projects under the Kyoto climate pact's Clean Development Mechanism, and lack of local knowledge about the scheme had also limited the number of projects in Southeast Asia's largest economy, which is running out of time to get projects approved under Kyoto.
"It's completely bureaucratic," said Renat Heuberger, managing partner of South Pole Carbon Asset Management told Reuters in Singapore on Wednesday.
"In addition to the complex rules, there are unnecessary delays at the host country level, validator level and at the U.N. level," said Heuberger, who spends much of his time based in Asia, particularly Indonesia.
He said his company could live with the rules.
But the recent changes in staffing and regulatory procedures at the CDM's Executive Board had led to months of delays this year for projects awaiting approval, at times over something as simple as a misformatted document.
"There are unbelieveable delays. It has become a complete gamble on when you get an answer after submitting documents," Heuberger said, adding it was damaging the reputation of the CDM.
The Executive Board has so far approved 1,186 CDM projects globally, most of them in Asia. India has 358 projects approved, China 282 and Indonesia 17.
But about 3,000 projects are awaiting approval by the board and changes in rules, tightening verification standards, have led to further delays.
Under the CDM, rich nations can offset their greenhouse gas emissions by investing in clean-energy projects in developing countries, yielding carbon offsets called CERs for the project developers.
Benchmark December 2008 CERs are currently trading around 16.65 Euros, off a year high of 23.38.
Under the CDM, project developers only receive their first batch of CERs from the date of registration, meaning the longer the approval time, the shorter the period for return.
The Kyoto Protocol's first phase ends in 2012 as does the CDM, but U.N.-led talks that conclude at the end of next year aim to broaden and extend Kyoto from 2013, despite growing uncertainty whether those talks will succeed.
Adding to the unease, the tightening credit crisis has slowed purchase of secondary carbon offsets and threatens to stymie financing for CDM projects across Asia, throwing in doubt the future flow of credits. About 70 percent of CERs originate from projects in Asia.
He said South Pole Carbon, a carbon project developer and advisory firm headquartered in Zurich, had nearly 20 CDM projects in Indonesia that he hoped would all be approved by the CDM Executive Board by the end of next year.
The largest of these was a natural gas power plant on Java island, where dirtier coal-fired power stations generate most of the electricity. The project would yield 700,000 CERs a year.
Other projects included small hydro-power plants, biogas from tapioca processing and the reduction of the use of powerful greenhouse gas PFC in an aluminium smelter in Sumatra. Most of these would yield between 50,000 and 70,000 CERs per year.
Heuberger said voluntary carbon-offset projects, which don't require U.N. approval, had also attracted interest from companies wanting to meet corporate social responsibility programmes.
He said Indonesia had huge amounts of biowaste from farming that could be used in biogas projects to generate electricity or create compost.
"The potential is big. But the projects aren't going to be massive," he explained, given Indonesia's decentralised governing structure and under-developed power network that made it hard to feed the national or regional grid from the biogas power plants.
He said South Pole Carbon had about 20 voluntary carbon-offset projects under development, and these usually took only about six months to yield offsets called VERs.
The first of these, a geothermal plant and hydro-power project, were set to deliver VERs later this year, in a range of 3 to 7 Euros, he said. (Euro=$1.283) (Editing by Jonathan Leff and Clarence Fernandez)

Call for energy 'supergrid'

Published Date: 23 October 2008

NICK Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, yesterday called for a "supergrid" across the North Sea to boost development of renewable energy.
He said an ambitious grid scheme – which could be extended across Europe – would meet energy demands in a more efficient, less harmful way than the current system, and would create jobs.Speaking at the British Wind Energy Association's annual conference, he said:"These are ambitious plans, I don't deny it. But ambition is precisely what we need."

Prime Minister promises to help doomed wind turbine factory

Published Date: 23 October 2008
By Ross Lydall

THE Prime Minister yesterday offered to help campaigners fighting the proposed closure of Scotland's only wind turbine factory.
Gordon Brown said he was aware that the loss-making Vestas factory near Campbeltown was being shut down, but promised to "endeavour to find out what I can do to help" in terms of finding new tenants for the site.He had been told at Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons that more than 90 jobs were at stake if the Danish owner completed its planned closure in December.Campaigners believe the closure is perverse at a time both the Westminster and Holyrood governments want to see a huge increase in onshore and off-shore energy from renewable sources such as wind power. Responding to a question from Alan Reid, the Liberal Democrat MP for Argyll and Bute, Mr Brown said: "The company is investing in another plant on the Isle of Wight, but the problem is due to the factory losing money. "I understand that the Scottish (Government's] Highlands and Islands Enterprise met the company and those who are trying to find other potential occupants of the site. I will endeavour to find out what I can do to help in this instance."Mr Reid said that he was "encouraged" by the Prime Minister's offer of help. Vestas believes it can meet the need for towers from its factories in Denmark.

Wind farms: Britain has enough offshore to provide power to 300,000

By Paul Eccleston
Last Updated: 11:01am BST 22/10/2008
Britain now has enough offshore wind farms to provide power to 300,000 homes, an energy conference has heard.

The completion of the latest wind farms off the Lincolnshire coast has taken the industry past the 3 gigawatts capacity mark.

Wind turbines: The north-east is where most of the offshore wind farms will be sited
Total wind capacity from onshore and wind farms at sea is enough to provide power for the equivalent of 1.5m homes, the British Wind Energy conference was told.In a special video message played at the London conference Gordon Brown said Britain had the best wind and wave resources in Europe and had now overtaken Denmark as the largest producer of offshore wind in the world.He said over the next 12 years the North Sea would become to offshore wind what the Gulf of Arabia is to oil production.
The Prime Minister also pledged that the economic crisis wouldn't derail Government plans for cleaner and cheaper forms of energy.
"You may have heard some people say that these difficult economic times should or will reduce the Government's commitment to building a low carbon economy. They should not and will not," he said.
"On the contrary, the investment and jobs we will create from our commitment to low carbon energy is one of the drivers that will bring us new prosperity."

Within the next decade offshore wind farms in Europe will be producing 40GW of power and about 50 per cent of the total will be in British waters.
Mr Brown told the conference that there was a potential £100bn market for renewable energy which would create huge opportunities and create 160,000 jobs.

UK announces world's largest algal biofuel project

Carbon Trust launches £26m project to develop transport fuels made from algae by 2020
Alok Jha, green technology correspondent,
Thursday October 23 2008 00.01 BST

Algal fuel growing in open ponds in Israel. Credit: Seambiotic
The world's biggest publicly funded project to make transport fuels from algae will be launched today by a government agency which develops low-carbon technologies.
The Carbon Trust will today announce a project to make algal biofuels a commercial reality by 2020. The plan could see up to £26m spent on developing the technology and infrastructure to ensure that algal biofuels replace a signficant proportion of the fossil fuels used by UK drivers.
Mark Williamson, innovations director at the Carbon Trust, said: "We must find a cost-effective and sustainable alternative to oil for our cars and planes if we are to deliver the deep cuts in carbon emissions necessary to tackle climate change. Algae could provide a significant part of the answer and represents a multibillion-pound opportunity."
Transport accounts for one-quarter of the UK's carbon emissions and is the fastest growing sector. Finding carbon-neutral fuels will be crucial to the government meeting its target to reduce overall emissions by 80% by 2050.
A recent review by the chairman of the Renewable Fuels Agency, Ed Gallagher, identified algae as a potential way to generate sustainable biofuels. Biofuels made from food crops have been blamed for rising food prices.
Algae produce a range of chemicals depending on their species and the environmental conditions in which they grow. View how the process works here. Scientists hope to find strains that can produce oils that could be used to make fuel for cars, as a replacement for petrol and diesel. Once identified, these algae could be grown in large amounts and processed to extract the useful oils.
John Loughhead, executive director of the UK Energy Research Council, said: "Algae are potentially attractive means to harvest solar energy: they reproduce themselves, so there's no manufacturing cost for the solar converter, they can live in areas not useful for food or similar productive use, they don't need clean or even fresh water so don't add to global water stress, and can give oils, biomass, or even hydrogen as a product. Perhaps they'll be the stem cells of the energy world."
The Carbon Trust forecasts that algae-based biofuels could replace more than 70 billion litres of fossil fuels used every year around the world in road transport and aviation by 2030, equivalent to 12% of annual global jet fuel consumption or 6% of road transport diesel. In carbon terms, this equates to an annual saving of more than 160m tonnes of CO2 globally with a market value of more than £15bn.
For the first stage of the project, the Carbon Trust will spend up to £6m in a range of British companies involved in promising algae research. "You can make algae with a very high oil content and you can make algae that grows very quickly and, at the moment, no one can do both," said Robert Trezona, R&D director at the Carbon Trust. Other problems include the best design of mass-culture systems.
John Benneman, a consultant on algae who has worked with the US Department of Energy and the International Energy Agency, said that it would take a multitude of approaches to fully realise the potential of algae. "There are many more different algae species than there are higher plant species so each algae will require specific effort. Each one will have its own peculiar requirements to figure out how to make them productive, how to get the right strains, how to harvest and process them. We cannot just depend on one or two companies."
The second phase of the project will start in around a year and involves scaling up the algae-growing operation. The Carbon Trust will build multi-hectare open ponds to act as laboratories for the most promising algae technologies identified in the early stages of the challenge. Due to the UK's gloomy weather, these will most likely be built abroad.
"If you I've got 12 months a year of warmth and sunshine, your algae farm just produces much more biomass. In a world where costs will be important, UK algae farms would have a real problem," said Trezona. This phase of the project could see the Carbon Trust, and interested partners from industry, investing up to £20m.
Loughhead welcomed the Carbon Trust project. "The critical aspect is that algae convert the energy of sunlight and the efficiency with which they do that determines the economic viability of the whole approach as sunlight is unhelpfully low in energy density. Hopefully this Carbon Trust scheme will help gather information on how well that can be done now, and start the scientific development to improve it for the future."
There have been major efforts in the past to develop biofuels from algae. Multimillion-dollar programmes funded by the US government in the 1980s found that high biomass yields were possible but research ended when no one found a way to make it commercially competitive with the low oil prices of that era. Work in Japan also faltered when researchers were unable to scale up the growth of algae in photobioreactors, closed vessels that provide plenty of light and conditions that could intensively grow the microorganisms. To date, no one has designed a system that has made it to market.
But the Carbon Trust believes that interest in algae has been renewed, thanks to the recent increases in oil prices and public awareness of climate change.
Transport minister Andrew Adonis said: "This project demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that second generation biofuels are truly sustainable — and will further our understanding of the potential for microalgae to be refined for use in renewable transport fuel development, to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions."
Several companies around the world are already involved in making fuels from algae, with one of the most prominent the San Diego-based company Sapphire Energy. Sapphire plans to use genetically modified algae to produce a chemical mixture from which it is possible to extract what it calls "green crude". Their idea is to refine this mixture into fuel for cars and airplanes. Investors include the UK's Wellcome Trust and the company has so far raised $100m to develop its ideas.
Loughhead added that another potential benefit of algae is its ability to remove CO2 from the air. "Although here they will re-emit it when used as fuels, there is the possibility that they could ultimately be used as a means of cleaning the atmosphere — if we can find a way of converting the algae to a safely storable form after they've grown."

US wind energy adds 1,400 MW of capacity

The Associated Press
Published: October 22, 2008

SIOUX FALLS, South Dakota: The U.S. added nearly 1,400 megawatts of new wind energy capacity during the second quarter of 2008, providing enough electricity to power more than 400,000 homes, according to an industry report released Wednesday.
The American Wind Energy Association said new wind turbines this year will generate some 7,500 megawatts of additional electricity, far surpassing the 5,249 megawatts installed in 2007.
Wind power accounted for more than one-third of the new electric generating capacity installed in the U.S. in 2007, and the industry is projected to grow at a 45 percent pace for the second straight year, said Randall Swisher, the association's executive director.
"We're past the point of wind being a marginal player," Swisher said.
A financial bailout package passed by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush earlier this month provided an eight-year extension of investment tax credits for the solar industry but gave just a one-year extension of production tax credits for the wind industry.

Swisher said wind advocates were disappointed they couldn't secure a more long-term policy, but the industry will work with a new administration headed by either Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain on a stable five-year tax credit extension and a federal renewable energy standard.
The government, utilities and financiers will also have to come together to build a nationwide network of high voltage lines that will provide a backbone so the country can fully access its wind potential.
"In 2009, energy will be front and center with the new Congress and the new administration," he said. "Both McCain and Obama have made that clear."
Swisher said the credit crisis and overall economic downturn will undoubtably have some effect on the capital-intensive industry, but it's too early to predict to what extent.
He said capital in the near-term clearly will cost more and be more difficult to get, but other factors provide a bit of a silver lining. Transportation costs are continuing to come down, and steel prices have dropped significantly in the past few months. A wind turbine, by weight, is 89 percent steel, Swisher said.
Industry growth is also occurring on the manufacturing side.
Eight new wind turbine component manufacturing facilities opened in the U.S. this year, nine were expanded and 19 new facilities were announced, according to the trade group.
Swisher said governors from states such as Colorado and Iowa have worked hard to attract companies that build turbines, towers and blades to fuel their local economies.
"Wind will be one of the leading sources of new manufacturing jobs in the 21st century," he said. "And there are a bunch of governors that are starting to figure that out and are driving their own state economic development strategies to take advantage of that."

British team to build first 1,000mph car

By Steve Connor, Science EditorThursday, 23 October 2008

An artist's impression of the Bloodhound SSC
Eat your heart out, Jeremy Clarkson. A team of British engineers will announce a plan today to build a car that can reach 1,000mph.
The ambitious engineering project comes from the team that holds the world's land speed record and has the full backing of the Science minister, Lord Drayson, who believes it will be an inspiration to young people looking for a career in science or engineering.
By next year the engineers, led by the project director, Richard Noble, hope to have built a supercar that will take the world land speed record from the current 763mph to 1,000mph – nearly 15 times the motorway speed limit.
It will exceed the current speed record of 994mph for low-altitude flight, only this vehicle will be designed – hopefully – to stay firmly on the ground during the 85 seconds it will take for the car to cover the 10 or so miles needed to go from zero to 1,000mph and back to zero again. The 42ft-long vehicle will be designed to travel faster than a handgun bullet and its bodywork will have to withstand air pressures exceeding 12 tons per square metre as it covers a distance equivalent to four football pitches in a second.
Mr Noble said yesterday that he expected many difficult challenges ahead, not least how to raise the £10m that it will take to develop, build, test and deploy the fastest land vehicle. "I expect an awful lot of problems, to be honest. There's no template for this because no one's ever done it before. We've done 18 months of research, and it's good research, but there are all sorts of unknowns out there," he said.
Bloodhound SSC (supersonic car) will be driven by Wing Commander Andy Green, a former RAF pilot, who was also behind the wheel – or rather a modified aircraft yoke – of Thrust SSC, the car that broke the previous land speed record on 15 October 1997.
"The critical thing for a car going that fast is to keep it on the ground and to keep it going in the right direction. Because of the speed you are going at, there is not much time to think of anything else," Wing Cdr Green said.
"It's not a case of saying 'blimey, this is fast' – if anything it's another sensation. It's like the slow-speed feeling you get just before a car crash – only it lasts for about two minutes."
Lord Drayson will announce government sponsorship for the education element of the project soon.

Australia backs recharging network for electric cars

By John Reed in London
Published: October 22 2008 23:33

Australia is set to become the latest country to test the market for the viability of electric vehicles, with an A$1bn ($676m) project to build a large-scale recharging infrastructure.
Macquarie Capital Group is planning to raise the money for Better Place, a US venture capital-backed company that builds charging points and battery-swap stations for plug-in vehicles in Israel and Denmark.

AGL Energy will pledge to add enough energy capacity from renewable sources to power the cars. The project will be one of the largest roll-outs of its kind to date.
Renault-Nissan, General Motors, and other carmakers are launching plug-in vehicles from 2010, but industry analysts say they will need widely available recharging infrastructure to be commercially viable.
EDF earlier this month announced agreements with Renault and PSA Peugeot Citroƃ«n to develop car-recharging infrastructure in France.
Shai Agassi, Better Place’s chief executive, told the Financial Times the Australian project would be about five times the size of the network it plans to build in Israel.
There, the company is building 350,000 to 500,000 recharging points for electric cars and 125 swap stations where motorists can exchange depleted batteries without having to wait to recharge.
In Australia, the company will begin building recharging points along the country’s densely populated east coast, later moving to Perth in western Australia. The project has the backing of the government of the state of Victoria.
Better Place, which has a business partnership with the Renault-Nissan alliance, says it expects electric cars to be available in Australia by the 2012 model year.
Australia’s government has an A$500m green car innovation fund, which Better Place said gave a “compelling case” for carmakers to build electric cars there.
General Motors’ Holden brand, Ford Motor, and Toyota already make conventional cars in Australia.
Better Place likens itself to the early mobile phone operators, who built the infrastructure which enabled a new technology to gain mass consumer acceptance.
However, some rival carmakers have expressed scepticism about allowing an outside company like Better Place own the battery pack swap stations.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008