Thursday, 26 March 2009

Clampdown on greenwash

By Tim Bradshaw
Published: March 25 2009 23:40

Companies will face tougher tests when advertising their green credentials, under proposals released on Thursday.
The Committee of Advertising Practice, the industry’s self-regulator, proposes to expand the environmental and social responsibility sections of the broadcast advertising code, to “prevent marketers from exaggerating the environmental benefits of their products”.

The clampdown on greenwashing is part of a wider consultation into the first major changes to the advertising code in eight years. The review also includes efforts to enhance child protection, while relaxing bans on advertising condoms before the watershed and sexual products on encrypted adult entertainment channels.
CAP’s proposed new rules require green advertising on television to be based on the full life cycle of the advertised product or service. It also will use general principles rather than specific rules, which it says could quickly become outdated.
“Absolute claims must be supported by a high level of substantiation,” the proposed rules say, although comparative terms such as “greener” may be allowed in some circumstances.
“It provides a catchall for the unintended and the unexpected,” said Andrew Brown, chairman of CAP and BCAP, the broadcast committee.
Complaints about greenwashing have risen sharply, reflecting the increased popularity of environmental claims in advertisements. In 2006, the Advertising Standards Authority received approximately 117 complaints about 83 advertisements, rising to 561 complaints about 410 advertisements in 2007.
Environmental claims have become a “new form of competitive language for advertisers”, requiring tighter rules that provide “less excuse through ignorance and obfuscation”, said Mr Brown.
David Norman, director of campaigns at WWF UK, whose complaint against an advertisement by Royal Dutch Shell last year was upheld by the ASA, gave the change in rules a cautious welcome.
“WWF would say certainly it sounds like a good move to strengthen regulations so that those companies who do have genuine investments in green technology and answers to climate change are rewarded for that, rather than the companies who invest in marketing.”
Mr Brown said that in general, the review of advertising rules – the first to revise broadcast and general advertising codes simultaneously in their 50-year history – was designed to help broadcasters and advertisers adapt to an increasingly fragmented media landscape.
CAP plans to ensure the code “remains as relevant for the multichannel world it is facing as it was for ITV in 1955”, Mr Brown said. The consultation will gauge the public’s appetite for advertising relevant products on channels catering to adult and health niches.
It also proposes allowing condom advertising before 9pm, while avoiding programmes aimed at the youngest viewers, “in light of the UK having the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe”.
“I’m sure the usual suspects will say it will be open season … but it isn’t a massive liberalisation,” said Mr Brown.
The consultation closes on June 19, 2009, with the conclusions published later this year. The new rules are expected to come into force next year.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

Obama's Pick for EPA Deputy Drops Out

WASHINGTON -- President Obama's nominee for the No. 2 post at the Environmental Protection Agency dropped out, saying scrutiny of a group he was affiliated with was threatening to become "a distraction" for the administration.
The EPA announced the decision by Jonathan Cannon, nominated for the post of deputy EPA administrator, a day before he was scheduled to appear before a Senate panel considering his nomination.

In a written statement released by the EPA and attributed to Mr. Cannon, he said he was voluntarily withdrawing because "it has come to my attention that America's Clean Water Foundation, where I once served on the board of directors, has become the subject of scrutiny. While my service on the board of that now-dissolved organization is not the subject of the scrutiny, I believe the energy and environmental challenges facing our nation are too great to delay confirmation for this position, and I do not wish to present any distraction to the agency."
Mr. Cannon, a law professor at the University of Virginia who served as the EPA's general counsel during the Clinton administration, couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday. An EPA spokeswoman said the statement attributed to him "speaks for itself."
Earlier this week, aides to a Republican member of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, Oklahoma's James Inhofe, questioned Mr. Cannon about a 2007 EPA inspector general report that alleged that during the period when Mr. Cannon served on the board of America's Clean Water Foundation, the group mismanaged about $25 million in EPA grant money and broke federal conflict-of-interest rules by awarding a contract to a company led by a member of the foundation's board of directors. The report made no mention of Mr. Cannon and stated that the foundation board member who received the contract was not Mr. Cannon.
Mr. Inhofe's spokesman, Matt Dempsey, said that the senator's aides had told Mr. Cannon that the matter "did not warrant opposition" to his nomination but had questioned Mr. Cannon about it anyway "as part of the normal oversight process" and because the senator "has long made EPA grant oversight a priority."
"We were surprised" by Mr. Cannon's withdrawal announcement, Mr. Dempsey added.
Mr. Cannon's withdrawal makes him the latest in a series of nominees for jobs in the administration who have withdrawn. His departure comes as the agency is moving to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions, a step that major business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers strongly oppose.
In a written statement, the EPA's administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, said she was "disappointed" but that the administration will move quickly to identify a new candidate to fill the agency's no. 2 slot.
Write to Stephen Power at

India and the US must work together now to halt climate change

Thursday, 26 March 2009

The real test of the relationship between the US and India will be how we work together on the great common challenges of our era – strengthening the global trade and investment system, addressing transnational threats like nuclear weapons proliferation, terrorism and pandemic disease, and meeting the urgent danger that is posed by climate change.
As great powers, together we have an obligation to help produce what we at least former academics call global public goods, to pursue an enlightened version of self interest that recognises that individual nations will only thrive if we all thrive, and that to build the institutions of cooperation, we need to facilitate common efforts to meet challenges. Whether at the UN, the World Trade Organisation, or the Conference of Disarmament, we have a responsibility to eschew rhetoric in favour of forward-looking, practical solutions to the great issues of our time.
We'll begin this work next week in London, where the G20 leaders will meet to discuss how to address both the near-term and systemic challenges posed by the global financial crisis, and where President Obama and Prime Minister Sing will have a chance to meet face to face to share views. It is vital that together we take steps to foster growth, enhance transparent regulation, and keep our markets open to global trade. Later this year, the world will come together in Copenhagen to consider the next steps in addressing climate change.
The United States and India are at different stages of development and India's overall share of greenhouse gas emissions is small compared to the United States and other leading emitters. I'm delighted that India's Special Envoy on Climate Change, Shyam Saran, is here in Washington this week and will be talking to you later this morning. We look forward to engaging with him on this important issue. The United States is committed to putting in place a mandatory plan to cut our own emissions.
India, too, has a responsibility to play a leadership role in helping to bring about a consensus that brings both developed and developing countries into a global framework.
This is an extract from the address by James Steinberg, Deputy Secretary of State at the US State Department, at the Brookings Institute on Tuesday

Why the Copenhagen climate change cliffhanger could drag on a little longer

Wrangling between China and US threatens to put back December deadline

David Adam, environment correspondent, Wednesday 25 March 2009 22.28 GMT

After nearly a decade of George Bush's denial and obstruction, Barack Obama could hold the key to a new global deal to tackle global warming.
Which is why anyone who knows anything about climate change has been waiting for 2009 for a long time.
Obama, as they see it, has arrived in the nick of time. The UN negotiations most likely to broker an international treaty have crawled into the home straight and the finishing line is in sight.
A deadline of December has been set, when the eyes of the world will be on environment ministers from some 190 countries as they search for a deal at talks in Copenhagen. If they emerge without the obligatory smiles and handshakes, then they will spoil Christmas for a great many people who care for the fate of the planet.
The Copenhagen talks are the latest in an annual series of UN meetings that trace their origins to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio. In 1997 the talks spawned the Kyoto Protocol - the first serious attempt to regulate the greenhouse gas emissions that drive global warming. Kyoto divided the world in two, with the rich nations handed legally binding targets to restrict carbon pollution. Countries that the UN considered less developed were excused. This latter group included China, which is where the problems began.
The US signed Kyoto, but Bill Clinton never submitted it for ratification to a hostile Senate, which made it clear it would oppose on economic grounds any deal that did not set binding targets for the developing world, code for China. Bush distanced the US further from what he called a "flawed treaty".
Without the US, then the world's biggest polluter, Kyoto became an exercise in damage limitation for its supporters, and a laughing stock to critics and the industry lobby groups that loved to hate it. It remains a dirty word in the US. While it has led to reductions in some rich nations, global emissions are currently rising at about 3% a year.
Copenhagen is the world's chance to agree a successor to Kyoto that brings about meaningful carbon cuts. Perhaps the last chance. And for it to succeed it needs both the US and China to sign up.
Although other nations, India chief among them, will be big players, the search for a new climate treaty has been described as a straight fight between the US and China. China wants the US to acknowledge its responsibilities, while the US points out that western efforts to cut emissions will be pointless if Chinese emissions soar as predicted, and wants them to at least make an effort.
Who will blink first? The US probably, but Obama's team will not want a repeat of Kyoto and will sign something only if they know it can be converted into domestic law. That means building support in Congress and preparing a federal cap and trade system, which would almost certainly be the route chosen to meet any future US carbon targets.
Opinion is divided on whether the US must actually pass such a law before it could sign. Such a move would certainly send out the right signals, and could smooth the negotiations, but would it tie the hands of the US negotiators? And could such a scheme's stated targets weaken the US position in the global game of climate poker, with each negotiator desperate to raise the hidden ambitions of others?
Whether or not the US needs to pass such a law before Copenhagen could be a moot point. Time is running out and experts warn there may just be too much to do to get an agreement in December. A series of meetings, starting in Bonn this week, may clear up some minor details, but the serious targets that will form the backbone of a new treaty are unlikely to appear until the closing days of the Copenhagen meeting. For all the talk of Copenhagen being the finishing line, the talks could yet be allowed to slide into next year. There is too much at stake to call the whole thing a failure in December.
Officials are reluctant to admit as much, but Bob Watson, chief scientist at the UK environment department Defra, broke ranks when he told the Guardian last year: "If there's major agreement but they can't get everyone to sign on the dotted line they might have to come back a few months later. I say let's really push for Copenhagen, but there may have to be what I call a Copenhagen plus one."
The climate cliffhanger could drag on a little longer yet.

Barack Obama may delay signing up to Copenhagen climate change deal

Patrick Wintour, Wednesday 25 March 2009 20.50 GMT

Barack Obama may be forced to delay signing up to a new international agreement on climate change in Copenhagen at the end of the year because of the scale of opposition in the US Congress, it emerged today.
Senior figures in the Obama administration have been warning Labour counterparts that the president may need at least another six months to win domestic support for any proposal.
Such a delay could derail the securing of a tough global agreement in time for countries and markets to adopt it before the Kyoto treaty runs out in 2012.
American officials would prefer to have the approval of Congress for any international agreement and fear that if the US signed up without it there would be a serious domestic backlash.
Stephen Byers, co-chairman of the International Climate Change Taskforce, said: "The Copenhagen climate change talks in December will come at a difficult moment. The timing couldn't really be worse for the Obama administration. It is vital that this is recognised by the international community. If need be, we should be prepared to give them more time – not to let them off the hook and escape their responsibilities, but ensure they are politically able to sign up to effective international action which reflects the scale of the challenge we face."
Byers, a former cabinet minister who has close contacts with senior Democrats in the Obama team, added: "The practical reality is that a delay into 2010 will still leave time for a new international structure to be put in place for 2012 to follow from Kyoto. Such a delay would be a price worth paying to bring the United States into the global effort to tackle climate change."
The White House's new chief science adviser, John Holden, was a member of the climate change taskforce and Todd Stern, one of its advisers, is working with Hillary Clinton at the State Department and will lead negotiations for the US in Copenhagen.
Stern has warned it will be a tall order to get congressional approval before Copenhagen.
Obama has committed the US to reducing its emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, but scientists and European governments insist deeper cuts are needed. Obama has suggested that the US could compensate with swifter reductions in the years beyond 2020. His recent budget proposal calls for reducing US emissions roughly 80% by 2050 over 2005 levels.
The British government view, including that of the energy secretary, Ed Miliband, is that the Obama administration can and will strike a deal at Copenhagen, but officials in Washington fear America may be running out of time. They have even been looking at whether an agreement would be seen as an international treaty requiring a two-thirds majority in Congress, or whether it could be forced through as a presidential executive order.
But the opposition within America is potentially substantial, and might be hardened if Obama looks like he is presenting Congress with a fait accompli.
There are thought to be as many as 15 Democratic senators who represent "rust-belt" states dependent on coal mining, steel production and heavy manufacturing, all big emitters of carbon.
There have also been suggestions that the cost of any climate change legislation may be higher than the $646bn (£444bn) suggested by the Obama administration.
On Tuesday, Obama recommited himself and America to the principle of a "cap and trade" scheme, but said he would try to introduce a regional scheme that would ensure energy prices did not rise uniformly across America.
Stern would prefer to see the US go to Copenhagen with congressional approval, telling a recent symposium: "The optimum would be [climate] legislation that is signed, sealed and delivered. It has been a long time now that countries have been looking for the United States to lead and take action. I think nothing would give a more powerful signal to other countries in the world than to see a significant, major, mandatory American plan."

Emission possible

The cheapest hybrid car yet has just been launched in the UK. But is it as good as its more expensive rival, and will it save the planet? Sam Wollaston tries it out

Sam Wollaston
The Guardian, Thursday 26 March 2009

The new Honda Insight is not shy about publicising its green credentials. It shouts them from the rooftops - make that the treetops, the tops of the trees that will live so much longer because you have bought one of these cars instead of a filthy gas-guzzler. The little booklet that tells me all about the car is covered in paper that has seeds embedded in it.
Presumably, when I have finished reading it, I will toss it into an urban wasteland and a meadow will spring up, and we Insight drivers will be able to skip around together among the daisies we have created.
When I put the key in the ignition and turn it, a little green plant lights up on the dashboard. Good news - it means I'm in Econ mode and the car's brain will send messages out to various components to improve fuel economy. That's not the end of it. The car actually encourages me to drive greenly - the speedometer glows green if I am light on the throttle and turns an angry purply-blue if I am not.
There is still more. My multi-info display will, in one setting, show me a row of trees. Again, depending on how I drive, these trees will either shed their leaves or grow more. It is like a little environmental videogame. The trouble is, I am so obsessed with the virtual trees that I drive into a real one, killing both it and myself ... well, I could have done.
Actually, my main problem with the tree game is that it is more fun making the leaves drop off than it is to grow them. Everyone - apart from Honda, obviously - knows that the best videogames involve violence and destruction. So instead of trees on the display, they should have put a virtual Jeremy Clarkson there, on a rack. You have to drive greenly in order to tighten the rack until eventually, if you are really easy on the throttle, Clarkson's limbs are pulled from their sockets with a scream and a red splat, and then you can go to the next level, which involves taking out illegal Brazilian loggers with an eco-cannon.
Enough of the dashboard display though. What about the car itself? Well, it is a bit like a Toyota Prius, the car that has dominated the hybrid market for the past 10 years. The Insight works in the same way as a Prius - the battery boosts the power of the smallish (1.3 litre) petrol engine when you accelerate, and the energy generated when you brake, which would normally be lost, goes into recharging the batteries. And when you stop, the engine cuts out. It looks a bit like a Prius too - slightly lower and sleeker perhaps, but with the same aerodynamic profile. It has the same advantages as a Prius - good fuel consumption (average 64mpg), low CO2 emissions (101g/km), low road tax (£15 a year) and, in London, exemption from the congestion charge. You can also drive an Insight with the same smug green grin.
But it is different in one significant way: it's cheaper. A basic Prius won't leave much change from £18,000; the entry-level Insight is £15,490, not too much more than a nice Ford Focus. That has always been the problem with the Prius - you have to be Leonardo DiCaprio to be able to afford one. Now, with the Insight, some of us B-listers might consider a hybrid.
I drive my test car over to show off to my friend Andy, a Prius driver. As it happens, his mate Chris, another Prius owner (they stick together), is also there. I want the green of their envy to match the green of their greenness. Weirdly though, they give it a mixed review. It is a cheap Prius copy, they say. They mock its cheap interior. They say that the Prius has become both a statement and an icon and this imitation will never achieve that. Leo, or whatshisname from Curb your Enthusiasm, would never drive an Insight. Well, they are probably right about all of that, but for £2,380 (the actual saving), I'm very happy not to be driving what the stars drive.
A more affordable hybrid has to be a good thing. But the environmental credentials of these cars have to be kept in perspective. With all this green glowing and trees sprouting up on the dashboard, it would be easy to con yourself into thinking that you were actually doing the planet some good. You're not; you're still harming it, only less so (100g of carbon dioxide is still 100g of carbon dioxide). By my calculations, in 40km you could fill a box 2m x 1m x 1m with it, which I reckon would be big enough for Jeremy Clarkson. Death by CO2 might be a more humane, and more appropriate way of disposing of him than the rack.
The real excitement, from a green point of view, is another Honda - the hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered FCX Clarity. It's not available here yet, but Honda plans to introduce it, or something similar, in the future. Its emissions? Nothing but water vapour. That's something to feel properly smug about, and would probably make the driver and not just the dashboard glow green.

Chinese panel proposes trading plan for emissions

Published: March 26, 2009

BEIJING: A top Chinese state panel has proposed a global greenhouse gas trading plan to reflect the different historic emissions of rich and poor nations, showing deepening discussion in Beijing about climate change policy.
Researchers from the State Council Development Research Center, which advises China’s leaders, laid out the plan in the March issue of the Economic Research Journal, a Chinese-language publication that reached subscribers this week.
The plan is far from being government policy. But it illustrates the growing focus of decision-makers here on how Beijing should handle climate change negotiations toward a new global pact by late this year.
China is now widely believed to have passed the United States in annual emissions of carbon dioxide from industry, farming and land clearance, and it faces calls from other governments to give clearer commitments to minimize and reduce such greenhouse gases, which scientists say are dangerously heating the atmosphere.
The Beijing group’s plan seeks a solution to the divide between developed nations that have high per-capita accumulations of greenhouse gas emissions and developing nations, including China, where such emissions are set to rise in coming decades.

he answer, they write, is to set emissions rights for each country on the basis of historic accumulations and then let nations trade portions of those rights in an international market.
‘‘If every country’s emissions rights can be clearly defined and strictly protected, and a corresponding mechanism for market transactions can be established, emissions reductions will become a form of behavior that offers a return,’’ they write. ‘‘This will provide a powerful impetus for developing low-carbon technology and a low-carbon economy.’’
The proposal would draw China and other poorer countries into clearer obligations to curtail greenhouse gases in the long term. But it would give their citizens larger emissions quotas than rich countries’ populations, reflecting the developing world’s low historic emissions and ‘‘right to develop.’’
Under the current Kyoto Protocol, the U.N.-backed pact governing countries’ climate change obligations, China and other developing economies do not shoulder caps on greenhouse gases.
The United States previously cited China’s lack of caps as one reason for Washington’s staying out of the protocol’s obligations.
President Barack Obama is pushing Congress to develop a system that would cap greenhouse gas emissions and require that companies purchase permits to release such gases.
But his administration and other Western powers will still press China, India, Brazil and other big developing nations to offer clearer commitments in the successor pact to Kyoto, which negotiators hope to settle in Copenhagen in December.
Separately, a new report from the Chinese Academy of Sciences proposes that the nation’s total emissions of the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, peak between 2030 and 2040 and then stabilize and fall, helped by international technological and funding support, the official Guangming Daily reported Wednesday.

BP's Browne says UK should support carbon trading

Published: March 25, 2009

LONDON: The UK needs to revert to greater state control of energy markets if the UK is to reach its renewable energy targets, former BP head Lord Browne said in an interview in Wednesday's Guardian.
He said that the carbon trading scheme needs the support of government incentives if it is to produce a low carbon industry in the UK.
"A lot of people will say carbon trading, the European emissions trading scheme, will take care of this. In theory it can, but in practice it won't," he told the paper.
"Eventually I'm sure it will be terrific. Right now it needs to work side by side with simple regulations and simple incentives to get investors to invest in the right way."
Browne, who is President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, suggested that one options would be for the government to direct state-controlled banks to lend to green

Green energy is not such a breeze

The Times
March 26, 2009
David Wighton

One by one, the energy giants that hoisted green flags and trumpeted their conversion to renewables are ducking and diving and hiding behind the curtains.
Iberdrola, a big investor in wind farms in Spain and the owner of ScottishPower, is slashing its spending on renewables by 40 per cent. Shell said recently it would no longer invest in wind turbines, preferring to focus its efforts on new biofuel technology, while BP has opted out of the UK renewables market, deeming it to be a poor bet.
It is tempting to see the great push for renewable energy in Europe as a fair-weather phenomenon. The performance of Britain's turbines is a case in point - for much of January they were operating at about 10 per cent of capacity.
That should be no surprise, given that periods of severe cold (or heat) coincide with lack of wind, but it doesn't help when a utility is trying to deliver power into the grid, not to mention returns to its shareholders.

These issues are critical, because we need to begin building more power capacity today if we are to avoid blackouts by 2015 when we are committed to closing old coal-fired power stations.
People who can build these things are saying that they are not convinced. Shell last year pulled out of the London Array, a £3 billion wind farm in the Thames Estuary capable of supplying 750,000 homes. The remaining investors are hinting heavily that without more government bungs, the mills won't spin.
Without reforms of the tortuous British planning process, the prospects for development of onshore windfarm looks bleak.
Everyone is openly looking at gas, which gets cheaper by the day, and utilities drool at the thought of coal, where the price has fallen so far that mines are closing in Australia and Russia. Gas is a short-term solution, but it cannot be the only option if we are to avoid a rising dependence on Russia for fuel.
All of this is embarrassing for a Government that likes to portray itself as the champion of green causes. But it is pointless for Ed Miliband, the Minister for Energy and Climate Change, to berate utilities for not building stuff that is uneconomic and, anyway, cannot be relied upon to deliver the power we need at the flick of a switch.
The Government needs to decide whether it is prepared to commit the nation to a very expensive energy future or whether it would rather hedge its bets and build a few coal-fired generators, just to keep the lights on.

Warning over green tax break

By Ed Crooks, Energy Editor
Published: March 26 2009 01:48

The end of a tax break for combined heat and power plants threatens tens of thousands of jobs in an environmentally friendly industry, businesses will warn the government on Thursday.
Industry executives will meet Treasury officials to urge the chancellor to extend support for CHP, worth £500m ($728m) a year, in next month’s Budget.

The government has so far refused to give a clear indication of its position. The industry says that flies in the face of the claim by Gordon Brown, the prime minister, to be creating “green jobs” to offset the economic downturn.
Greenpeace, the environmental campaign group, argued last year that the output of electricity from CHP could quadruple to meet about a quarter of Britain’s demand for power.
However, the industry argues that without sustained support new projects will not be developed and existing projects will shut.
CHP plants have since 2002 been subsidised by an exemption from the climate change levy: the tax on industry’s energy use, charged at a rate of about 0.46p per kilowatt hour of electricity, which is roughly 10 per cent of today’s price.
Powerful energy source at home
Combined heat and power (CHP) plants are power stations that use the heat they create. In some countries, such as Denmark and the Netherlands, the heat is used in homes, but in Britain it is typically used for industrial processes, such as oil refining. CHP provides about 7 per cent of the UK’s electricity capacity and about 80 per cent of it is on manufacturing sites.
CHP plants typically cost about 20 per cent more than equivalent conventional plants, but cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 20 per cent. Small-scale CHP boilers for the home are likely to generate electricity as well as providing hot water and central heating.
However, the government agreed with the European Commission a 2012 deadline for the CCL exemption under the state aid rules. After that, the exemption is supposed to end. The government can apply to extend it, but has not yet indicated whether it plans to do so.
Investment in new CHP projects has been drying up because companies cannot be sure of the future tax treatment of their projects. Electricity generation from CHP, which rose sharply immediately after the tax break was introduced, has remained unchanged for the past four years.
Phil Piddington, of RWE Npower, Britain’s biggest generator of power from CHP, said: “There is an urgent need for clarity over the longevity of climate change levy exemption for good quality CHP if new and sustainable investment is to flow into new combined heat and power projects in the UK.”
Uncertainty over the tax system could also discourage replacement of ageing equipment in existing CHP plants, forcing them to shut. That means capacity could fall “considerably” over the next five years, the industry has warned.
The Combined Heat and Power Association calculates that 140,000 jobs are supported by the industry, including 5,000 that work in CHP plants and 116,000 on industrial sites served by the plants that could be forced to close if their heat source were shut down.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

When oil, coal and gas are cheap, who is going to throw their cash into the wind?

The Times
March 26, 2009
Robin Pagnamenta, Energy and Environment Editor

The latest setback to Britain’s goal of producing more than a third of its energy from renewable sources is the result of a global collapse in investment in green projects in recent months.
The credit crunch has undermined developers’ ability to borrow to fund big wind and solar power schemes, while tumbling prices for conventional fuels like oil, coal and gas have undermined the economics of the renewables industry.
Angus McCrone, of New Energy Finance, says that global investment in clean energy — including wind, solar, biomass and tidal — hit a peak of $155 billion last year, up from $148 billion in 2007. “This year we will struggle to get anywhere near those levels,” he said.
The restricted supply of finance could not have come at a worse time, amid growing concern about the need for urgent action to tackle climate change.

The funding squeeze is likely to be a key consideration at a United Nations meeting in Copenhagen in December to hammer out a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol.
Despite Gordon Brown’s ambitious talk of a renewables revolution, progress has been slow in Britain, which remains a relative backwater in terms of investment.
Iberdrola now operates 9 gigawatts of renewable energy worldwide. Most of its projects are in Spain and America where subsidies, ample land and lax planning systems make investing in large-scale wind projects commercially attractive. On some days Spain generates 30 per cent of its electricity from wind. In Britain financing problems have been amplified by a series of domestic troubles that have led to delays — in particular securing planning permission and access to grid connections.
The Government’s solution has been to place greater emphasis on offshore wind projects. However, these are much more expensive to build and the technology is relatively unproven on a commercial scale.
The Crown Estate, which owns Britain’s seabed, has opened up its waters to the development of huge wind projects but there are doubts about how many of these will be built without fresh subsidies.
The Government remains hesitant to pass draconian legislation that risks forcing up consumers’ energy bills. The outlay to build renewable energy schemes is far higher than dirtier coal or gas-fired power stations.
A spokesman for the Department for Energy and Climate Change said: “We take very seriously the concerns that some developers have had for some wind developments and we are looking to see if there is any further action that we could take in response.”

Wind farm plans in doubt after investor cuts programme

The world's biggest investor in wind power is scaling back its programme in Britain, threatening to scupper plans to build hundreds of new wind turbines.

By Murray Wardrop Last Updated: 6:14AM GMT 26 Mar 2009

The news is the latest blow to Gordon Brown's target of generating 35 per cent of Britain's electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Photo: John Taylor
Iberdrola Renewables will cut its British investment by more than 40 per cent, it was reported.
The £300 million withdrawal could have paid for a wind farm capable of powering 200,000 homes.

The news is the latest blow to Gordon Brown's target of generating 35 per cent of Britain's electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
Iberdrola Renewables' chief executive, Xabier Viteri, whose Spanish parent owns ScottishPower, blamed the economic crisis for the cutback, The Times reoprted.
It came a day after Ed Miliband, the Climate Change Minister, angered rural campaigners by saying opposition to wind farms is as socially unacceptable as failing to stop at a zebra crossing.
His comments were made at the screening of a new climate change documentary, The Age Of Stupid, in London.
He said: "The Government needs to be saying, 'It is socially unacceptable to be against wind turbines in your area – like not wearing your seat belt or driving past a zebra crossing'.''
His comments came as a report by a coalition of countryside campaigners said the expansion of wind farms threatened some of Britain's most scenic countryside.
However, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds this week called for a vast increase in the number of wind farms in the UK after a study found far more could be built without damaging wildlife.
About 7,000 new wind turbines have been planned for Britain over the next 12 years in an attempt to meet Europe's targets on greenhouse gas emissions.

Water Worries Shape Local Energy Decisions

Scarcity Forces Electricity Companies to Rethink Power-Plant Plans, Providing an Opening for Renewable Sources


Last month, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, a utility that provides power to mostly rural areas, agreed to conduct a major study to see if it might meet growing energy needs through energy efficiency and not a big, new coal-fired power plant, as it had proposed for southeast Colorado.
One reason for the move was a challenge by Environment Colorado, an advocacy organization, about the amount of water a new plant would require.
Changes like these are happening with increasing frequency, particularly in the arid West, as mounting concerns about water begin to shape local energy decisions.
Mark Harrison/The Seattle Times
A wind farm in Kittitas, Wash. Some similar projects, especially in the arid West, are gaining momentum because their water needs are minimal.
In some cases, power companies are pulling back from plans to build traditional power plants that require steady streams of water to operate. In others, renewable-energy projects such as wind farms or solar arrays are gaining momentum because their water needs are minimal.
Tri-State no longer is sure what it might build in southeast Colorado but it is going ahead with plans to build a 500,000-solar-panel project in northeast New Mexico in partnership with First Solar Inc. "There's no water requirement with solar," said Mac McLennan, senior vice president for Tri-State, based in Westminster, Colo.
Advocates for alternative energy are discovering that water issues may prove to be as important a selling point for the industry as reducing carbon-dioxide emissions.
"The more we wean energy companies off consumptive use of water, the better for everyone," said Craig Cox, executive director of the Interwest Energy Alliance, a Colorado trade group that represents power-project developers.
The electric-power industry accounts for nearly half of all water withdrawals in the U.S., with agricultural irrigation coming in a distant second at about 35%. Even though most of the water used by the power sector eventually is returned to waterways or the ground, 2% to 3% is lost through evaporation, amounting to 1.6 trillion to 1.7 trillion gallons a year that might otherwise enhance fisheries or recharge aquifers, according to a Department of Energy study.
The study concluded that a megawatt hour of electricity produced by a wind turbine can save 200 to 600 gallons of water compared with the amount required by a modern gas-fired power plant to make that same amount.
Earlier this month, Jeff Bingaman (D., N.M.), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, noted during a hearing that the "nexus" of water and energy is becoming an issue "in [power plant] permitting decisions across the country."
Landowners in the far northeast corner of California were riled recently by Sempra Energy's proposal to build a coal-fired power plant just across the state line in Nevada.
One reason residents objected was that the plant would have required vast amounts of water for cooling. "Use of groundwater is always a sensitive issue up here because we don't have much," said Jack Hanson, a member of the Lassen County Board of Supervisors.
Sempra pulled the plug on the project in late 2006, citing, among other things, water use. Since then, another big energy proposal has surfaced, but it hasn't kicked up much opposition: A dozen companies are considering building hundreds of wind turbines along Lassen County ridgelines. So far, 17 meteorological towers have been erected to verify wind speeds.
In turn, conventional power plants are turning to technology that aggressively cuts water use as they weigh the costs of installing more complicated cooling systems versus leaning on scarce resources.
A power plant recently put into service by Pacific Gas & Electric Co., a unit of PG&E Corp., in the Northern California town of Antioch has a cooling system to cut its water intake from 40,000 gallons a minute to 1.6 gallons. In the past, power plants commonly were built with "once-through cooling," in which water was drawn from waterways, used once, and then put back. But the Antioch plant uses a "dry" cooling technique that recirculates water in a closed system, reducing evaporation.
Environmental groups that oppose coal and nuclear power plants are discovering that water can be a powerful tool to challenge power companies.
In 2004, Riverkeeper Inc., an environmental organization in Tarrytown, N.Y., along with six states, sued the Environmental Protection Agency over the use of once-through cooling by as many as 500 older power plants in the U.S. The suit charges that the practice violates the Clean Water Act because it harms aquatic life and fails to utilize the best technology available, a requirement of the federal act.
The case, now before the U.S. Supreme Court, stands to test how water-use issues will determine which power plants continue to operate as well as what kind of plants are built.
Nuclear plants face particular scrutiny, since they require more water than any other form of steam generation. Virginia Power, a unit of Dominion Resources, is facing a legal challenge over its right to draw one million gallons of water a minute per reactor from a man-made lake it uses to cool its North Anna nuclear power plant and into which it discharges heated water. The utility built the lake in 1978 exclusively for the plant's cooling purposes.
A group called the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League Inc. argued that heat is a form of pollution and said the state water board shouldn't have renewed the plant's water permit. Last month, a state court upheld much of the environmental group's case; the utility plans an appeal. Dominion says the man-made lake is a private body of water and therefore shouldn't fall under the federal Clean Water Act.
Water is also emerging as an important point for analysts in the investment community. "We definitely have noticed more companies having water issues," said Swaminathan Venkataraman, an analyst at Standard & Poor's credit-rating agency. "If it continues, it will give renewables another important advantage."
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Danish prince celebrates new US wind plants

The Associated Press
Published: March 25, 2009

BRIGHTON, Colorado: Danish Crown Prince Frederik said Wednesday that expanding a country's renewable energy sources and recovering from a recession didn't have to be mutually exclusive.
"Denmark is economically competitive not in spite of these efforts, but because of them," he said at a Brighton plant groundbreaking for Danish wind-turbine maker Vestas Wind System. "Opening a manufacturing plant, unfortunately, is not very common these days."
The prince, his wife Crown Princess Mary and Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter attended the ceremony for two parts plants by Vestas, which already has a blade-making plant in Windsor, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Denver.
The company also is planning a 400-employee factory in Pueblo to build towers that support the turbines, which it has said would be the world's largest such factory.
Ritter has championed alternative energy, which he called the state's "new energy economy" for creating jobs and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.

"It isn't a slogan. It's an idea," he said.
The crown prince said that during a similar economic downturn in the 1970s, Denmark decided to wean itself off fossil fuels, leading to dramatic economic growth and a drop in carbon dioxide emissions of more than 13 percent. He also said renewable energy accounted for 28 percent of Denmark's electricity supply.
Ritter said Denmark could be an example for his state and the United States to follow.
The crown prince and his wife also visited Dana College in Blair, Nebraska, and attended a groundbreaking for a new ethanol enzyme plant being built by Danish-based Novozymes.