Friday, 3 July 2009

Climate Declaration To Get Global Boost

WASHINGTON -- The U.S., European Union and 12 of the world's largest nations plan to embrace "an aspirational goal" of reducing emissions of global-warming gases by 50% by 2050, according to a draft declaration by world leaders set for release next week in Italy.
The draft, seen by The Wall Street Journal, sets up a framework for detailed negotiations on the issue ahead of a United Nations climate conference in December. But it leaves key areas in the climate-change debate in dispute. The draft is subject to change ahead of a meeting of global leaders starting Wednesday.
The declaration recognizes a "broad scientific view" that global temperatures shouldn't rise more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, but doesn't lock in the "two-degree ceiling" that some nations and environmentalists want. Global temperatures currently are about 0.8 degree Celsius above those levels.

A group of leaders from 13 nations plans to issue a draft declaration at next week's G-8 summit that pledges a 50% reduction in harmful global-warming emissions by 2050. WSJ's Jonathan Weisman reports.
The base year against which emissions reductions will be measured continues to divide the U.S. and Europe. The EU would like reductions measured against 1990 emissions levels. The U.S. favors the baseline be based on more-recent data. And the draft declaration sets a provisional target of $400 million for assistance to developing countries to lower their emissions and adapt to rising temperatures and sea levels, which some countries say is too low.
"There is still lots of finger pointing," said Alden Meyer, policy director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a scientific organization favoring strict emissions controls, who has been involved in the talks.
Climate change is one of the topics on the agenda for the summit of the Group of Eight largest industrial countries, which will be held in earthquake-damaged L'Aquila, Italy. The G-8 -- the U.S., Canada, Italy, France, Germany, Japan, Russia and Britain -- will meet on Wednesday, and then be joined by the five largest developing economies -- Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa -- plus Egypt in a separate meeting. By Thursday, when President Barack Obama is slated to lead the Major Economies Forum, as many as 39 countries will be represented. The summit closes Friday.
Questions are arising over how relevant the G-8 remains, with the summit taking place after the London summit of the Group of 20 largest nations in April and ahead of the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh in September.
"On the economy itself, this will be more about exchanging views at this midpoint between the two G-20 summits than an opportunity to produce a series of specific deliverables," Michael Froman, deputy White House national-security adviser for international economic affairs, said Wednesday.
World events, including the disputed presidential election in Iran and missile launches by North Korea, will likely intrude on the agenda, analysts said.
Climate change is likely to dominate the final sessions of the conference. Participants would like to make significant progress ahead of a United Nations conference in December in Copenhagen, when a successor to the Kyoto Accord is supposed to be completed. The treaty to combat global warming expires in 2012.
The draft declaration would set a high standard -- a world-wide, 50% reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050, with developed countries reducing their emissions by at least 80%. The developing world would have a lower requirement.
Mr. Froman, of the White House, said the aim of the summit is "to give political momentum and impetus" to climate talks ahead of the Copenhagen conference.—Alistair MacDonald and Jeffrey Ball contributed to this article.
Write to Jonathan Weisman at

Co-ordinated effort can realise energy targets

Omar Abbosh, Opinion

The UK has gone well beyond other countries with its greenhouse-gas targets, having committed to reducing carbon emissions by 34 per cent from 1990 to 2020. Last week, the Scottish Parliament voted for a 42 per cent cut. But our post-Kyoto experience shows that the world has been long on targets and short on action.
The UK’s task is complicated by the power crunch that will strike in the middle of the next decade, when a third of our existing electricity generation capacity will have become obsolete. New nuclear plants, renewables and carbon capture and storage will not fill that gap in time, leaving us dependent on gas.
If the supply of low-carbon energy is a challenge, we must place greater focus on demand. Here, smart grids will be crucial. Not only will they help to tap into distributed sources of renewable energy, they will also allow us to change consumption habits through the use of adjustable tariffs. And, by redistributing excess power from local generation or electric vehicles, smart grids will help to minimise energy waste.
In order to make the infrastructure a reality, the Government must face an inconvenient truth: under the rules of today’s market, there is no financial case for a utility to build a smart distribution grid in the UK. Indeed, in the Government’s price-control review, virtually no allowance is being made for smart grid investments up to 2015.

The most critical step we can take is to revise radically our utility and energy regulations, which are designed to encourage UK utilities to cut unit costs and prices in a competitive market. These incentives discourage R&D, innovation or long-term outlays in smart grids by preventing investors from making a reasonable return.
The second major step is for city authorities to take a leadership role. Uniquely, cities can pull together consumers and businesses associated with energy, transport and other services to form a coherent plan of action. For instance, only cities can bring together all the parties needed to make a mass rollout of electric vehicles financially viable.
And, because cities can make their own cost and environmental savings, the business case for smart grids can be transformed if utilities collaborate with city authorities. We calculate that a smart grid will cost approximately £290 per household for a large British city. Over 15 years, the private sector would face a deficit of £71 per household if it was to invest alone. But through collaboration with city authorities, that becomes a net benefit of £93.
The UK would do well to look abroad for inspiration. The City of Amsterdam aims to reduce emissions to 40 per cent of 1990 levels by 2025. It has just launched pilots for low-carbon initiatives that build on smart-grid thinking, from electric-powered canal barges to residential smart meters and plans for a virtual power plant that will connect hundreds of rooftop solar panels and wind turbines. The local distribution utility plans to roll out charging stations for 10,000 plug-in electric vehicles. By co-ordinating many parties, the city and its agencies have improved the financial appeal of the necessary investment.
In a country with few city mayors and limited city autonomy, the UK needs to work even harder to bring together private and public sectors at local level if we are to use smart infrastructure to help meet our ever more ambitious emissions targets.
• Omar Abbosh is managing director, Resources UK and Ireland, Accenture

Low carbon economy will transform world like the first industrial revolution

Britain could be a world leader in new low carbon technologies but risks squandering the opportunity

Tom Delay, Thursday 2 July 2009 11.06 BST

This year is the 300th anniversary of the first industrial revolution which brought in the age of fossil fuels. In 1709 Abraham Darby successfully smelted iron with coke near Ironbridge, an innovation which led to iron-making on a massive scale, changing the lives of millions of people and helping to create the modern industrial world.
We now face a similar game changing challenge. We need to unleash a new revolution that fast tracks the deployment of a new set of technologies. Low carbon ones. This requires a faster acceleration in innovation and technological development than we witnessed 300 years ago. This new low carbon economy is poised to be the mother of all markets and will be as transformative in its impact as the first industrial revolution. It offers a huge commercial opportunity for the UK to again become a global hub of innovation and generate economic benefit for the nation.
Recent research indicates this revolution has begun and some green roots have been planted. UNEP data released earlier this month shows that overall, renewable energy investment last year was more than four times greater than in 2004. Global investments in renewable energy overtook those in carbon-based fuels for the first time in 2008 with the overall market for clean technologies last year valued at some £3 trillion.
But what will Britain's role be in this new industrial revolution. We stand at a crossroads. Will we be among the first movers and leaders? Or will we be the laggards and adopters of these new low carbon technologies? Despite our country's strong potential, the clock is ticking for us to truly lead the way. Without bold leadership we risk squandering the opportunity to capture our share of this "mother of all markets".
Countries such as the US, China and India are already attracting significant investment in clean technology. We are in danger of losing out unless we urgently adopt a new approach to fast tracking the commercialisation of low carbon technologies in the UK. To ensure we benefit from this new age of low carbon industrialism we need to urgently establish where Britain can lead in developing new technologies and where Britain should adopt technologies once their development elsewhere has made them less expensive.
Tackling climate change is a fantastic business opportunity but we have limited time and limited amounts of public funding to apply. We need to quickly work out what the investment opportunity is for the UK and set about, like a business, in pursuing it.
We need a new bold strategy. It's time to prioritise and to focus. We must end the old scatter gun approach to commercialising these new technologies. Of course we must back technologies based on their potential to deliver on our 2050 carbon targets. But, and this is the important point, we must also decide based on their potential to provide positive economic benefit to the UK. The two do not necessarily go hand in hand. We then need to back technologies with a renewed urgency, grit and determination, leaving no barrier in place to slow or hinder their development and roll out.
Ending the old scattergun approach to commercialising technologies will be a challenge for politicians, academia and business alike. But if we don't we risk squandering a fantastic commercial opportunity – we must focus on technologies where the UK has competitive advantage, and capitalise on it. Our new economic analysis of low carbon technologies to date has shown that we can profit from world leadership. It shows that we can be world leaders in offshore wind and wave power and in turn deliver major economic benefit for the UK by capturing a significant share of their global markets. These two technologies alone can deliver 250,000 jobs and some £70bn of net economic value for the UK by 2050.
Britain can be a green global leader; we can spawn the Amazon, Apple and Intels of this new low-carbon revolution. But only if we are bold and take some tough decisions. We must rise to this 21st century challenge and grab it with both hands. Abraham Darby, James Watt and the other fathers of the first industrial revolution would expect nothing else from us.
Tom Delay is chief executive of the Carbon Trust

Burning coal means pollution and death, Drax hijack defendant tells court

Jury expected to retire today after hearing last of environmental justifications for stopping coal train destined for power station

Martin Wainwright in Leeds, Thursday 2 July 2009 12.47 BST

The jury in a case involving the ambush of a coal train by climate campaigners is expected to retire later today after the 22 defendants decided to not to call the remainder of their witnesses.
Unexpected leeway by the judge at Leeds crown court saw an hour's final evidence from a primary schoolteacher added to yesterday's dossier of environmental justifications for the hijack presented to the jury of seven women and five men.
Grainne Gannon, 26, of London, who boarded the train near Drax power station in North Yorkshire dressed as a coalminer's warning canary, reinforced points made yesterday by a filmmaker, a charity worker and a university lecturer who said the 22 defendants acted to prevent "deadly and urgent threat" caused by burning coal at Drax powerstation.
Although Judge Spencer repeated many previous warnings that such wider evidence was inadmissible, he did not stop Gannon from describing at length a book about dinosaurs and climate change, nor her conclusion that "burning coal means carbon pollution which means death."
The judge's patience has been mirrored by politeness from the accused, who are defending themselves, and Gannon was reminded several times by her fellow-protester Robin Gillett, who took her through her evidence, to relate her comments to what happened to the train in June last year.
The court adjourned after the lead spokesman in the defence team Dr Paul Chatterton, a Leeds University geography lecturer who was also on the train, told the judge that they felt enough evidence had been heard. The defence will make final statements later this morning, followed by the prosecution.
Judge Spencer will then sum up, and is certain to repeat to the jury that their task is decided what happened and ignore the motives. The action delayed the arrival of 42,000 tonnes of coal at Drax for 16 hours, disrupted passenger and freight services for two days and cost £30,000 to clear up coal shovelled onto the tracks by the protesters.
The defendants have pleaded not guilty to obstructing a railway engine contrary to the Malicious Damage Act of 1861.
They are: Theo Bard, 24, Amy Clancy, 24, Brian Farelly, 32, Grainne Gannon, 26, Bryn Hoskins, 24, Jasmin Karalis, 25, Ellen Potts, 33, Bertie Russell, 24, Alison Stratford, 26, Jonathan Stevenson, 27 and Felix Wight, all of London, Melanie Evans, 25, Matthew Fawcette, 34, Robin Gillett, 23, Kristina Jones, 22, Oliver Rodker, 40, and Thomas Spencer,23, all of Manchester, Paul Chatterton, 36, and Louise Hemmerman, 31, of Leeds, Melanie Evans, 25, of Stockport, Paul Morozzo, 42, of Hebden Bridge, Christopher Ward, 38, of Newport Pagnell and Elizabeth Whelan of Glasgow.
The case continues.

ExxonMobil funds climate-change sceptics

ExxonMobil, the world’s largest oil company, is continuing to fund researchers who cast doubt on global warming, despite public promises to cut support for climate-change sceptics.

By Malcolm MoorePublished: 12:58PM BST 02 Jul 2009

ExxonMobil is accused of oiling the wheels of climate change revisionism
Company records for 2008 show that ExxonMobil gave $75,000 (£45,500) to the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) in Dallas, Texas and $50,000 (£30,551) to the Heritage Foundation in Washington.
It also gave $245,000 (£149,702) to the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research in Washington.

The list of donations in the company’s 2008 Worldwide Contributions and Community investments is likely to trigger further anger from environmental activists, who have accused ExxonMobil of giving tens of millions to climate change sceptics in the past decade.
All three groups have raised questions about global warming.
The Heritage Foundation published note last year that said: “Growing scientific evidence casts doubt on whether global warming constitutes a threat, including the fact that 2008 is about to go into the books as a cooler year than 2007”.
ExxonMobil promised in 2006 to stop funding climate change sceptics after it was criticised by the Royal Society for giving money to researchers who were “misinforming the public about the science of climate change”.
In its 2008 corporate citizenship report, published last year, ExxonMobil repeated that it would cut funds to several groups that “divert attention” from the need to find new sources of clean energy.
The company has cut funding to several of the more controversial groups, including Frontiers for Freedom, who said in 2007: “The truth is, there is no conclusive or reliable scientific proof that the sky is falling or that Earth’s climate is experiencing cataclysmic warming caused by man’s activities.” The George C Marshall Institute also did not receive any Exxon money last year.
The oil giant also funded a range of environmental groups last year, giving $110,000 (£67,222) to the Alliance to Save Energy, $105,000 (£64,166) to the Annapolis Center for Science-based Public Policy, $100,000 (£61,113) to the Energy research centre at Columbia University and $35,000 (£21,389) to the Center for Clean Air Policy.
A spokesman for ExxonMobil said the company reviews its contributions annually and that it had “the same concerns as people everywhere, and that is how to provide the world with the energy it needs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We take the issue of climate change seriously and the risks warrant action.”
ExxonMobil donated a total of $9 million (£5.5million) to environment-related groups in 2008, and a total of $225million (£137million) to charity, 1/200th of its $45.2billion (£27.6billion) profits for the year.

Climate change makes sheep shrink

Evolution is being turned on its head on a remote British island where climate change has caused a curious case of shrinking sheep, scientists have found.

By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent Published: 12:01AM BST 03 Jul 2009

Survival of the fittest and natural selection usually means that species grow bigger as they evolve but milder weather on the uninhabited islands of the Scottish Outer Hebrides has pushed this process into reverse.
Despite a greater abundance of food, milder winters and longer summers means that the wild Soay sheep of the St Kilda archipelago are shrinking by 3.5 ounces (100g) a year.

Over nearly a quarter of a century the sheep, one of the oldest breeds in the world and already half the size of a normal domestic sheep, have dropped in weight and height by five per cent.
Researchers believe that the hotter weather means that the weaker, smaller lambs that are usually wiped out by harsh winters are surviving – bringing down the average of the 2,000-strong wild flock.
The milder weather is also allowing younger, smaller mothers to have children early, meaning they give birth to smaller offspring.
Professor Coulson suggests that this is because shorter, milder winters, caused by global climate change, mean that lambs do not need to put on as much as weight in the first months of life to survive to their first birthday as they did when winters were colder.
Although Soay sheep, which can live up to 16 years-old and weigh 100lbs (45kgs), get their name from the small outcrop of rock of the same name, they now inhabit other islands in the St Kilda archipelago.
The scientists led by Professor Tim Coulson, from Imperial College London, chose to study the population on the 1,500 acre island of Hirta which has been uninhabited since 1930.
Over 24 years they have studied the relative size of the flock, capturing, marking and measuring them every summer. Their research, published in the journal Science, shows that over the period the average size of the flock has dropped from 66lbs (30kgs) to 61lbs (28kgs).
At the same time, average leg lengths have dropped by just under half an inch.
"In the past, only the big, healthy sheep and large lambs that had piled on weight in their first summer could survive the harsh winters on Hirta," said Prof Coulson.
"But now, due to climate change, grass for food is available for more months of the year, and survival conditions are not so challenging – even the slower growing sheep have a chance of making it, and this means smaller individuals are becoming increasingly prevalent in the population."
He said the fact there was more food meant that the populations were booming which in turn was actually reducing the average intake per animal.
"Climate change is overriding what we would expect through natural selection."
He said this may help explain how climate change will affect other remote communities and could explain why fossils of dwarf elephants and rhinos have been found on some remote islands.

Low Sugar Output May Derail Move to Boost Ethanol

MUMBAI -- Despite rising crude oil prices, Indian refiners may not be able to switch to increased use of ethanol because of a plunge in sugar output to a four-year low.
Refined sugar prices in the country have risen almost 70% in the current crop year that began Oct. 1 as output fell to 14.7 million metric tons compared with the record of 28.5 million tons clocked in 2006-07. Production next year may be lower than an industry estimate of 20 million tons.
In contrast, ethanol prices are fixed by the government, giving millers little scope to earn margins that they are currently enjoying on sugar. The scenario is unlikely to improve soon because the fall in output this year may deplete the country's stocks, keeping the sweetener's prices high and, dashing attempts by the government and oil companies to curb consumption of regular gasoline at a time when crude oil costs rise.
"Even if you see a marginal improvement in production next season, sugar prices are not going to come down as the carry over stocks will be lower and millers will prefer to produce more sugar than ethanol," said Sridhar Chandrasekhar, head of CRISIL Research, a unit of Standard & Poor's.
Ethanol prices are currently set at 21.50 rupees ($0.45)/litre.
In India, ethanol is produced from molasses, a by-product of crushing sugarcane.
The country has a capacity to produce about 2,200 million liters a year of ethanol, according to the Indian Sugar Mills Association.
Of the total, the chemical industry consumes around 650 million liters, the liquor industry another 750 million liters while demand for ethanol is about 800 million liters.
Indian sugar mills have invested 30 billion rupees on ethanol production facilities in the last three to four years, according to industry estimates.
Indian oil marketing companies are currently required to blend 5% ethanol with regular gasoline. The program hasn't been fully implemented, in part because the refining companies and sugar mills couldn't agree on a price.
The original plan was to sell 10% blended gasoline from October last year. That plan is far from being implemented because the initial phase of a 5% mix hasn't yet been fully accomplished, and the whole exercise lost its urgency after oil prices plunged. So far, Indian refining companies weren't too keen on using ethanol as oil prices had fell more than $100 a barrel, but the situation has changed now, said Sanjay Tapriya, director of finance, Simbhaoli Sugar Mills Ltd.
Ethanol usage becomes profitable if the oil prices rise above $55-$60, he added.
Recovering crude oil prices prompted Hindustan Petroleum Corp., one of the nation's biggest state-run refiners, to plan restarting two of its closed sugar mills in eastern India at a cost of 6.14 billion rupees to produce ethanol.
Crude oil prices have increased about 60% to $71 since January. India, Asia's third-largest oil consumer, imports about 75% of its requirement oil, and spends billions of dollars in subsidies to keep retail rates affordable.
"If you look at crude oil, it's again posing a threat. People will again start moving towards alternative fuels," said Harish Galipelli, head of research at Karvy Comtrade Ltd.
Demand for ethanol will again revive if oil prices continue to rise, Mr. Galipelli said.
Write to Debiprasad Nayak at

The car stays in the garage as more drivers see green, cut trips and turn to public transport

Survey shows that nearly 70 per cent of environmentally aware people in Britain are look02072009ing to other ways of getting around
Marcus Leroux

More than two thirds of environmentally aware people have cut the number of trips they make by car, a poll for The Times has found.
Nearly 70 per cent of concerned consumers have reduced car use in the past year and the main reason for the switch to other forms of travel has changed from cost to factors such as better public transport, according to the annual Populus survey.
Only 35 per cent cited cost as the primary reason for cutting car journeys, compared with 47 per cent last year, when the high price of petrol was driving consumers off the road.
The proportion of respondents who said that they had reduced the number of trips was the same.

In an indication that the Government’s high-profile ride-to-work scheme is having an effect, 34 per cent said lifestyle changes were responsible for the reduction in trips — up four percentage points from last year. Improved public transport was given as the main reason by 7 per cent of respondents, compared with only 3 per cent last time.
The environment remains a prominent issue, with 14 per cent of concerned consumers saying it was the most important reason for cutting down on trips.
David Lourie, an analyst for Good Business, the ethical consultancy, said the findings demonstrated that the unprecedented price of oil last year may have fostered a long-term change in how people want to travel. “It is an opportunity for the Government to tap into this by presenting viable alternatives,” he added.
But despite additional evidence that motorists are deserting their cars, the troubled automotive industry can take heart that even consumers who care about the environment are in favour of the state aid that carmakers have been granted. Some 42 per cent were in favour of government assistance, compared with only 39 per cent against. “This is quite strong support; look at the anger over bailouts to the banking industry. It’s a clear indication they want the industry to succeed,” Mr Lourie said.
“Cars are integrated into people’s lives and they want the industry to find solutions.”
This trust in the motor sector to come up with answers is borne out by the relatively small proportion of concerned consumers who said they did not envisage themselves driving a car in ten years’ time. Only a quarter of respondents, down four percentage points, said they would not have a car — the same as the proportion who believed they would be driving a hybrid. Hydrogen and electric cars only accounted for 23 per cent between them, by contrast.
However, only one respondent in seven said they thought they would be driving a petrol car in ten years’ time.
Mr Lourie said: “The Toyota Prius and fuel-efficient cars have shifted people’s perception. Because electric cars have low range, when you ask people what they’ll be driving in ten years’ time, they say: “They only go five miles.’ ”
For the motor industry, the environmental imperative — or, put in selfish terms, the fuel-efficiency imperative — is highlighted by how high price and environmental considerations come on consumers’ agendas, compared with practical issues or the brand of the car.
Some 41 per cent cited price as the most important factor, up from 36 per cent last year. The environmental credentials of the model were the most important factor for 28 per cent of respondents, up three percentage points from 2008.
Only 4 per cent said brand was the most important factor, while practical considerations, such as the size and the number of seats, were identified by only 16 per cent as the most important consideration when buying a vehicle.
Mr Lourie explained: “In other sectors, things like quality and brand name will be higher on the agenda. If you look at a brand like Fiat, who in the past would have had negative opinions, they have actually got a very fuel-efficient fleet. So there’s an opportunity there for companies like Fiat.”
The findings also suggest that the Government’s high-profile scrappage scheme, under which drivers can receive £2,000 for trading in their old cars, has changed consumers’ perception over who is responsible for disposing of old vehicles.
Some 42 per cent of concerned consumers believe that the safe disposal of vehicles after the end of their lives is the responsibility of manufacturers, up 2 per cent on last year. About 90 per cent of respondents had heard of the scheme, although only 1 per cent had taken part.
Last month the Government said that some 60,000 new cars had been ordered under the scheme, which was intended to support carmakers. It had been criticised for not targeting British manufacturers specifically, but mirrors schemes in France and Germany.
Despite Lord Mandelson’s intention to prop up the beleaguered motor industry, the scheme has had positive environmental knock-on effects, because new cars are more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly than older models.


A £3.6 MILLION grant has been awarded to invest in research and development in seaweed anaerobic digestion, used to produce biogas for heat and electricity generation on Scotland's islands. The cash, from ITI Energy, will be used to develop the way seaweed is harvested.BAD DAYIrelandRATINGS agency Moody's stripped Ireland of its last AAA credit rating yesterday and warned Prime Minister Brian Cowen he had to inflict more fiscal pain on his recession-wracked country or risk a further downgrade. The former "Celtic Tiger" was hit hard by the property crash.

State's Renewable-Energy Focus Risks Power Shortages


California officials are beginning to worry that the state's focus on transitioning to renewable-energy sources could lead to power shortages in the near term.
The state has been so keen to develop renewables that relatively few conventional power generators, such as gas-fired plants, have been built lately. That risks a possible energy shortfall in certain places if the economy rebounds any time soon.

California's utilities are barreling ahead to try to meet a state mandate to garner 33% of their power from renewable sources by 2020, and some officials are concerned the effort might push up electricity prices and crimp supplies.
The state auditor warned this week that the electricity sector poses a "high risk" to the state economy. A staff report from the state energy commission also warns that California could find itself uncomfortably tight on power by 2011 if problems continue to pile up.
Utilities complain that the ambitious renewable-energy mandates, combined with tougher environmental regulations on conventional plants, are compromising their ability to deliver adequate power. "Conflicting state policies are a problem," said Stuart Hemphill, senior vice president of procurement at Southern California Edison, a unit of Edison International of Rosemead, Calif.
The stresses being felt in California could be a harbinger of problems to come in other states. The federal Waxman-Markey climate-change bill, passed by the House of Representatives on June 26, would require states to obtain about 15% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Currently, about 4% of U.S. electricity comes from renewables, excluding hydropower.
California's 33% renewable-energy target is so ambitious that it is likely to miss the goal by five years or more, energy officials now concur.
State energy agencies recently concluded it could cost $114 billion or more to meet the 33% mandate, more than double what it might have cost to achieve an earlier 20% requirement. Consumers will bear those costs, one way or another.
Agencies also identified problems with constructing sufficient transmission capacity to move renewable-based energy to cities.
Southern California Edison, which buys more renewable electricity than any other U.S. utility, has conducted seven solicitations for renewable-energy supplies since 2002 and inked 48 renewable energy contracts. Yet it is still only halfway toward its procurement goal. In 2008, 16% of its electricity was renewable in origin, but more than 60% of that came from geothermal plants -- most of them built long before the current push for green power.
At the same time, new regulations are putting existing power plants under pressure. Last week, the state Water Resources Control Board issued a proposed policy that would clamp down on power plants that use something called "once-through cooling," which sucks water out of the ocean and rivers and discharges massive amounts of warmed water, harming some aquatic life.
The policy would end the practice at 19 plants that produce as much as 15% of the state's electricity. That has the California Energy Commission worried electricity shortages might arise if older, marginal plants are shut down before there is replacement power is available.
Building conventional power units is notoriously tough in Southern California because of air-quality problems and difficulty getting air-emissions credits, which are essentially rights to spew specified amounts of pollutants.
Early this year, the local air agency, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, imposed a moratorium on issuing air credits from its "bank" that affected 10 power plants that were under development.
"It's too early to tell how the pieces will fit together, but all the agencies and utilities are talking," said Edison's Mr. Hemphill. "Something has to be worked out."
Write to Rebecca Smith at

Green power could generate £70 billion for the economy

Embracing wind and wave power could generate up to £70 billion for the UK economy, according to a new report.

Published: 11:43AM BST 02 Jul 2009

New analysis from the Carbon Trust outlines the economic benefits of new technologies, saying almost 250,000 jobs could be generated by offshore wind and wave power alone.
In the first of a series of economic reviews, the report says that the UK could seize 45 per cent of the global offshore wind market but calls for up to £600 million in research and development, the removal of regulatory barriers and new incentives to speed up the deployment of offshore wind power around the British coasts.

The report also claims that, with a quarter of the world's wave technologies already being developed in the UK, Britain could generate revenues worth £2 billion per year by 2050 and up to 16,000 jobs.
Harnessing both offshore wind and wave power could provide at least 15 per cent of the total carbon savings required to meet the UK's 2050 targets, analysts found.
Tom Delay, chief executive of the Carbon Trust, said: "These technologies are not green 'nice to haves' but are critical to the economic recovery of the UK. To reap the significant rewards from their successful development we must prioritise and comprehensively back the technologies that offer the best chance of securing long term carbon savings, jobs and revenue for Britain.
"We have known for a while that the UK has an important role to play in the clean tech revolution. But, rather than following in the footsteps of others, this new analysis shows it is an economic no-brainer to be leading from the front. The global race is clearly on and the clock is ticking."
David Kidney, Minister for Energy and Climate Change, said: "The government aims to secure Britain's green future, and seize the economic benefits of the move to a low carbon economy. We are determined to position our country as a hub of the advanced green manufacturing revolution.
"The £405 million investment in low carbon industries secured in the recent budget is a strong signal of our intention to realise that vision. The commercialisation review is an important contribution from the Carbon Trust and I welcome their valuable insights."
:: Planning chiefs have rejected proposals for six giant wind turbines in a rural beauty spot near Madonna's former country estate.
Green energy firm Ecotricity submitted the plans to build six 395ft (120m) turbines near the village of Silton, near Gillingham, in Dorset.
North Dorset District Council's planning officers recommended the scheme for approval, but a development control committee has unanimously rejected the plans to sounds of cheering and applause.

Wind and wave power could generate £70bn and 250,000 UK jobs

Published Date: 03 July 2009

THE UK could generate up to £70 billion for the economy and almost 250,000 jobs from offshore wind and wave power, a new report has suggested.
The Carbon Trust says offshore wind and wave power can provide at least 15 per cent of the total carbon savings required to meet 2050 targets.But it says a bold new approach is needed if Britain is to transform itself into a global hub of low carbon innovation.In the first of a series of economic reviews, the report says that the UK could seize 45 per cent of the global offshore wind market but calls for up to £600 million in research and development, the removal of regulatory barriers and new incentives to speed up offshore wind power development around the coast.The report also claims that, with a quarter of the world's wave technologies already being developed in the UK, Britain could generate revenues worth £2bn per year by 2050 and up to 16,000 jobs.Carbon Trust chief executive Tom Delay said: "These technologies are not green 'nice to haves' but are critical to the economic recovery of the UK. To reap the significant rewards from their successful development we must prioritise and comprehensively back the technologies that offer the best chance of securing long-term carbon savings, jobs and revenue for Britain."We have known for a while that the UK has an important role to play in the clean tech revolution. But, rather than following in the footsteps of others, this new analysis shows it is an economic no-brainer to be leading from the front. The global race is clearly on and the clock is ticking."David Kidney, minister for energy and climate change, said: "The government aims to secure Britain's green future, and seize the economic benefits of the move to a low carbon economy. We are determined to position our country as a hub of the advanced green manufacturing revolution."The £405m investment in low carbon industries secured in the recent Budget is a strong signal of our intention to realise that vision." John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace, said every country needs a decarbonisation plan to solve three challenges: climate stability, energy security and economic prosperity."The UK has an enormous untapped supply of clean, green renewable energy and a world-class engineering industry well placed to develop it. Our economy can also save billions in energy costs by investing in an unprecedented energy efficiency drive."George Smith, managing director of Aberdeen-based Green Ocean Energy, which has developed two wave power devices, said the potential for the UK to capitalise on wind and wave power is huge."If the wave and wind power industry is to achieve its potential it is essential that it attracts the investment needed and the skilled workers to develop this growing sector."But James Cox, principal consultant at Pöyry Energy Consulting, said although wind and wave generation may create jobs and investments, there will be consequences for the electricity markets.A Pöyry study published this week found that a third of the UK's power generation could come from wind, but the electricity system and the markets will have to adapt to face the implications of intermittency

How global warming shrank St Kilda's sheep

Darwinism turned on its head as milder winters allow smaller lambs to survive
By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Friday, 3 July 2009

It was the curious case of the shrinking sheep. For nearly a quarter of a century the wild Soay sheep on the windswept Scottish island of Hirta have been getting smaller when evolution should have made them bigger.

It was a conundrum that had mystified the scientists who began studying the flock back in the mid-1980s, but now they believe they have come up with a convincing explanation: it all comes down to climate change.
A succession of milder winters and earlier springs have allowed smaller lambs to survive the harsh Hirta winters, with the result that the average body size of the typical Soay ewe has shrunk by about 5 per cent over the past 24 years.
Scientists believe that the findings might begin to explain the subtle interactions between ecological pressures that act on a species' body size over short periods, and the longer-term evolutionary pressures that can lead to the sort of extreme "island dwarfism" seen in fossils of extinct animals trapped on islands, such as pygmy hippos and dwarf elephants.
"Our findings have solved a paradox that has tormented biologists for years – why predictions did not match observation," said Professor Tim Coulson, of Imperial College London, who led the study, published in the journal Science, with colleagues Josephine Pemberton and Tim Clutton-Brock.
The Soay sheep fatten up on the lush grass during summer, in the hope that this will take them through the long winter when food is in short supply. Evolutionary theory suggested that the bigger sheep with the most fat would be the most likely members of the flock to survive until the following spring.
"According to classic evolutionary theory, they should have been getting bigger, because larger sheep tend to be more likely to survive and reproduce than smaller ones, and offspring tend to resemble their parents," said Professor Coulson.
But the scientists found that over the course of their observations, which dated back to the 1980s, the average size of female sheep has been getting smaller, largely because smaller lambs that in the past would not have made it through the bitter winter months were beginning to survive until the following spring.
They found that a typical ewe was getting smaller each year by between 80g and 100g, and that lambs were not growing as quickly as before. Previously, the larger lambs that put on weight the fastest during their first summer were the most likely to survive until the following spring. "Climate change has moved spring a little bit earlier and as spring came earlier, fewer sheep were dying," said Professor Coulson. "This decline in the growth rate has also led to an increase in the population size of the Soay flock."
Another contribution to the remarkable case was what the scientists called the "young-mum effect". They found that ewes pregnant for the first time were physically incapable of giving birth to large lambs, which means that there is a constant flow of small lambs being born.
This runs counter to the evolutionary pressure for larger lambs and the scientists are still unsure about the reasons for the persistence of the young-mum effect, although it forms an important part of the explanation for smaller sheep.
As to what will happen in future years, Professor Coulson is more reticent. "It's a little bit early to predict that we'll be having Chihuahuas running around herding pygmy sheep in say a hundred years from now," he said.