Friday, 5 February 2010

Spending Backlog Irks Energy Chief

WASHINGTON—Energy Secretary Steven Chu expressed frustration Thursday that most of the roughly $37 billion in stimulus money Congress gave his agency last year had yet to be spent, but said the agency could manage a new round of funding for clean-energy projects as part of an expected jobs bill.
At a hearing of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Dr. Chu said his agency had handed out only a fraction of the authorized stimulus funds.
According to the agency's Web site, only $2.1 billion has been spent.
The disbursement has been slowed partly by the complexity of the review process the department must follow when determining which projects are eligible for support, he said.
Dr. Chu also suggested that state and local governments in the U.S. were having problems coping with the bureaucratic requirements.
"We're not dilly-dallying," he said. "Many of these organizations aren't used to dealing with that magnitude of money."
But some lawmakers are questioning the agency's ability to quickly spend more money.
"How will you spend more when you still have $32 billion that is still hanging out there?" asked Sen. Lisa Murkowski, (R., Alaska).
Some state officials say the delays have not been solely on their end. Massachusetts officials say Dr. Chu's agency took nearly seven months to determine whether the state's proposal to spend $55 million on insulation, window replacement and other projects required a review under the National Environmental Policy Act, a federal law that requires agencies to make sure federally funded projects won't harm the environment.
"We made our frustrations known," said Phil Giudice, commissioner of the state's Department of Energy Resources.
Dr. Chu said that his agency could quickly spend additional stimulus dollars on certain items that didn't require much review time, such as awarding tax credits for renewable-energy projects.
Congress is considering giving the Energy Department and other federal agencies billions of additional dollars as part of new legislation intended to spur job creation.
The Obama administration has said it planned to seek as much as $5 billion for tax credits and grants to encourage renewable energy, and that it might seek more money for weatherization programs that reduce energy consumption by installing insulation and new windows in homes.
In December, a report by the Energy Department's inspector general warned that staffing shortages and other internal weaknesses increased the risk of fraud and could delay the agency's efforts to spend economic-stimulus funds.
The report said that the agency had made "substantial progress" in identifying risks and strengthening oversight of projects, but that department offices were still too short-staffed and under-trained to handle such a massive increase in funding authority.

Greenpeace director tells IPCC boss Rajendra Pachauri to stand down over glacier claim

Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is under increased pressure after the head of Greenpeace called for him to step down.

By Matthew MoorePublished: 7:45AM GMT 04 Feb 2010

Dr Pachauri has refused to apologise for an inaccurate claim published in an IPCC report that the Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035.
The error has been seized upon by climate change sceptics as evidence that the case for man-made global warming is being exaggerated, and now Dr Pachauri's allies in the environmental movement have spoken out against his handling of the affair.

John Sauven, director of Greenpeace UK, called on the Indian academic to be replaced to rebuild the "credibility" of the UN's climate change body.
“Mistakes will always be made but it’s how you handle those mistakes which affects the credibility of the institution. Pachauri should have put his hand up and said ‘we made a mistake’," he told The Times.
"It’s in these situations that your character and judgment is tested. Do you make the right judgment call? He clearly didn’t.
“The IPCC needs to regain credibility. Is that going to happen with Pachauri [as chairman]? I don’t think so. We need someone held in high regard who has extremely good judgment and is seen by the global public as someone on their side.
“If we get a new person in with an open mind, prepared to fundamentally review how the IPCC works, we would regain confidence in the organisation.”
Earlier this week Dr Pachauri said a personal apology on the glacier mistake would be a "populist" step.
The 2035 claim originated in an article published in New Scientist magazine which even the author has admitted was based on "speculation" rather than formal research.

Report likens renewables to Scotland’s oil boom years

Charlene Sweeney

The manufacture of offshore renewable technology could provide an economic boost to Scotland that is equivalent to the boom years of North Sea oil and gas.
That is the view of senior business figures, who yesterday unveiled the first stage in a plan to create the infrastructure necessary to take advantage of the country’s growing renewable energy sector.
Renewable schemes are set to expand greatly over the coming decade. Estimates put the capital costs of offshore wind projects in Scottish waters at between £15 billion and £18 billion over the next 10 years, while the Pentland Firth, in the north of the country, has one quarter of Europe’s tidal power potential.
The report, Scotland’s Renewables Infrastructure Plan, published by Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), suggests 11 locations, including five in the highlands and islands, which could be developed as key sites for the production and assembly of turbines for offshore wind farms, and the manufacture of marine devices.
It said investment in the 11 locations was “crucial” if the country is to supply and fit the offshore schemes planned for Scottish waters. Other locations will also be required to act as operation and maintenance bases.
“If these sites are not available there is the danger that offshore wind developers and wave and tidal manufacturers could source the manufactured equipment for projects which secure Crown Estate leases from out with Scotland, and out with the UK. If that happens the economic benefit to Scotland will be minimal, despite the country's unmatchable renewable energy potential,” the report cautioned.
The comments will be seen as a warning that the country must not repeat its failure to capitalise on the mass installation of onshore wind farms in Scotland in recent years, including Whitelee, just outside Glasgow, the biggest wind farm farm in Europe. There is lingering regret that most of the manufacturing jobs for such turbines went abroad.
The 11 sites — at Leith, Dundee, Nigg, in Inverness-shire, Methil, in Fife, Aberdeen, Hunterston, in Ayrshire, Arnish, in Lewis, Machrihanish, in Argyll, Ardersier, Inverness-shire, Peterhead, and Kishorn, Wester Ross — have been chosen because they offer the best infrastructure and location. Among the key requirements are deep water, which is necessary to accommodate the large vessels that will transport the turbines, quayside space for fabrication and assembly, and the availability of a skilled workforce.
A second report, due to be published later this year, will determine how much investment, both public and private sector, is required to make the sites viable. Some have a head start. Renewables manufacturing is already underway at Arnish, Nigg and Machrihanish, while other sites have a history of servicing the North Sea oil and gas industry.
Calum Davidson, head of key sectors with HIE, said: “This report underlines Scotland’s intention to be at the forefront of this emerging industry. The fabrication opportunities of offshore wind have the potential to match the boom years of oil and gas in the 70s and 80s, if we can capture the manufacturing opportunities for Scotland.”
Adrian Gillespie, senior director of Scottish Enterprise’s energy team, said: “The further development of a first phase of locations is critical to Scotland establishing itself as a leading location for manufacturing and assembling wind turbines and marine devices. Over time, the industry will offer significant opportunities for the whole of Scotland.
“Investing in these sites will provide companies and investors in offshore wind with suitable locations to base themselves to develop, service and support the opportunities that will be created in Scottish and UK water for renewable energy. The sheer scale of Scotland’s economic opportunity means we have to work quickly with our partners to develop the next stage of the plan, which will examine private and public sector investment opportunities” Jim Mather, the Energy Minister, welcomed the report. The offshore wind industry is due to invest £20 billion in Scottish waters over the next decade, he said.

Britain and India agree nuclear power deal

Rhys Blakely, Mumbai

Britain and India today agreed the text of a deal that will allow British companies to enter the fray against Russia and France in the scramble to supply nuclear power equipment worth an estimated $150 billion.
The breakthrough, which emerged from talks held in London, comes after international sanctions that had prevented India from buying civilian nuclear technology for 30 years were lifted in 2008.
Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, said: "This is a very, very significant advance, and I look forward to that text being signed off at a ministerial level before long."
The countries declined to give further details, but officials said it would provide "major trade opportunities" for British businesses.

India is expected to increase the power it generates from nuclear sources 100-fold in the next 40 years and American Government offials estimate that deals worth at least $150 billion will be generated.
A British Government spokesman added: "Fifty years after building the world's first commercially operated power station, the UK is still one of the market leaders in this sector. It’s an industry that earns the UK £700 million in overseas business every year and employs over 80,000 people across the nuclear supply chain."
During a visit to the Kremlin in December, the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed a new pact under which Russia will build as many as 12 new reactors in India.
The deal, which Russian officials said was worth "several dozens of billions of dollars", is structured in such a way that India will continue to receive nuclear fuel from Russia and keep imported equipment, even if it tests nuclear weapons.
India’s equivalent pact with the United States Government is far more stringent, calling for the return of all nuclear co-operation and return of all associated US-supplied equipment and fuel if the arrangement were to be terminated.
India was originally banned from accessing civilian nuclear technology when it tested an atomic bomb in 1974.
India has also approached Areva, the French manufacturer, over the possible supply of latest generation reactors. Areva already has a deal in place to supply India's regional rival China with the same advanced hardware.
Much of India is regularly blighted by power cuts and with nuclear fuel in short supply, the country’s existing nuclear power plants are estimated to be running at only about half of their full capacity.
Meanwhile, India is on course to become the world’s third largest energy consumer within three decades, according to McKinsey, the consultants, after the US and China. With demand for electricity in India expected to increase five-fold in the same period, its share of world energy consumption will nearly double.

Konica Minolta to launch organic solar cells

Reuters, Friday February 5 2010
TOKYO, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Japan's Konica Minolta Holdings Inc said it would launch organic solar cells in three years, taking aim at growing demand for renewable energy sources and posing a threat to existing solar cell makers such as Sharp Corp and First Solar Inc.
Organic solar cells are bendable and cost less to manufacture than silicon-based solar cells, which currently dominate the market for such products.
Konica Minolta, a major maker of copiers, printers and high-tech components, expects organic solar cells to join its lighting fixture based on organic light-emitting diode technology as its new earnings drivers.
"Just like our organic light-emitting diode lighting operation, preparation is underway so that (organic) solar cells will become a business of substantial size for us by 2016, 2017," Konica Minolta Chief Executive Masatoshi Matsuzaki told Reuters in an interview on Friday.
Konica Minolta said in November it would launch advanced lighting equipment based on organic light-emitting diode technology by March 2011 and that it would target annual sales of more than 100 billion yen ($1.1 billion) by 2017.
OLED lighting, which uses organic or carbon-containing compounds that emit light when electricity is applied, is a promising next-generation lighting fixture as it is light, thin and bendable, and unlike fluorescent lamps is also mercury-free.
Matsuzaki said Konica Minolta has decided to bring forward the start-up of its new LCD film plant from its original autumn target, responding to robust demand from panel makers including a new client.
"Demand is running high. This is not the time for us to lie back and take it easy," he said.
The company competes with Fujifilm Holdings Corp in triacetyl cellulose (TAC) film, which protects the polarisation plates used in LCD panels.
Konica Minolta plans to spend 18 billion yen to build the new factory in Japan, which will be capable of making 50 million square metres of TAC film a year.
Matsuzaki said Konica Minolta internally aims to post a bigger profit in the year starting April than it did last business year.
It reported an operating profit of 56.26 billion yen for the year ended March 2009, while analysts on average expect Konica Minolta to post 53 billion yen in operating profit in the next business year, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Joseph Radford)

Green energy will not meet world demand, warns BP boss

By Alistair Dawber
Friday, 5 February 2010
Policymakers are fooling themselves if they believe greener sources of energy alone can adequately meet Britain's needs for the next decade, the chief executive of BP warned last night.
Demand will not be met by the "very ambitious" nuclear programme and planned increases renewable energy capacity, Tony Hayward said.
"With these uncertainties in mind, it would be foolish to underplay the role that natural gas and energy conservation can play in reducing carbon emissions," he added in a speech at the London Business School.
Weighing into the politically sensitive debate about energy security, Mr Hayward said the UK had coped well during the recent cold spell but argued that the "legitimate and desirable goal" of greater energy security would be realised only by more investment in infrastructure, including gas storage.
Unsurprisingly for the head of an oil company, Mr Hayward suggested that hydrocarbons would continue to play a key role in meeting growing global demand. BP estimates that global energy usage will double by 2050, requiring investment of $1trn a year.
"The share of renewable energy will certainly increase, but we have to be realistic about its contribution," he added. "As of today, all the world's wind, solar, wave, tide and geothermal energy accounts for around 1 per cent of total consumption. Given the practical challenges of scaling up such technologies, the International Energy Agency cannot see them accounting for much more than 5 per cent of consumption in 2030."
Mr Hayward also dismissed suggestions that the Copenhagen climate change summit was a failure. Despite governments failing to agree to legally binding agreements on cutting CO2 emissions, the BP chief said the conference was the first time countries had agreed to head "in the same direction", adding: "This is a huge step forward."

Only a wide mix of energy types will provide for us in the future

Friday, 5 February 2010
BP's projections suggest we'll need around 45 per cent more energy in 2030 than we consume today – and double what we consume today by 2050. That's going to require investment of more than $1trn a year – every year. How do we meet that demand sustainably? Certainly there will need to be changes in the energy mix. We need more low-carbon energy. And we need to use energy more efficiently. But the main point is that there is no magic solution, and we will need a wide mix of energy types in 20 years' time.
The share of renewable energy will increase, but we have to be realistic about its contribution. As of today, all of the world's wind, solar, wave, tide and geothermal energy accounts for around one per cent of total consumption. Given the practical challenges of scaling up such technologies, the International Energy Agency can't see them accounting for much more than five per cent of consumption in 2030, even with aggressive policy support.
Undoubtedly nuclear energy and biofuels will play a part, and by 2030 carbon capture technology could be deployed at scale. But there will still be a major role for hydrocarbons. Indeed the IEA analysis indicates that even in a low-carbon scenario predicated on keeping the atmospheric concentration of CO2 to less than 450ppm, hydrocarbons will remain dominant.
The good news is that we have enough reserves of oil, and especially natural gas, to last for decades and reserve estimates are rising as we develop ways of unlocking both conventional and unconventional resources. Our analysis indicates that the world has sufficient proved reserves for over 40 years of oil and 60 years of gas at today's consumption rates.
So the foundation stone of energy security is creating a diverse supply of energy – diverse in the forms it takes and diverse in the places it comes from. Today we say "there are no silver bullets". A century ago Churchill said the same thing in the language of his time when he declared that "safety and certainty in oil lie in variety and variety alone".
The energy of the future will be more than oil. But oil will still be a major part of it. The critical point is that it will be a diverse mix.
Taken from a speech given by the chief executive of BP at the London Business School last night

Turbines' £20bn economic windfall

Published Date: 05 February 2010
By Jenny Fyall
ELEVEN areas of Scotland are earmarked to benefit from a manufacturing boom in offshore wind turbines over the next decade.
It is predicted up to 8,000 giant turbines will be put in the seas around Scotland by 2020, in an emerging offshore wind sector worth an estimated £20 billion.Renewables companies are expected to flock to Scotland to make the most of the excellent conditions for offshore wind farms in coastal waters, providing 20,000 new jobs.However, Scotland will achieve full benefit from investment opportunities only if the turbines for offshore wind farms are built here – rather than being shipped in from overseas.Scotland largely missed out on playing a role in the onshore wind turbine manufacturing sector, and the Scottish Government is determined not to repeat the mistake.So the government asked Scottish Enterprise to draw up a "National Renewables Infrastructure Plan" identifying suitable sites for manufacturing.The chosen areas, in a Scottish Enterprise report published yesterday, are Leith, Dundee, Nigg, Hunterston, Aberdeen, Arnish, Campbeltown, Machrihanish, Ardersier, Kishorn, Peterhead and Energy Park Fife at Methil.They have been chosen as they have the potential to provide up to 500 hectares of space at the quayside needed for building and storing turbines, water access for vessels up to 140 metres long, and possibly even helicopter landing pads for turbines that need to be taken far out to sea.Identifying key sites was the first step tasked to Scottish Enterprise, and now a second report will draw up "investment plans" for each site, to identify funding steams to make sure necessary infrastructure is in place.No public money has been set aside for improving the infrastructure at the 11 sites. Instead, it is expected most of the money will come from the private sector.The sites would be used to build and assemble different parts of turbines, such as blades and towers, and some would become "hubs" for maintaining offshore wind farms once built. Each could support up to 5,000 workers.The report added: "If these sites are not available, there is the danger that offshore wind developers and wave and tidal manufacturers could source the manufactured equipment for projects which secure Crown Estate leases from outwith Scotland, and outwith the UK. If this happens, the economic benefit to Scotland will be minimal, despite the country's unmatched renewable energy generation potential."Calum Davidson, head of key sectors with Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said: "The fabrication opportunities of offshore wind have the potential to match the boom years of oil and gas in the Seventies and Eighties, if we can capture the manufacturing opportunities for Scotland."Energy minister Jim Mather said: "We have massive opportunities to build strong, vibrant industries throughout the supply chain, and that's why we are taking a national approach to infrastructure to maximise the economic benefits from renewables." Dr Dan Barlow, head of policy at WWF Scotland, said: "Scotland must grab the opportunity offshore wind offers and invest in locations identified in the report.

Carbon trading fraudsters steal permits worth £2.7m in 'phishing' scam

European Commission launches investigation after 250,000 permits stolen from companies in Germany and Czech Republic

Felicity Carus, Thursday 4 February 2010 17.33 GMT
Hundreds of thousands of carbon trading permits have been stolen from companies in Germany and the Czech Republic by fraudsters who duped companies into giving their details via a fake website.
Around 250,000 permits worth €3m were stolen from six companies in Germany in last week's "phishing attack", which was first reported to the German national carbon registry on Friday. Permit trading on the German registry was closed immediately but reopened today.
Phishing attacks are similar to online banking scams, in which users are sent emails asking them to enter their details on a facsimile of a website.
Hans-Jurgen Nantke, the head of the German emissions trading authority, said that users had been warned and new passwords set. But he added it would be impossible to track the European emissions trading scheme permits as they would have been traded soon after they left the companies' accounts and changed hands several times since.
He said: "It's not a problem of carbon trading, it's a problem of the internet. The phishing attacks on banks has now spread to carbon trading. The phishers have already earned their money so we can't do anything about the permits. The problem now is to find the culprits and that's police a matter."
Nantke stressed that the German carbon register DEHSt was safe, adding that it has 2,000 companies and only seven were affected. But European carbon trading authorities have not yet confirmed how many companies were affected across Europe.
Europe's main mechanism for reducing emissions from industry has been targeted by criminals before. Last year so-called "carousel fraud" criminals were found to be cashing in on permits bought in countries without paying VAT by selling them on with VAT, and then disappearing without handing the VAT to the tax authorities. Three British men were arrested last month in Belgium and accused of failing to pay VAT worth €3m (£2.7m) on carbon credit transactions.
Barbara Helfferich, environment spokeswoman at the European Commission, said that an investigation had been launched into the phishing attack, but admitted the website had not yet been shut down or the culprits found.
Helfferich said that preventing future attacks was a priority, particularly because of the new European carbon registry scheduled to begin trading in 2012 which will include permits from the aviation industry. "We'll have to look at whether we need to improve security for this registry," she said.
Carbon trading around the world, beyond the European Union's emission trading scheme, is done via an international transaction log run by the UN framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC) under the Kyoto agreement.
The UNFCCC said in a statement on its website: "The secretariat of the UNFCCC has been informed by some national registries operated by parties to the Kyoto protocol that last week, a series of phishing attacks had stolen passwords from some users of these registries.
"The UNFCCC secretariat is collaborating closely with the remaining national registries to ensure that access to their systems is secured. Meanwhile, these registries have been disconnected from the international transaction log (ITL), which is under the control of the secretariat.
"The ITL validates and records all transactions of Kyoto protocol units. It has not been subject to interference and remains fully secure and operational."

India forms new climate change body

The Indian government has established its own body to monitor the effects of global warming because it “cannot rely” on the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the group headed by its own Nobel prize-winning scientist Dr R.K Pachauri.

By Dean Nelson in New Delhi Published: 3:47PM GMT 04 Feb 2010

The move is a significant snub to both the IPCC and Dr Pachauri as he battles to defend his reputation following the revelation that his most recent climate change report included false claims that most of the Himalayan glaciers would melt away by 2035. Scientists believe it could take more than 300 years for the glaciers to disappear.
The body and its chairman have faced growing criticism ever since as questions have been raised on the credibility of their work and the rigour with which climate change claims are assessed.

In India the false claims have heightened tensions between Dr Pachauri and the government, which had earlier questioned his glacial melting claims. In Autumn, its environment minister Mr Jairam Ramesh said while glacial melting in the Himalayas was a real concern, there was evidence that some were actually advancing despite global warming.
Dr Pachauri had dismissed challenges like these as based on “voodoo science”, but last night Mr Ramesh effectively marginalized the IPC chairman even further.
He announced the Indian government will established a separate National Institute of Himalayan Glaciology to monitor the effects of climate change on the world’s ‘third ice cap’, and an ‘Indian IPCC’ to use ‘climate science’ to assess the impact of global warming throughout the country.
“There is a fine line between climate science and climate evangelism. I am for climate science. I think people misused [the] IPCC report, [the] IPCC doesn’t do the original research which is one of the weaknesses… they just take published literature and then they derive assessments, so we had goof-ups on Amazon forest, glaciers, snow peaks.
“I respect the IPCC but India is a very large country and cannot depend only on [the] IPCC and so we have launched the Indian Network on Comprehensive Climate Change Assessment (INCCA),” he said.
It will bring together 125 research institutions throughout India, work with international bodies and operate as a “sort of Indian IPCC,” he added.
The body, which he said will not rival the UN’s panel, will publish its own climate assessment in November this year, with reports on the Himalayas, India’s long coastline, the Western Ghat highlands and the north-eastern region close to the borders with Bangladesh, Burma, China and Nepal. “Through these we will demonstrate our commitment to climate science,” he said.
The UN panel’s claims of glcial meltdown by 2035 “was clearly out of place and didn’t have any scientific basis,” he said, while stressing the government remained concerned about the health of the Himalayan ice flows. “Most glaciers are melting, they are retreating, some glaciers, like the Siachen glacier, are advancing. But overall one can say incontrovertibly that the debris on our glaciers is very high the snow balance is very low. We have to be very cautious because of the water security particularly in north India which depends on the health of the Himalayan glaciers,” he added.
The new National Institute of Himalayan Glaciology will be based in Dehradun, in Uttarakhand, and will monitor glacial changes and compare results with those from glciers in Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan.