Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Italy Learning From the Spanish Photovoltaic Debacle

March 29, 2010
PrintSend to a FriendTweet this Analysis
Analysis by: Mark Burger
Analysis of: Italy will unveil new solar incentives plan in April
Published at: www.pv-tech.org
Italy is expected to be the number two photovoltaic market behind Germany. This was last held by Spain which, briefly, had the largest market for one year before collapsing from an excess of incentives and no cap to the opposite extreme. Italy looks like they are learning from Spain's excesses.
Despite continued growth, sooner or later the German photovoltaic market, still Europe's and the world's largest, will level off. By all logic, the number 1 and 2 markets should eventually be the US and China due to size, sunlight and population. Until that happy time, other national markets, like South Korea, a resurgent Japan and Italy, may assume prominence. Italy would be a natural for the PV market, with abundant sunshine and high electricity prices. Growth of the market indicates that it should be the number 2 European market behind Germany.But there are question marks around this promise. The financial cloud over the Euro and much of the European economy remains. The administrative process for Italian PV installations resembled too closely the problematic Spanish market, as well as much of the Mediterranean. More importantly, will Italy repeat Spain's boom and bust disaster of a too high incentive and no cap, then panic to too low a cap as well as incentive reduction, strangling the market in its crib? In this regards, Italy appears to have learned from the Spanish market collapse and is re-calibrating its feed in tariffs to reduce excess and adjust to downward prices in the photovoltaic industry. The new plan should be out shortly. The issue of a cap, even at 1,000 MW per year, may be more of an issue, as opposed to letting the FIT's decline to reflect market interest. Another contention is potential tension between megawatt-scale sized projects and smaller ones favored by local farmers. But the results should be a more sustainable market than what Spain was, and is.

Nick Clegg responds to Friends of the Earth

Nick Clegg has already responded to our letter and it's good that he describes himself as "a huge supporter of Friends of the Earth."
We're going to wait until we've received responses from all the party leaders to comment further, but in the meantime it'd be great if you let us know what you think - you can comment below.
Here's his letter for you to read.
Dear Andy,
Thank you and all your co-signatories very much for your letter. I couldn’t agree with you more: this election could be a turning point, not just for Britain but for the world environment. Some people think that’s overstating it, but the scientists tell us that the coming five years could be our last chance to avert dangerous climate change. That means the government we elect next has the most enormous responsibility: to provide change at home and leadership abroad to stop the disaster from happening.
I am a huge supporter of Friends of the Earth. I’ve met up with FoE campaigners twice in the last year – at Glastonbury and at Sipsom, the village that will be destroyed if plans for a third runway go ahead. I am delighted you have chosen to get so involved in trying to influence the outcome of the election in a green direction. It’s people like you who can and must make the difference and ensure the next set of MPs take that responsibility for the future of our planet seriously.
The sad truth is there are far too many people standing for Parliament, especially in the Labour and Conservative parties who do not. I wish we didn’t have to make climate change a party-political issue, but when some parties don’t recognise the need for change, it has to be. Labour voted down a plan Liberal Democrats put before the House of Commons to cut government emissions by 10% this year as part of the 10-10 campaign. And the Conservatives don’t even support targets to generate just 15% of our energy from renewables. Yes, they speak well about the environment, but when it comes down to it, they block the action we need.
As you say in your letter, these are difficult economic times, but the recession must not be an excuse not to take action now. Indeed, economic recovery and green politics can go hand in hand. That is why we’re committed to a green jobs package. By investing in green technologies, home insulation, and public transport, we’d create hundreds of thousands of new jobs that will last and make the economy sustainable too. Britain can also be the green powerhouse of Europe, moving to renewables and not relying on nuclear – and now’s our chance to prove it.
The climate challenge requires a response at all levels of government – and Liberal Democrats would hard-wire green thinking into our whole approach. We know how important it is to make housing greener, so in government we’d start a programme to do just that – as well as tightening up the rule on new homes so they’re fully energy-efficient and changing the way we charge for energy, so people who use less are better off. We’d cut fares for passengers on public transport and create a UK Infrastructure Bank to invest in high-speed rail and shift money from roads to rail. We’d reduce air pollution and set a target for zero waste, so we stop wasting resources and ruining our precious landscape with landfill.
I could go on and on about our policies on climate change and on protecting our natural environment. You can find pages of policies on our website, and I hope you’ll take the chance to take a look. We are full of ideas about real changes we can make – eager to get power and influence so we can make them happen. Wherever Liberal Democrats are have power, from parish councils right up to the European Parliament, we use it to implement green change.
I genuinely believe the future of the climate is at stake, and you can make a difference. You only have one vote: use it wisely.

Nick Clegg
Leader of the Liberal Democrats

Millions struggle to heat homes as Government misses fuel poverty target

Millions of vulnerable people remain in fuel poverty despite a multi-billion spending scheme to help elderly people heat their homes, MPs have warned.

By Louise Gray, Environment CorrespondentPublished: 7:00AM BST 30 Mar 2010
Ministers promised to end fuel poverty among deprived households by 2010 in England and to wipe out the problem completely by 2016.
But the influential Energy and Climate Change (ECC) Committee said both targets will be missed because taxpayers' money spent on the problem has not been given to the right people.

The number of households in 'fuel poverty' – or spending more than 10 per cent of their income on heating – has doubled to around £4.6 million this year.
Paddy Tipping, chairman of the committee, said efforts like the Warm Front Scheme have failed because the money is offered to the elderly and those on benefits. He pointed out that not all old people struggle to pay the bills while many vulnerable people do not claim credits.
He said the Government also failed to take into account rural communities that struggle to pay the bills because they are not on the mains grid and poor families in badly insulated homes.
"Some people who are fuel poor do not get help, while others who are not in fuel poverty receive assistance," he said.
The MPs suggested a database that shows which homes are better insulated and more data sharing on households with problems, although this has issues for privacy.
Consumer groups are also concerned about plans by British Gas to roll out smart meters to one million homes this year.
Which? is worried that information on the energy use of individual households could be "misused".

Climate change is the new health and safety

All public bodies should have a legal duty to protect their workers from climate change in the same way as institutions currently carry out health and safety checks, according to the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution.

By Louise Gray, Environment CorrespondentPublished: 7:00AM BST 30 Mar 2010
The body set up to warn Government about the risk of environmental disasters said climate change will cause floods, droughts and heatwaves in future.
In a key report on 'Adapting Institutions to Climate Change' the committee of experts recommended that every school, hosptial and business should have a legal duty to adapt to climate change. For example by putting in place flood defences and plans for water shortages.

Sir John Lawton, Chairman of the Royal Commission, said global warming is a real risk and could cause huge problems for Britain.
He said all businesses and public bodies should have to carry out a "climate change adaptation test" in the same way as they currently conduct health and safety checks.
"The planet is already slightly above the worse case scenario so if we do nothing we could be looking at a temperature rise of 4C (7.3F) by 2100," he said.
"Any society confronted with those kind of dramatic changes to their climate would be very wise to take due attention to the risk that poses to society, infrastructure and people's lives and begin to plan accordingly. That should become central because just like health and safety scenarios - where people are going to get killed or injured - people are going to get killed or injured by climate change and that is why it is important."
But Sir John said that adapting to climate change will not cost organisations extra money or add bureaucracy.
Instead he insisted that it could be done by simply ensuring that things are done differently.
"We have to accept that there is a real risk of [climate change] devastating people's lives so it is a sensible thing to think about, rather than another layer of bureaucracy for bureaucracy's state," he said.

Getting paid to save energy, recycle? Incentives expand

Americans are being paid to save energy and recycle.
A growing number of private and public programs are offering cash, gift cards and other rewards such as cupcakes and massages for eco-friendly behavior.
"We definitely see this as a trend," says Jennifer Berry , spokeswoman for of Earth 911, an Arizona-based group that runs a the largest U.S. recycling database. "When you give people a reward for positive behavior, they're more likely to participate."
The incentives go beyond federal tax credits and rebates for energy-efficient home upgrades:
--U.S. cities are partnering with New York-based RecycleBank to give people points based on how much they recycle. Their recycling bins have computer chips that track volume, which translates into points to be redeemed at local stores, most commonly $10 grocery gift cards. They also get discounts on eBay purchases.
"We reward people for doing the right thing," says Ron Gonen, who founded the company in 2004. Los Angeles will try the program for a year, beginning April 5, with 15,000 households. That boosts participation to 300 cities in 26 states. Cities pay the company a share of the money they save by reducing their landfills.
--Thousands of households in all 50 states have registered to earn reward points for energy conservation through Earth Aid, a Washington-based company launched last year. Its software tracks utility bills and, based on savings, offers points to be redeemed at local and, soon, national stores.
"It's icing on the cake," says chief executive officer Ben Bixby, because participants also benefit by lowering their utility bills. His company earns money by referring customers to home remodelers. RecycleBank is starting a similar program in Chicago next month.
--At all U.S. stores, CVS/pharmacy began in October to give customers $1 in store vouchers for every four times they skip using a plastic bag. A shopper buys a "greenbagtag" for 99 cents, then swipes it at the register along with the ExtraCare store loyalty card for every purchase. Many grocery stores offer 5 cents for every resuable bag customers carry.
--Companies such as Gazelle.com are paying people for used gadgets like iPods, which they recycle if the items can't be resold. Similarly, eRecyclingCorps, co-founded by Sprint executives, gives a trade-in recycling credit for an old cell phone when buying a new one.
--Two states, New York and Connecticut, expanded their "bottle bills" last year. Bills in 11 states pay customers to return used bottles, typically a nickel each. Berry says those states have higher recycling rates than other states.
"People want that five cents," says Robert Stavins, director of Harvard University's environmental economics program. To change behavior, he says, "economic incentives are very, very important."

'Gulf Stream isn't slowing down', finds research

By Tom Peck
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
The Gulf Stream does not appear to be slowing down, according to scientists who have used satellites to monitor changes in the height of the sea.
The stream brings heat northwards from the tropics and is a key factor in the climate of western Europe. Some models of climate change predict a slow down. Although the scientists, from Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, noticed dramatic short-term variability, there was no longer-term trend, they said. In fact since 1993 the overall levels of flow looks to have increased.
"The changes we're seeing in overturning strength are probably part of a natural cycle," said Josh Willis from JPL. "The slight increase in overturning since 1993 coincides with a decades-long natural pattern of Atlantic heating and cooling."
Between 2002 and 2009, the team says, there was no trend discernible, just a lot of variability on short timescales.
The research is published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
The stream forms part of a larger movement of water, known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, which is itself one component of the global large scale ocean circulation.
The first observations suggesting that the AMOC was slowing down emerged in 2005, in research from the UK's National Oceanography Centre. At this time scientists suggested the volume of cold water returning southwards could have fallen by as much as 30 per cent in half a century – a significant decline.
However, later observations by the same team showed that the strength of the flow varied hugely on short timescales – from one season to the next, or even shorter. They have since not found any clear trend since 2004.

Wealthy landowners make millions in the wind rush

Jonathan Leake and Chris Hastings

SOME of Britain’s richest landowners are set to earn millions by building wind farms to exploit the lucrative system of subsidies for generating renewable energy.
Among the biggest potential beneficiaries is the Duke of Roxburghe, whose planned 48-turbine scheme on his Scottish estate would generate an estimated £30m a year, shared with developers. About £17m of this would come from subsidies from consumers.
Others seeking to capitalise on the new wind rush include the Duke of Beaufort, Sir Reginald Sheffield, father of Samantha Cameron, and Michael Ancram, the Tory grandee.
The growing interest in wind farms stems from the government’s subsidy system. A typical three-megawatt turbine will generate about £670,000 income a year, of which £350,000 comes in subsidies. Since the machines cost £2-3m and have a lifetime of about 25 years, the profits are considerable, even after running costs are deducted.
Many schemes have gone ahead despite objections from local residents concerned about blight and from economists who bridle at the “excessive” cost of the subsidy system.
However, developers, landowners and wind farm supporters say Britain must accept changes to its landscape, plus the cost of subsidies, as the price of cutting CO2 emissions.
One of them is RidgeWind, a company set up by Hg Capital to seek out large landowners to set up wind farms. Its website declares the company’s turbines are “contributing to a cleaner environment and reducing global warming”.
Last August RidgeWind switched on an eight-turbine wind farm at Bagmoor, part of the 3,000-acre estate of Sheffield, the father-in-law of the Tory leader. Industry estimates suggest this should generate an income of about £3.5m a year, shared with developers.
RidgeWind will soon erect 10 more turbines, each about 410ft high, on the Ellingham estate in Northumberland, owned by Lady Belinda Gadsden, whose title dates back to 1642.
Critics say it is ironic that the Renewables Obligation certificate (Roc) scheme was created by a Labour government but is handing large profits to investors and country landowners.
Under the system, renewable energy generators can claim a Roc certificate for each megawatt hour of electricity produced. A 3MW turbine produces about 7,000 megawatt hours a year, with the electricity fetching £320,000 and the Rocs another £350,000 at current prices.Power companies are obliged to buy Rocs to meet government targets for renewable power but pass the cost to consumers. They also take the bulk of wind farm profits.
One controversial proposal is at Mynydd y Gwair near Swansea on land owned by the Duke of Beaufort’s Somerset Trust, where RWE npower wants permission for 19 turbines. The scheme, which has 1,600 objectors, would generate an estimated income of about £12m a year including £7m of subsidy.
A spokesman for RWE said: “We will build and operate the wind farm and the landowners will receive an annual payment.” In Scotland, the Duke of Roxburghe, who is worth £80m, is seeking planning permission for 48 turbines on his grouse moor at Fallago Rig in the Lammermuir Hills in Roxburghshire, again in the face of strong local opposition.
The scheme, which could generate income of more than £30m a year, is a joint venture with North British Windpower, a company whose shareholders include Ancram, the former Tory deputy leader and 13th Marquess of Lothian.
Economists are concerned about the cost of subsidies, which are estimated to add £13.50 to the average household’s annual utility bills. Professor David Newbery, director of Cambridge University’s electricity policy research group, supports wind power but says Rocs are “bonkers”.
He said: “It is shovelling money towards people who have been lucky enough to get planning permission, [and] it encourages the construction of wind farms in remote places where it is very expensive to connect to the national grid.”
RenewableUK, the wind industry’s trade organisation, said Rocs had helped increase renewable energy. It said on its website: “The case for wind energy is simple: it is renewable, economic, safe and good for the environment.”
Additional reporting: Georgia Warren

UK infastructure 'must factor in effects of climate change'

Report says hospitals and power station planners must pass 'climate adaptation test' akin to health and safety regulations

Sonia Van Gilder Cooke
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 30 March 2010 07.00 BST

Hospitals, the energy industry, government agencies and other institutions should put new policies and programmes to a "climate adaptation test" akin to to health and safety regulations, according to a new report by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution.
The report, titled Adapting Institutions to Climate Change, says the test is needed to ensure new projects take into account increasingly variable and extreme weather, as global warming continues. Candidates for adopting the test include coastal industries such as ports, power stations and oil installations – which would have to withstand storm surges and rising sea levels – and hospitals, which it says should expect a rise in admissions during heatwaves.
The chair of the commission, Sir John Lawton, said: "If we don't get on with it now, the future is likely to be unpleasant and expensive." He denied that the test amounted to more government red tape, arguing that inaction would cost more than action.
The report adds that such a test would aid long-term planning in areas where it is especially important, such as energy. "In thinking about where you put the next generation of nuclear power stations, an adaptation test would require you to say, 'Is it a sensible place to build another power station and how will we protect it against sea level rise?" said Lawton. "You don't just put the new nuclear power station there because that's where the last one was."
The commission, an independent on influential body established in 1970 to advise the government on environmental issues, warns that UK institutions are woefully underprepared to meet the weather challenges of the future. Lawton said: "Recent flooding events and icy winters have exposed gaps in planning and infrastructure that suggest we're not even able to cope with the kind of extreme weather events we currently have, never mind the kind of extreme weather events we're going to be having over the next few decades."
The commission said that while projects such as the Thames Barrier had successfully built in adaptability, most institutions haven't even considered it – a situation that Lawton views as dangerous: "We're looking at a scenario where people get killed and injured," he said.
Commission members drew a parallel to now common health and safety assessments. Lawton observed that while Health and Safety "stops bad things that happen tomorrow", the benefits of climate adaptation operate on a longer time scale. "We're paying now for benefits for our children and grandchildren," he said. "The effects are less immediate, but they're no less serious."
The report recommends that the Climate Change Act of 2008 be amended to require government agencies to address climate change adaptation, and that a system be put in place to ensure agency accountability. The commission rejects the idea, however, that the test is unnecessary government bureaucracy: "If you put houses on the flood planes, you have to accept that, in the long run, there's a real risk of devastating people's lives," said Lawton. "The question is: as a society, can we afford not to do it?"

James Lovelock: Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change

In his first in-depth interview since the theft of UEA emails, the scientist blames inertia and democracy for lack of action•
Leo Hickman
guardian.co.uk, Monday 29 March 2010 13.15 BST
Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change from radically impacting on our lives over the coming decades. This is the stark conclusion of James Lovelock, the globally respected environmental thinker and independent scientist who developed the Gaia theory.
It follows a tumultuous few months in which public opinion on efforts to tackle climate change has been undermined by events such as the climate scientists' emails leaked from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the failure of the Copenhagen climate summit.
"I don't think we're yet evolved to the point where we're clever enough to handle a complex a situation as climate change," said Lovelock in his first in-depth interview since the theft of the UEA emails last November. "The inertia of humans is so huge that you can't really do anything meaningful."
One of the main obstructions to meaningful action is "modern democracy", he added. "Even the best democracies agree that when a major war approaches, democracy must be put on hold for the time being. I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while."
Lovelock, 90, believes the world's best hope is to invest in adaptation measures, such as building sea defences around the cities that are most vulnerable to sea-level rises. He thinks only a catastrophic event would now persuade humanity to take the threat of climate change seriously enough, such as the collapse of a giant glacier in Antarctica, such as the Pine Island glacier, which would immediately push up sea level.
"That would be the sort of event that would change public opinion," he said. "Or a return of the dust bowl in the mid-west. Another Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report won't be enough. We'll just argue over it like now." The IPCC's 2007 report concluded that there was a 90% chance that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are causing global warming, but the panel has been criticised over a mistaken claim that all Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2030.
Lovelock says the events of the recent months have seen him warming to the efforts of the "good" climate sceptics: "What I like about sceptics is that in good science you need critics that make you think: 'Crumbs, have I made a mistake here?' If you don't have that continuously, you really are up the creek. The good sceptics have done a good service, but some of the mad ones I think have not done anyone any favours. You need sceptics, especially when the science gets very big and monolithic."
Lovelock, who 40 years ago originated the idea that the planet is a giant, self-regulating organism – the so-called Gaia theory – added that he has little sympathy for the climate scientists caught up in the UEA email scandal. He said he had not read the original emails – "I felt reluctant to pry" – but that their reported content had left him feeling "utterly disgusted".
"Fudging the data in any way whatsoever is quite literally a sin against the holy ghost of science," he said. "I'm not religious, but I put it that way because I feel so strongly. It's the one thing you do not ever do. You've got to have standards."

Shoppers choose green products to improve social status, says study

Researchers found consumers are willing to sacrifice performance for perceived social status from green products

Adam Vaughan
guardian.co.uk, Monday 29 March 2010 18.16 BST

Shoppers choose hybrid cars, "green" washing-up liquid and energy-saving devices over cheaper but dirtier alternatives partly to improve their social status, according to a new study published today.
Researchers found consumers are willing to sacrifice luxury and performance to benefit from the perceived social status that comes from buying a product with a reduced environmental impact.
Bram Van den Bergh of Rotterdam School of Management, one of the study's authors, said: "Driving a luxurious non-green car, like a Hummer, communicates one's wealth, but also suggests that the buyer is a selfish and uncaring individual who is concerned primarily about his own comfort rather than the welfare of society. Driving a hybrid, like a Prius, not only displays one's wealth as it costs many thousands of dollars more than a conventional but highly fuel-efficient car, but also signals the owner cares about others and the environment."
In a series of three experiments for the study which is published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the researchers found that people were also more likely to choose green products when doing so in public.
In one experiment, 168 students were split into two groups. One group read a story about social status while a second group read a story without a status message. Asked to make a hypothetical purchasing decision between a green car or a non-green model of the same price but more luxurious and better-performing, 37.2% in the control group chose the green car. That figure rose to 54.5% for those who read the story designed to "activate status motives." The authors claim the experiment is the first to demonstrate that playing on desire for social status is a way to encourage people to make green choices.
In another test, 93 students were asked to pick on a sliding scale between green and non-green products of the same price, depending on whether they were buying in public at a store or in private by shopping online. When the students read a status story similar to the first experiment, their preference in public for the green product was far stronger than in private. A third experiment showed buyers with social status in mind preferred green products when they were more expensive than their conventional alternative.
The authors, who also include Vladas Griskevicius of University of Minnesota and Joshua M Tybur of University of New Mexico, argue that the findings show an untapped way of motivating greener behaviour.
Adam Corner, a research associate at Cardiff University and expert on the psychology of communicating climate change, said social status is a key driver of behaviour: "It's not surprising that people might choose to try and signal their social status through the conspicuous consumption of 'green products'. Even if people don't care about climate change, they care about what other people think of them." He added that one of the most important aspects of the research is that the power of social status could be harnessed to become a critical tool in promoting wider changes in pro-environmental behaviour, such as voting for the greenest party in an election or engaging in environmental activism.
The study does come with one important caveat – no one was actually dipping into their wallet. Michael Valvo, a spokesperson for Toyota UK, said that the company's market research indicated the attraction of advanced technology and the cost of the ownership, not the environment or social status, were the main reasons drivers bought the Prius hybrid car. "Forking out £20,000 for a car is a pretty expensive way to make a statement about being green, it's the second biggest purchase after a house," he said.
The research also failed to reflect the complexity of ethical consumer activity, said Rob Harrison, the editor of Ethical Consumer magazine. "Ethical buying behaviour is far more complicated than this. If you look at the Co-Operative Bank's report on ethical spending, a third of that annual spend is on investment and banking, which you can't do conspicuously unless you leave investment brochures lying around on your coffee table. Our readers say they buy green and ethical products because they want to be instrumental about a goal, such as helping a farm in Kenya by buying fair trade Kenyan coffee." He said only a minority of green shoppers buy green products for status reasons.
A separate recent study suggested that ethical consumers are less likely to be kind and more likely to steal, a claim that Harrison said showed "a shallow understanding of the wider ethical consumer movement." Business leaders including the heads of Tesco, Coca-Cola and Reckitt Bencksier last year argued green consumerism could advert catastrophic climate change.