Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Transition to low-carbon economy will reshape biz opportunities

India ranks second after China in terms of value and volume in generating emission reductions under the CDM

Mumbai: Climate Change Capital Ltd (CCC), the world’s largest private sector carbon fund, is betting big on the transition to a low-carbon economy. CCC’s investment portfolio focuses on carbon finance, private equity, and property and energy infrastructure. In India, it invests from the €750 million (Rs4,425 crore) fund focused on carbon and clean energy markets. In an interview, senior investment officer Nakul Zaveri speaks about its investment strategy, focus areas and expansion plans for the country. Edited excerpts:
What kind of capital are you looking to invest in India?
Investments into India flow from our carbon fund. We are the largest private sector carbon fund, managing €750 million focused on clean energy markets. Our investors include some of the world’s largest pension funds. CCC does not have a specific allocation for different markets. India is a key focus area for us given its huge growth and very supportive policy environment, and the group considers investing in India as an integral part of its strategy for its present and future funds.
What will be the size of your investments? What is your differential investment strategy here?
CCC has committed significant capital in numerous deals and through various structures in India. Our present strategy in India is to engage in emission reduction projects in the municipal solid waste (MSW) and energy-efficiency sectors. In addition, CCC is also targeting renewable projects, including mini-hydro, wind and biomass. CCC has contracted with four of India’s leading MSW companies for a number of methane abatement projects. One of them is Nature and Waste Management (P) Ltd based in New Delhi and dedicated to converting the organic component of MSW to compost. CCC has committed substantial capital...with all the above companies.
What are you betting on in the clean development mechanism (CDM) space?
Clean energy: Nakul Zaveri
India has the largest number of service providers in the carbon markets. However, most of these players are either consultants or aggregators. CCC is one of the very few buyers with a large pool of committed capital for the carbon markets. In addition to capital, the carbon finance group has expertise in carbon finance, project finance, private equity, power project development, portfolio management, environmental and technical consulting and policy.
What is India’s place in the global CDM landscape?
India ranks second after China in terms of value and volume in generating emission reductions under the CDM. India’s share is 33% by number of projects and 20% by volume of CERs (certified emission reductions) in the Asian region. In 2009, India ranked first in number of CDM projects submitted for prior consideration to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The Indian government has also been progressive in the CDM space and is accelerating various policies for the adoption of clean energy.
What does it mean to invest in carbon as a private equity strategy?
Until recently, carbon credits were usually contracted under a pay-on-delivery contract. Now, the low-hanging fruits are gone and there are various structures evolving such as upfront advance against potential future CERs generation, debt and investing private equity into projects with carbon-embedded assets. All investments in clean energy will become mainstream and the future for all private equity investors will be to focus on sustainability.
How do you mitigate the risk of CERs accruing from a project?
CDM projects carry a number of risks, including validation, registration, verification and impacts from continuous evolution of the UNFCCC’s CDM policies. In addition, all CDM projects are exposed to regular project risks such as financial closure, implementation delays, regulatory and compliance issues. We do strict due diligence before taking up any project. We cover CDM, financial and legal risks and closely monitor financial closure, implementation and any development at the policy level, which may impact the project.
What do you make of the opportunity available in mapping a company’s carbon footprint, reducing emissions and encashing credits?
We are seeing signs that Indian corporates are increasingly appreciating the fact that the transition to a low carbon economy will reshape business opportunities and risks and will have far and broad implications for businesses. Some large corporate houses have already voluntarily started creating inventories of their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and are mapping their carbon footprint and taking part in global initiatives such as the carbon disclosure project. In addition, there may be compliance requirements in the near future, which will create additional opportunities to reduce emissions and encash credits.
From a private equity perspective, how do you unlock value in the Indian carbon market?
There are certain sectors which may give better returns than the others largely driven by the GHG global warming potential combined with the aligning of the project with the UNFCCC process. The investment approach needs to incorporate carbon due diligence and inherent mitigation to risks associated with innovative investment structuring. The volume may become very critical due to the high transaction costs associated with it.
Content from VCCircle

Boy, 12, patents wind turbine car plan

ALLENTOWN, PA (NBC) - A 12-year-old student in Pennsylvania is being praised for his inventive design for a product that could conceivably revolutionize auto making. "There's this new idea about solar panels they're thinking about putting it on a car! And I thought if it doesn't work at night how would you work it? So then one time I came over here and I saw the windmill!" said young inventor Billy Schopf. That wind turbine sits outside the Da Vinci Science Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania. And it's where Billy met Dr. Frank Schweighardt and the sketches began of a windmill that attaches to a car to charge a solar battery at night. And that's when Billy conceived the idea of using a circulating liquid that changes thickness to keep the fan blades at the best angle but what kind? "I looked on the internet and one of the fluids was ketchup and I said, 'I know what that is! And I said, Billy, use the ketchup 'cause I know that's a thixotropic fluid! And he's, like, mom!'" said mom Karen Schopf. The Da Vinci Center applied for and got a provisional patent. "We did a patent search and we found nothing! Billy's concept of using the thixotropic solution, the ketchup type idea wasn't used to turn a blade!" said Dr. Schweighardt. "I was very excited! I'm, like, yes! And they explained how I had to make a working model! I was even more excited! I always wanted to create something! So I almost freaked out!" said Billy. So the Da Vinci Science Center unveiled Billy's car turbine and it got congrats from Senators and featured in the center's fundraising campaign.

Offshore windfarms to be used for air defence

Ministry of Defence had previously opposed the erection of almost 1,000 wind turbines off the UK's eastern seaboard because of radar fears

Owen Bowcott
guardian.co.uk, Monday 3 May 2010 22.45 BST

Offshore windfarms will double as radar defence systems in a pioneering deal involving the Ministry of Defence, which previously opposed the erection of almost 1,000 wind turbines off the UK's eastern seaboard because of fears over their ability to scramble defensive radar.
Wind energy projects across Britain have been held up for years because of planning disagreements, some concerned with interference from turbines that can baffle air-traffic control and defence systems, creating blind spots or "blackout zones" in coverage.
The wind-driven turbine blades can rotate at up to 200mph, mimicking on-screen the appearance of slow-moving aircraft and showing up as a blur of images. Simply discounting the clutter is dangerous because the images obscure patches from which planes could suddenly emerge; there are fears that hijacked airliners or bombers could evade detection.
But now the wind farm industry will spend at least £16m on advanced radar defence systems to be integrated into new offshore windfarms, clearing the way for a significant boost in the UK's supply of renewable energy.
The agreement involves a consortium of windpower firms purchasing US-manufactured Lockheed Martin radar equipment so that Britain's eastern airspace approaches can be protected after turbines are erected around the Wash.
In return, the MoD has lifted planning objections to five new offshore windfarms that will include almost a 1,000 wind turbines. The deal is expected to trigger a fresh wave of applications to install windfarms.
The RAF and the renewable energy industry have been negotiating for years over the problem. A number of technical fixes are being explored, including applying radar-absorbing material to turbine blades to render them invisible to radar.
The defence contractor Raytheon has been commissioned by the UK's National Air Traffic Services (NATS) to develop improved radar systems that can discriminate between aircraft and wind turbines.
The new spirit of co-operation between the MoD and windfarm developers follows adoption of the government's aviation plan in 2008. Release of military research reports has helped generate some common understanding.
"There now seems to be quite a degree of momentum," said Nicola Vaughan, head of aviation at RenewableUK, the industry body that represents wind, wave and tidal power firms.
"The MoD have started to lift their objections, particularly to offshore turbines, [following] this solution … There's around 1,000 new turbines – 3.2 gigawatts of power [on the Wash] – which now stand a chance of being built, because the MoD objection was the last significant [hurdle]."
The Lockheed Martin Air Defence Radar TPS 77 system, which cost about £20m, will be paid for by the windfarm developers, the Crown Estate on whose submerged land the turbines will be built, and the Department of Energy and Climate Change, which is contributing £4m. The Crown and the developers, which include Scira Offshore Energy, Centrica, NPower and Warwick Energy, have paid the rest.
The Sheringham Shoal offshore windfarm, with 88 wind turbines and already under construction, will be the first to be completed. There are applications for about 3,000 further turbines, equivalent to 6GW, now going through the planning process, according to RenewableUK. Proposals for an additional 3,000 turbines are at earlier stages of development.
The MoD said it needed to ensure aircraft safety, adding: "By installing an additional radar in Norfolk we will significantly reduce the negative impact of the turbines on MoD business."

The dark side of cloud computing: soaring carbon emissions

Experts warn the electricity consumption and carbon footprint of cloud computing will more than double from 2007 levels by 2020

Stephan Schmidt for OurWorld 2.0, part of the Guardian Environment Network
guardian.co.uk, Friday 30 April 2010 15.22 BST
While the ash cloud from Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano expanded for a relatively short time over Europe and then slowly disappeared, another cloud, this one unseen, is rising steadily over the entire world.
Digital waste has grown exponentially over the last decade as storage of data — such as e-mails, pictures, audio and video files, etc. — has shifted to the online sphere.
The advent of web services that allow users to upload files has made it possible to leave behind (most likely in landfills) tapes and discs and instead throw all of our recorded information into one big digital cloud of computers.
Cloud computing refers to today's predominant infrastructure and business model whereby information, software and other resources are delivered on-demand to users via the Internet. An ever-scalable collection of energy sucking data centres and server farms is required to deliver these services.
But the Internet saves energy, right?
According to Joseph Romm's 1999 seminal work, The Internet Economy and Global Warming, direct sales to consumers and decentralized digital inventories of goods could lead to dramatic reductions in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 2010.
However, things turned out differently. Each day we generate more and more data — your digital footprint, so to speak, requires huge amounts of server space and energy. A part of that digital footprint may be described as digital waste — just think about all the data that you have created online that you no longer use.
Almost everything we do online increases our carbon footprint. As a perverse example, Antivirus Company MacAffee reports that the electricity needed just to transmit the trillions of spam e-mails sent every year is equivalent to powering two million homes in the United States and generates the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as that produced by three million cars.
According to a recent Greenpeace report, Make IT Green: Cloud Computing and its Contribution to Climate Change, the electricity consumed by cloud computing globally will increase from 632 billion kilowatt hours in 2007 to 1,963 billion kWh by 2020 and the associated CO2 equivalent emissions would reach 1,034 metric tons.
Keen on energy saving
Quite clearly we cannot continue on this path and thankfully there are opportunities available to large IT companies to grow responsibly without fuelling climate change.
Google was among the first Internet companies to take action to reduce energy consumption at its data centres. It is trying to promote efficient computing and seeking to increase its use of renewable energy. Along with many of the leading IT firms, Google is a member of the Climate Savers Computing Initiative.
Over in Europe, some server operators, like the German web-space provider Strato (one of Europe's largest), have done their calculations and recognized that they could reduce energy use by adopting high performance energy efficient hardware and software, as well as precise cooling systems that use sensors and special "cool corridors" to moderate temperature.
In 2008, Strato began reducing their CO2 emissions by switching to renewable energy to power their servers. They are now members of the Green Grid, a consortium of IT companies and professionals who want to improve energy efficiency in data centres and business computing worldwide. The organization wants to green the IT world by uniting "global industry efforts to standardize on a common set of metrics, processes, methods and new technologies to further its common goals".
And if CO2 reduction and saving energy is not enough incentive for more companies to plug into the initiative, no doubt peaking oil supplies and rising oil prices will spur the Green Grid's growth.
Hardware is only part of the problem
Most of the solutions on offer involve buying ever more efficient servers and enhancing the infrastructure. However, software developers also face the challenge of creating software that runs 'greenly' — i.e., sleekly and ultra-efficiently. A program is considered to be highly efficient when the software code is written in a short, effective way, thereby avoiding redundant calculations that waste CPU power.
A related issue is that of proprietary formats for documents, such as those for Mircrosoft Word or PDFs, as examples. If you have been working with computers for years, you probably have lots of documents on media that you can no longer open any more since your current software is not backward compatible. Jan Wildeboer, an open source evangelist, describes proprietary formats as "digital waste". He is most concerned about all the documents maintained by public bodies in proprietary formats and worries that unless we move to open standards all that data will be locked up forever and potentially inaccessible in the future if formats continue to evolve.
At the personal level we also need to be aware. Today, we are all simply so excited about being part of the virtual revolution in the digital age that few have stopped to think about the questions of e-waste and digital waste — the topics we have addressed in this 'waste week' series of articles.
We may not worry about what happens to our old computers or hand held devices like mobile phones and iPods. We probably too easily throw out those old ink cartridges with our regular trash, when we could take them to be recycled. We rarely, if ever, spare a thought for our digital footprints.
But maybe we should. It is interesting to ponder whether when we close down our online accounts, we could request that our files be removed, so as to free up server space for others? Could we specify that our digital waste be automatically removed after a certain period of non-use? That will probably never be possible, but we do need to think more carefully about the ramifications of this ever-growing computing cloud and the question of its long-term sustainability.
Just how much server space will humanity need in 2050?

Massive capacity for CO2 storage exists in the UK

We are sure that carbon capture and storage can stall the effects of climate change

Stuart Haszeldine and Martin Blunt
The Guardian, Tuesday 4 May 2010
Your article reported Houston University research which claims that "governments wanting to use carbon capture and storage have overestimated its value" (US paper raises doubts over viability of carbon capture, 26 April).
The carbon dioxide storage method injects the gas into the microscopic pores of reservoir sediments below 800 metres underground, in order to reduce atmospheric levels of this greenhouse gas. Scientists internationally are attempting to evaluate it. The argument you report is derived from a notorious pair of articles by Michael Economides and Christine Ehlig-Economides.
Economides says: "It would be hard to inject CO2 into a closed system without eventually producing so much pressure that it fractured the rock and allowed the carbon to migrate to other zones and possibly escape to the surface." That proposition is clearly wrong. The largest storage site in the world has injected 12m tonnes of CO2 over the last 13 years, not "a million tonnes over three years" as they asserted.
Consider the oil trapped in subsurface reservoirs. It is well understood that oil is not generated where it is discovered, but has moved many kilometres vertically and laterally through layers of sediment. That informs petroleum geologists (such as us) and should inform petroleum engineers (such as Economides and his co-author) that a reservoir is not a "closed system", but transmits fluids to its surroundings. The pressure spreads into a large subsurface volume (like a leaky car tyre) and does not increase in the reservoir rocks as they suggest.
The Economides calculations rely on bizarre assumptions, leading to the erroneous claim that "it would take a reservoir the size of a small US state to hold the CO2 produced by one power station". Their argument is, literally, full of holes. Firstly, storage capacity estimates differ between the first and second of their articles by a factor of 10, with no explanation and no change in their conclusions. Secondly, the calculation assumes that the "small US state" is underlain by just one reservoir, just 10 metres thick.
Economides professes that "geologists [do] not understand flow and the laws of physics", but he clearly fails to understand the geology. Multiple porous sandstones often exist below ground, with cumulative thicknesses of many hundreds of metres. Thirdly, there have been some 20 experiments of CO2 injection over the past decade. Only one has experienced the alleged pressure problem of "a bicycle pump against the wall".
By contrast, detailed work on six continents has convinced hundreds of impartial geoscientists that massive capacity for CO2 storage exists. The UK is especially fortunate as rocks similar to those which host our oil are anticipated to store 100 years of CO2 from all north-west Europe's power plants. This can buy us time while truly sustainable energy sources develop to limit climate change. But climate change is something else Economides and his co-author don't believe in.