Good News from Denmark, China, India; Bad News from OECD and WMO

I finally got around to reading through some of the news items that had piled up in my inbox over the last week. Denmark gets serious on its climate ambition; global PV market explodes with China potentially reaching its target two years ahead of schedule; India’s wind energy potential up to 30 times higher than previously estimated; OECD warns of dire consequences of inaction; WMO confirms 2011 as 11th warmest on record, the warmest year on record with a La Niña, which has a cooling influence.

Lots of good news coming in but time is getting short.

New Danish Energy Agreement

The new Danish government that was elected last autumn immediately ratcheted up the country’s climate ambition. Now a broad coalition in the Danish Parliament has settled on a new energy agreement to turn these targets into reality.

The parties behind the agreement are the government parties and Denmark’s Liberal Party, the Danish People’s Party, the Danish Red-Green Alliance, and the Conservative Party, 171 seats out of 179 in the parliament. (…)

The initiatives in the agreement will lead to CO2 emissions in 2020 being 34% lower than they were in 1990. Energy consumption will decrease by more than 12% in 2020 compared to 2006.

A total of more than 35% of our energy will stem from renewable energy sources, and 50% of our electricity consumption will be stem from wind power. At the same time, the agreement will ensure a stable framework for the business community as a whole, and the energy sector in particular. (…)

As U.S. Installations Doubled, Global Solar PV Market Grew 40% In 2011 To 27 GW

Global deployment of solar photovoltaics increased by 40% in 2011, with 27.5 gigawatts of projects installed in 12 months, according to a new report from NPD Solarbuzz.  Last year’s strong installation figures prove how quickly the technology can be deployed compared to large, centralized forms of generation.

Those installations helped the industry bring in $93 billion in global revenues — a 12% increase over 2010.

America’s solar industry saw 109% growth in 2011, with 1,855 megawatts of projects installed,according to analysis from GTM Research. That crushed the previous record of 887 MW, and finally brought the U.S. into the “gigawatt club.” The country represented about 7% of global PV demand in 2011 (…)

The top five countries — Germany, Italy, China, the United States, and France — represented three quarters of global demand in 2011. Incentive cuts in the top three European markets could slow momentum and reduce the region’s share of installs.

But what happens in China matters a great deal. That country, which historically had no domestic market for solar PV installations, saw a stunning 470% increase in deployment last year. Chinese officials have set a goal for 15 GW of installations by 2015 — a target that could be reached by as early as 2013.

The bottom line is that if markets like China and the U.S. can make up for slumping demand in Europe, 2012 may be far better than expected.

Berkeley Lab Study Shows Significantly Higher Potential for Wind Energy in India than Previously Estimated

Following up on recent news that solar is now cheaper than diesel in India, here is another potential game-changer.

A new assessment of wind energy in India by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has found that the potential for on-shore wind energy deployment is far higher than the official estimates— about 20 times and up to 30 times greater than the current government estimate of 102 gigawatts. This landmark finding may have significant impact on India’s renewable energy strategy as it attempts to cope with a massive and chronic shortage of electricity.

“The main importance of this study, why it’s groundbreaking, is that wind is one of the most cost-effective and mature renewable energy sources commercially available in India, with an installed capacity of 15 GW and rising rapidly,” says Berkeley Lab scientist Amol Phadke, the lead author of the report. “The cost of wind power is now comparable to that from imported coal and natural gas-based plants, and wind can play a significant role in cost effectively addressing energy security and environmental concerns.” (…)

Phadke and his team have been discussing their findings informally and formally with several key government agencies in India and have gotten positive responses. “The key agency in charge, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), has now signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Berkeley Lab to collaborate on several issues related to potential estimates and wind energy integration,” said Jayant Sathaye, who leads the International Energy Studies Group at Berkeley Lab.

The previous wind potential estimate in India of 102 GW is based on the assumption that only two percent of the windy land is available for wind power development. However, this assumption is not based on any assessment of land availability. The Berkeley Lab study undertook a systematic assessment of the availability of land using publicly available GIS (geographic information system) data on topography and land use and found a significantly higher availability of land that can potentially be used for wind power development, which is the primary reason for the higher potential estimates.

Act now or face costly consequences, warns OECD

The OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050: The Consequences of Inaction presents the latest projections of socio-economic trends over the next four decades, and their implications for four key areas of concern: climate changebiodiversitywater and the health impacts of environmental pollution. Despite the recent recession, the global economy is projected to nearly quadruple to 2050. Rising living standards will be accompanied by ever growing demands for energy, food and natural resources – and more pollution.

The costs of inaction could be colossal, both in economic and human terms. Without new policies:

  • World energy demand in 2050 will be 80% higher, with most of the growth to come from emerging economies (for North America about +15%, for OECD Europe +28%, for Japan +2.5, for Mexico +112%) and still 85% reliant on fossil fuel-based energy. This could lead to a 50% increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally and worsening air pollution.
  • Urban air pollution is set to become the top environmental cause of mortality worldwide by 2050, ahead of dirty water and lack of sanitation. The number of premature deaths from exposure to particulate air pollutants leading to respiratory failure could double from current levels to 3.6 million every year globally, with most occurring in China and India. Because of their ageing and urbanised populations, OECD countries are likely to have one of the highest rate of premature death from ground-level ozone in 2050, second only to India.
  • On land, global biodiversity is projected to decline by a further 10%, with significant losses in Asia, Europe and Southern Africa. Areas of mature forests are projected to shrink by 13%. About one-third of biodiversity in rivers and lakes worldwide has already been lost, and further losses are projected to 2050.
  • Global water demand will increase by some 55%, due to growing demand from manufacturing (+400%), thermal power plants (+140%) and domestic use (+130%). These competing demands will put water use by farmers at risk. 2.3 billion more people than today –over 40% of the global population – will be living in river basins under severe water stress, especially in North and South Africa, and South and Central Asia.

These projections highlight the urgent need for new thinking. Failing that, the erosion of our environmental capital will increase the risk of irreversible changes that could jeopardise two centuries of rising living standards.

WMO annual statement confirms 2011 as 11th warmest on record

The World Meteorological Organization’s Annual Statement on the Status of the Global Climate said that 2011 was the 11th warmest since records began in 1850. It confirmed preliminary findings that 2011 was the warmest year on record with a La Niña, which has a cooling influence. Globally-averaged temperatures in 2011 were estimated to be 0.40° Centigrade above the 1961-1990 annual average of 14°C. (…)

In addition, WMO also announced preliminary findings of the soon to be released Decadal Global Climate Summary, showing that climate change accelerated in 2001-2010, which was the warmest decade ever recorded in all continents of the globe.

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