Climate News of the Week Roundup: Japan Races China for Pole Position in Solar PV Deployment

This week’s roundup features solar PV booming in Japan, renewables putting an end to the world as we know it, emission trading now being an object for archaeologists, Russia blocking a large chunk of the Bonn climate talks, China not going for absolutes but for HFCs, Germany once again making an embarrassment of itself in the EU, and the mathematics of immigration.

The German climate news website klimaretter.info notes that Japan installed about 3.8 GW of solar PV in the last four quarters, and at a steadily increasing trend to boot: starting at 445 MW, increasing to 627 MW, then 1,003 MW and finally 1,734 MW in the first quarter of 2013.

According to Bloomberg analysis, Japan may become the largest solar PV market in 2013 not only by financial volume, as noted in last week’s roundup, but also by installed volume. Bloomberg forecasts that Japan may install between 6.9 and 9.4 GW in 2013, potentially leaving China behind them, which Bloomberg projects to install between 6.3 to 9.3 GW. Which means China would miss its target of installing 10 GW this year, but the amount would still be sizable. For comparison, Germany’s record was 7.6 GW, installed in 2012. Germany is currently down to 300-400 MW per month.

CleanTechnica reports that in addition to the generous feed-in tariff, Japan now also offers low-interest loans for rooftop solar PV.

Klaus Ragaller from the Swiss Technical University Zürich discusses whether PV’s final breakthrough is imminent. Ragaller notes that solar PV costs have dropped by 20% for each doubling of installed capacity and that PV could hence become the cheapest source of electricity in a couple of years, pretty similar to a two-year old article by Kees von der Leun from Ecofys. PV’s Achilles’ heel is the intermittent production, but according to Ragaller such “reverse salients” are not uncommon for new base technologies and the enormous incentive to overcome them triggers intensive research and development activities, which ultimately pave the way for the new technology domain. According to him, a multitude of technical solutions to the intermittency problem are already being worked on, which are as well going through steep learning curves.

Similarly, Ashley Seager noted in a Guardian article that “Renewables have seen such dramatic price falls in the past few years that they are threatening to upset the world as we know it and usher in an almost unprecedented boom in the spread of cheap, clean, home-produced energy.” Which reminded me of a gem by R.E.M.

One may hope that these real-world dynamics will at some point also filter through to the UN climate negotiations. This week in Bonn has been most noteworthy for Russia’s blocking of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation, Ed King from Responding to Climate Change has a report here. Basically they’re getting their revenge for getting gavelled down in Doha and want to show that they are still a power to be reckoned with. But in my view throwing tantrums is a sign of weakness rather than strength.

Low Carbonara this week reported on archaeologists picking through the relics of a formerly opulent carbon market society.

China has dismissed speculations that they were thinking of adopting an absolute emission target. Bloomberg quotes China’s lead negotiator Su Wei as saying that, “The paper quoted an expert. It’s not necessarily presenting the view of the government or the NDRC. The NDRC would reaffirm that we have committed to a carbon-intensity target by 2020.”

But there’s also some good news from China. The US, Canada, Mexico and Micronesia have for years proposed to address hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a group of highly potent greenhouse gases, within the Montreal Protocol. In particular China has so far blocked these proposals, probably because it’s reaping substantial windfall profits from reducing these emissions under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism. But now the White House reports that Obama and the new Chinese head of state Xi Jinping have agreed to work together on an HFC phasedown under the Montreal Protocol. According to the White House, a global phasedown could reduce 90 Gt CO2-eq. of emissions cumulatively by 2050, roughly the equivalent of 2 years of current global greenhouse gas emissions.

The German newspaper FAZ reports that Germany got a rap across the knuckles from the European Commission for trying to meet its obligation to promote energy savings with a list of already existing policies. A rather embarrassing episode.

Off-topic

This one is VERY Nice. British poet Hollie McNish did a video gutting the commonly held view that immigrants are “stealing jobs”.

I’m sick of crappy mathematics
Cos I love a bit of sums
I spent three years into economics
And I geek out over calculus
And when I meet these paper claims
That one of every new that came
Takes away ones daily wage
I desperately want to scream
“Your maths is stuck in primary”

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