Climate News of the Week Roundup: Deutsche Bank Sees Solar at “Major Inflection Point”

This week’s roundup features a Deutsche Bank study saying solar will be able to make do with little or no financial support in most of the world within 1.5 years, other studies saying emission reductions in Switzerland and Maryland will pay off economically, a report saying distributed renewables are at a watershed moment in the US, articles totting up China’s climate actions, a Republican call for US climate action, a survey saying German energy policy is too fixated on energy costs, an angry retort to people saying that coal is replacing nuclear in Germany, an article saying EU ETS reform is more important than German renewables legislation reform, a Saudi prince claiming oil markets are ‘in decline’, and more.

Deutsche Bank: 3/4 of world solar market will be sustainable with little or no financial support within 18 months: So says a new study by Deutsche Bank according to an article by Giles Parkinson. Apparently, it concludes that solar PV is about to enter a “third growth phase” where it can be deployed without subsidies and can resist a backlash from utilities.

The cost of not transitioning to renewables: The Swiss Energy Foundation published a study concluding that Switzerland can’t afford not to switch to renewables. It’s in German, Craig Morris covers it in an English article here. From the summary (my translation): “No matter how you calculate, the energy transition yields economic benefits for Switzerland. If energy prices stay low, it will pay off starting in 2040, if prices increase, the investments will pay off immediately. In any case, the billion-sized shift of costs into our country’s interior will yield additional employment and value creation in Switzerland.

Maryland’s new climate plan could lower energy costs, another study coincidentally concluded this week as Jeff Spross reports, funny how that works. Maryland has a relatively ambitious target of reducing emissions by 25% below 2006 levels by 2020, the US national target is -17% compared to 2005. According to the new study, the energy costs implications of Maryland’s implementation plan unveiled recently are lower than the baseline in all scenarios that were modeled. In addition, the impact on the overall economy and jobs is projected to be marginal in all scenarios, some see a minor boost while others see a minor drag.

“The next six to 12 months are the watershed moment for distributed energy” in the US,  a solar executive quoted in the New York Times by Diane Cardell . She reports that traditional utilities are mounting various challenges to renewable promotion programmes across the US and their outcome will have long-lasting repercussions.

Stranded by Sprawl: Urban sprawl drives up transport volumes and thus is bad for the environment. The IEA recently had a  report on what to do about it and save loads of money in the process (see previous post). According to an op-ed by Paul Krugman, sprawl is also bad for social mobility. If cities are too spread out, job as opportunities are literally out of reach for people stranded in the wrong neighborhoods.

China not Waiting for the US to Lead on Climate, Miles McKenna argues in an article totting up all the things China is already doing, from improving energy efficiency to ramping up renewables to introducing emission trading schemes. It’s not all plain sailing, but he concludes that before we ask what more China and India can do, that question may be better addressed to the US.

Bloomberg reported this week that China is to plow $294bn into renewables and $376bn into energy efficency and other emission reduction measures as part of its current five-year plan until 2015.

A Republican Case for Climate Action: Four former heads of the US EPA from the Grand Old Party published a call for climate action in the New York Times. “There is no longer any credible scientific debate about the basic facts… The costs of inaction are undeniable. The lines of scientific evidence grow only stronger and more numerous. And the window of time remaining to act is growing smaller: delay could mean that warming becomes ‘locked in.'” Instead of arguing against Obama’s proposals, “our leaders in Congress should endorse them and start the overdue debate about what bigger steps are needed and how to achieve them — domestically and internationally.” But will their party mates listen?

German energy policy too fixated on energy costs: A survey by the Centre for Economic Research in Germany yielded the result that respondents think that Germany policy is too fixated on how households and companies can be relieved from rising energy prices. They opined that instead cost-efficient provision of energy and the highest possible use of energy efficiency opportunities would be the right starting points to counter rising energy costs and promoting climate protection (press release in German here).

Nuclear Decline in Germany Not Compensated 100 Percent by Renewables – it’s partly also compensated by efficiency, Karl-Friedrich Lenz says. He argues that the 40 TWh decrease in nuclear power generation was compensated by a 32 TWh increase in renewable electricity and a 16.9 TWh drop in electricity consumption in 2012. By contrast, coal and lignite-based generation has increased by 6 TWh in the first half of 2013, one order of magnitude lower than the decrease of nuclear. Thus, in his view, “Anyone claiming that coal is replacing nuclear in Germany either doesn’t know the numbers, or is lying deliberately”, as coal is mostly replacing gas and wind and going into exports.  Gas was down 4.6 TWh and wind 2.4 TWh and the export surplus remains high at about 11 TWh.

Merkel gets climate change, but gets it wrong, or rather gets her policy the wrong way around, Matthias Duwe argues. Merkel has stated that Germany first needs to reform its renewables legislation before it can tackle the reform of the ailing ETS. But a higher carbon price would be one of the best ways to contain the increase of the feed-in surcharge, as it would narrow the difference between wholesale prices and the feed-in tariff paid for renewables. Thus, in his view, “What Germany needs is a fixed ETS first and a reform of the renewables law later, or in parallel”, not the other way around.

São Paulo Sets Ambitious Goal Of 70% Renewable Energy By 2020, CleanTechnica reports. The renewable share in Brazil’s largest and wealthiest state is currently 55%.

European Investment Bank now also thinks about moving away from coal, reports (in German). It would thus follow the examples recently set by the World Bank and the European Investment Bank.

Saudi Prince Alwaleed says oil markets are ‘in decline’, RTCC reports.

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