Climate News of the Week Roundup: Bloomberg Projects Chinese Power Sector Emission Peak Within 10-15 Years

This week’s roundup features projections of peaking Chinese emissions, the non-availability of an Archimedian lever to tackle climate change, governments deserving a better reputation for successfully promoting innovation, an argument that carbon revenues may be more important than the carbon price as such, new figures on falling renewables’ technology costs, Japan’s METI aiming to ramp up clean energy spending, renewables growing in the US, India and the UK, a Dutch energy agreement in the making, enormous disparities in European energy efficiency policies, governments being accused of failing to give clear directions for green investments, predictions of a lignite boom in Germany, a proposal to name hurricanes after US members of Congress who reject climate science, and more.

China’s power sector heads towards a cleaner future. Bloomberg New Energy Finance says that China’s power sector emissions could peak by 2027 even under business as usual. While they project coal use to continue to increase in absolute terms, renewables will in their view dominate future capacity additions, which together with increases in gas is projected to substantially lower coal’s relative share. With stronger policies, in particular introduction of a carbon price, power sector emissions could even peak in 2023 already, Bloomberg says. This chimes with a recent article in “Climate Policy” by Jiang Kejun and other Chinese experts which says that a peak of total Chinese emissions is possible by 2025 (see previous post).

Carbon targets, carbon taxes, and the search for Archimedes’ lever. An excellent piece by David Roberts about climate people’s search for Archimedes’ lever, which does in fact not exist. The problem is just too messy to lend itself to easy solutions. It goes in pretty much the same direction the Wuppertal Institute has been pondering in its recent submission to the European Commission on the 2015 climate agreement, which recommends that countries should adopt multi-dimensional commitments.

State of innovation: Busting the private-sector myth. An opinion that’s also strong in climate policy is that governments shouldn’t “pick winners”. That is, governments shouldn’t promote specific technologies because they are allegedly notoriously bad at doing so and prone to pick the wrong ones. Just put a price on emissions and the market will sort things out in the most efficient way. Mariana Mazzucato thinks that’s mostly ideology, looking at the pioneering technologies of the past century, it was in her view mostly the state who was the most decisive player. For instance, “every technology that makes the iPhone a smartphone owes its vision and funding to the state: the internet, GPS, touchscreen displays and even the voice-activated smartphone assistant Siri all received state cash.” Therefore, “Forget Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. It is government that should be credited for backing wealth-creating technology”.

Tweaking the price tag for renewables. Commenting on the current discussion in Germany about the renewables feed-in surcharge, Craig Morris argues that having an honest renewables price tag – as opposed to hidden fossil and nuclear subsidies – is ethical and worth having.

Rethinking the Role of Carbon Prices in Climate Change Policy. An interesting take by Jesse Jenkins: More relevant than the carbon price as such, which is politically constrained, may be the carbon revenues, which are substantial even at low prices and can be used to finance other policies.

Technology costs of wind and solar keep falling. According to financial services company Lazard, the levelised cost of wind and solar energy fell by more than half over the last four years, and nowadays “Utility-scale solar PV is a competitive source of peak energy as compared with conventional generation in many parts of the world, without any subsidies.”

Japan’s METI Requests 62% Increase for FY14 Clean Energy Budget. Bloomberg reports that Japan’s powerful Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry wants to achieve “maximum installations of clean energy”.

Renewable Energy Provides 14% of US Electrical Generation During First Half of 2013. Kenneth Bossong reports that renewables’ share in the US power mix grew from 13.57 in the first half of 2012 to 14.2% in the same period of this year. Especially remarkable is solar, which almost doubled its share.

Renewable energy production strides forward across India. Grace Gill has the impression that Indian states are in a “fierce battle … to set records in solar energy production”, and there’s also advances on energy efficiency.

Annual demand for solar power in UK passes 1GW milestone. Andy Calthorpe reports that the UK installed 1GW of solar PV this year so far, bringing total capacity to 2.7GW.

Important step towards an Energy Agreement for Sustainable Growth. SER reports that representatives of Dutch civil society, employers’ associations, trade union federations, and the Dutch Government have negotiated the broad outlines of said agreement. I’m not sure if “sustainable growth” is actually possible, but the contents of what the Netherlands are gearing up to, including a revolving fund and other measures to promote energy efficiency, look interesting.

EU survey finds ‘enormous disparity’ in national energy efficiency policies. EurActiv reports on a study done by the Wuppertal Institute and Ecofys on EU member states’ energy efficiency policy. Denmark, Bulgaria, France and UK got good grades while Italy, the Czeck and the Slovak republics have progressed least in the recent years.

Green policy failures are choking off billions in private investment. Tom Bawden reports in “The Independent” that institutional investors are blasting “inadequate and inconsistent” climate policy, which in their view puts pensions and jobs at risk from the increasing impacts of climate change and doesn’t give them a clear path to invest their funds into climate-friendly ventures.

German grid regulator projects long lignite boom. Stefan Schultz reports in “Der Spiegel” (article in German) that German lignite power plants are projected to keep powering through into the next decade even though the power they produce is less and less needed in Germany, so power exports will continue to increase rapidly. Schultz blames politicians’ inability to fix the low carbon price in the EU ETS, as well as grid expansion which allegedly facilitates lignite rather than renewable power production, referring to a new study by Ecofys, which argues that renewables could be built out to 75% of German power supply by 2030 even with delays in grid expansion.

This Is Probably The Funniest, Most Effective Way To Deal With People Who Ignore Science Facts Ever. A brilliant idea and excellent execution, a must-watch video proposes to name hurricanes after US members of Congress who reject climate science.

Energy efficiency crowd investing in Germany. There’s plenty of crowd investing offers for renewables, Germany now also has one for energy efficiency: It has Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker as patron and the first two projects got financed within days.

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