Climate News of the Week Roundup: Chinese Coal Peak and US Solar Take-Off Ahead?

This week’s roundup covers projections on China and the US that sound rather too good to be true, news on renewables advancing in Australia and Brazil, the Australian election, a study saying that China’s PV manufacturing cost advantage mostly comes from the scale of production rather than labour costs, double standards for fracking and wind turbines in local permitting, an Indian passage to Germany to take a look at the energy transition, the G20 agreeing to address hydrofluorocarbons under the Montreal Protocol, the EU caving on aviation emissions, a Wuppertal Institute submission to the UNFCCC on the 2015 climate agreement, an adelphi-Wuppertal discussion paper on new offset systems and the CDM, and more.

China may get over its addiction to coal sooner than anyone thought. Steve LeVine reports on a new projection by Citigroup which says that Chinese coal consumption is likely to flatten by 2020. Perceived driver’s are the government’s desire to shift the economy away from manufacturing, more modest growth targets, plans to cut air pollution and to aggressively push non-coal energy sources.

Beijing Will Cut Coal Burning and Barbecues in Bid to Fight Smog. Speaking of limiting air pollution, Bloomberg reports that the Chinese capital plans to limit coal burning, car use and outdoor barbecues to address its massive air pollution problem. Coal use is to be reduced by 13 million metric tonnes.

Deutsche Bank says US solar boom to reach 50GW by 2016. Giles Parkinson and Rob Wile report here and here that according to Deutsche Bank US solar, which has so far been dominated by utility-scale installations, is going to see a surge of distributed solar driven by  rapidly dropping equipment and other costs. They think that annual installation rates will jump to 12 and 16 GW in 2015 and 2016. By comparison, current leader Germany currently has an installed capacity of about 35GW and has slowed down to adding 3-4GW per year.

South Australia heads to 50% renewables within a decade. Giles Parkinson also reports that South Australia seems slated to get half of its electricity from renewables within 10 years.

Tony Abbott, the man who promised to ‘stop the boats’, sails to victory. However, Australian climate policy will probably take a huge step backwards after the Conservative-Liberal election victory this week. Alison Rourke notes in The Observer that unlike most of the rest of the world, instead of making polluters pay Abbott intends to offer incentives for emission reductions. RTCC reported previously that Australian emissions were likely to soar if Abbott was elected and followed through on his climate policy plans.

Brazil approves 377 wind farms. reports that the Brazilian government has approved new 377 wind projects with a combined capacity of 9GW. The projects will have to come online by 1 September 2015. Adding 9GW in two years is a pretty impressive figure.

China PV edge ‘from scale not labour’. Andrew Lee reports on a new study by America’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that concluded that the scale of the production base  and the supply-chain benefits this brings are the main reason behind China’s manufacturing cost advantage, helped along by provision of cheap capital by the government.

Green Investments in South Africa can Spur Growth and Enhance Crop Yields and Water Supplies. A new UNEP report says that going green would be good for South Africa’s economy and the environment.

Double standard for fracking and wind turbines. Craig Morris covers two reports by George Monbiot and National Public Radio in the US that compare the permitting requirements for oil wells and wind turbines. Unsurprisingly, the people who are concerned about giving neighbours a say about wind farms are often not so concerned when it comes to fossil fuel extraction.

Two strategic lessons from distributed PV. This blog post by Craig Morris somehow neglects to give the two strategic lessons that are promised in the title, but it has a nice chart showing how Germany’s solar PV feed-in tariff dropped from about 50 to about 10 cents/kWh within 10 years.

Germany in transition. A very interesting read. Chandra Bhushan and Ankur Paliwal from the Indian Centre for Science and the Environment went to Germany to see what Germany’s energy transition is all about. The result is a very detailed discussion of all the pros and cons from an outside perspective.

Solar eclipse in solar heating. Robert Dölling reports (article in German) that solar heat is doing much worse than solar electricity in Germany. To reach the government’s 2020 target, the annual installation rate would have to double, instead it actually went down last year.

German Feed-in Tariff Costs Invisible Without Magnifying Glass. Karl-Friedich Lenz highlights figures showing that Germany’s feed-in surcharge accounts for a mere 0.3% of average household consumption.

German weekly Der Spiegel had another anti-renewables title story, which prompted Craig Morris to tweet:

Greenpeace did a (German language) debunking of Der Spiegel’s title story here.

United States, China, and Leaders of G-20 Countries Announce Historic Progress Toward a Global Phase Down of HFCs. Hydrofluorocarbons are highly potent greenhouse gases. Since they have unfortunately been promoted as alternative to ozone-depleting substances, the US and others have for years proposed to also use the Montreal Protocol to get rid of them. In particular Brazil, China and India have been opposed so far, but the White House reports that the G20 has now agreed to move forward.

EU to Limit Aviation Carbon Cuts as ICAO Studies Global Plan. In rather more negative news, the EU has apparently caved  on the issue of aviation emissions. Bloomberg reports that the EU agreed to cover only the part of flights that takes place in EU airspace in its emission trading scheme, instead of all emissions from all flights that start and end in the EU as is so far laid down in EU legislation. In exchange, a global approach is supposed to be agreed by 2016. Since it was the EU’s unilateral  action that jolted ICAO into action after nearly two decades of dithering, I’m not sure taking that gun off the table is a wise approach.

And a bit of self-promotion:

Revised Version: Wuppertal Institute Recommends Paradigm Shift for International Climate Policy. As part of the discussion on a new international climate agreement, which is supposed to be concluded by 2015, the Wuppertal Institute contributed a submission to the UNFCCC’s Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP). It can be downloaded here. It is a significantly revised version of the Wuppertal Institute’s earlier contribution to the European Commission’s stakeholder consultation on the 2015 agreement.

New publication: The Clean Development Mechanism as Glue for the International Carbon Market? A new discussion paper by adelphi and the Wuppertal Institute analyses the new offset systems in Australia, California and Japan and what they may teach us about the problems of the CDM.

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