Climate News of the Week Roundup: Reasons for Optimism on Climate Action?

This week’s roundup features a plea for optimism on climate action, Wall Street and Deutsche Bank going crazy about solar, renewable energy developments in South Africa, Latin America, the US, Italy, China and India, the EU’s debate about its post-2020 climate and energy framework heating up, news from the German energy transition, and more.

Reasons for Optimism on Climate Action. Michael Northrop from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund lays out a couple. “Building, vehicle, and electricity sectors are getting cleaner. Financial mechanisms and policy incentives are beginning to work in new and hopeful ways. Coal is showing signs of vulnerability at least in several important market places. Renewables are emergent globally and in multiple jurisdictions. Gas is much less of a drag on renewables than we expected. A citizen movement is coming to life in the U.S. on tar sands and divestment. For the first time, there is an American administration with a stated and proactive climate change policy. And China shows signs of being on a path to reducing its air pollution and related carbon emissions.”

Solar Power Craze on Wall St. Propels Start-Up. Diane Cardwell and Julie Creswell from the New York Times report on a wave of solar exuberance on Wall Street that’s raising solar start-ups to dizzying heights. Yet another stock exchange mania or solar finally having its day?

Deutsche Bank hails second solar ‘gold rush’. PV-Tech covers a new report from Deutsche Bank that says that solar is becoming competitive without subsidies in more and more markets. Deutsche Bank projects record installations of 46GW in 2014 and 56GW in 2015.

Solar and wind power battle with coal in South Africa. Adam Welz from the Guardian Environment Network reports on how entrenched political interests are fighting to expand coal’s role in South Africa despite the promise of renewable energy.

Mexico as Bellwether for an Unsubsidized Solar Future. Eric Wesoff from Greentech Media discusses whether solar can thrive in unsubsidised markets. Latin America will show.

North Carolina and Texas shine in record 2013 for US solar. PV-Tech reports that the US installed 4.2GW of new solar last year, which puts it in third place after China and Japan. And some rather unusual suspects lead the US-internal league.

Solar PV meets 7.0% of Italian electricity demand in 2013. SolarServer reports that solar PV met 7.0% of Italian electricity demand in 2013, the highest share among large nations, 2% higher than in Germany.

China on world’s ‘biggest push’ for wind power. David Shukman from the BBC reports that China aims to expand installed wind capacity from currently 75GW to 200GW by 2020.

First National Wind Energy Mission to begin by mid-2014. And even more wind, Shreya Jai from the Economic Times of India reports that India is set to launch first national wind mission in 2014, with the aim to get to 100GW by 2022, up from currently 19GW.

EU heavyweights urge 40% greenhouse gas emissions cut by 2030. Discussions on the EU’s post-2030 climate and energy framework are heating up. The Commission is to publish a communication with its proposals on 22 January. John McGarrity from RTCC reports that ministers from France, Italy, Germany and the UK this week called for a domestic GHG reduction target, that is, without use of offsets, of “at least 40%” by 2030. That’s better than the 35-40% range apparently being considered by the Commission, but the UK Climate Change Committee has recommended a target of at least -55% to have a good chance of meeting the 2°C target.

Big EU guns fire for ‘crucial’ 2030 renewable targets. And another letter. EurActiv reports that while many are opposed to continuing the current trias of GHG, renewables and efficiency targets and want to set only a GHG target for 2030, 8 EU countries including France and Germany this week called for setting a new renewables target for 2030. EurActiv also reports that a leaked Commission impact assessment says that multi-dimensional targets would create more jobs than having only a GHG target.

EU committees vote ‘yes’ to renewables target, but Commission wavers. John McGarrity reports that in addition to this call from countries the European Parliament’s industry and environment committes also voted in favour of a binding renewables target for 2030. But the European Commission seems to be about to not propose one in its forthcoming communication. What the report omits is that the Parliament committees also voted in favour of a GHG target of at least 40%, and in favour of a binding efficiency target, which has even harsher prospects than the renewables target.

Germany meets 4.9% of electricity demand with solar PV in 2013. SolarServer reports that the share of German power demand covered by solar increased from 4.4% to 4.9% in 2013.

Energiewende and coal: not the same camp. Craig Morris discusses the latest power production figures from Germany. He notes that while coal-based power generation again went up in 2013, the increase was not caused by the nuclear phaseout but went into exports. No nuclear plant was decommissioned since 2011 and power demand has gone down.

German heating costs at record levels. Der Spiegel notes (article in German) that while the discussion is almost exclusively about electricity, heating and driving are much more of a drag on households’ budgets. Germany’s 2013 fossil fuel import bill was 91 billion euro, 1,135 per person. And it’s projected to increase to 118 billion by 2020 and to 173 billion by 2030.

Super market reduces energy costs by 50%. One way to get these bills down is energy efficiency. Andreas Kühl reports on a rather impressive example (article in German).

The Hidden Power of Local Finance. An interesting read on energytransition.de. It reports on how local banks have been crucial in financing Germany’s decentralised renewable energy transition.

Time lapse of 860,000 photovoltaic systems installed across Germany from January 2009 until January 2013. Rather nice to look at.

U.S. Cold Blast Winds Down, Fails to Set Any All-Time Cold Records. The recent harsh US cold snap caused quite a hubbub but Jeff Masters and others were not impressed. “The only significant thing about the cold wave is how long it has been since a cold wave of this force has hit for some portions of the country–18 years, to be specific. Prior to 1996, cold waves of this intensity occurred pretty much every 5-10 years. In the 19th century, they occurred every year or two (since 1835). Something that, unlike the cold wave, is a truly unprecedented is the dry spell in California and Oregon, which is causing unprecedented winter wildfires in Northern California.”

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