Climate News of the Week Roundup: Clean Investment Potentially Turning the Corner But Has a Long Way to Go

This week’s roundup features a projection that clean energy investment may be on the upswing again, a report saying that it’s still only 1/3 of what’s needed, a study saying that wind can in fact be a boon for grid reliability, an interview with John Schellnhuber, a study saying energy efficiency could save European consumers hundreds of billions of euros, the World Bank’s president backing fossil fuel divestment, Obama’s state of the union address, China’s growth of coal consumption slowing down, Chris Huhne attacking Cameron over fracking in the UK, and more.

Renewable Spending to Turn Corner as Bonds Hit Record, BNEF Says. Sally Bakewell from Bloomberg reports that renewable energy investment is projected to turn around this year with sales of green bonds rising to a record. Onshore wind’s resurgence and spending on solar power may in Bloomberg’s view drive investment to about $300 billion, after a two-year slide. Green bonds for environment and clean-energy ventures may reach about $20 billion, after last year’s record of $14 billion.

Ceres – Clean Trillion. Even those $300 billion would only be a fraction of what’s needed, though. A report by Ceres, an NGO working closely with institutional investors, calculates that to achieve the 2°C target the world needs to invest an additional $36 trillion in clean energy—an average of $1 trillion per year for the next 36 years. They suggest that clean energy investment should double from $281bln in 2012 to $500bln in 2020 and quadruple to $1trln by 2030. Lack of money is rather not the issue. In 2012 alone, the 200 largest publicly traded fossil fuel companies collectively spent an estimated $674 billion on finding and developing new reserves. Benefits would include not only emission reductions but also $100trln of savings in fuel costs. They have some nice charts and presentations on their website here. “Clean trillion” is a rather catchy slogan to begin with.

Forget Intermittency: NREL Says Wind Energy Can Boost Grid Reliability. Silvio Marcacci reports on a study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in cooperation with with the Electric Power Research Institute, an organization comprised of more than 1,000 members (most of whom are electric utilities) and the University of Colorado. The study finds that wind energy cannot only support the grid by ramping power output up and down to enhance system reliability, but that using wind farms to provide active power control is economically beneficial, all with negligible damage to the turbines themselves.

Intermittent or variable: Are our wires crossed on renewables? Skeptics of renewables like to point out that wind and solar energy aren’t available at will. Craig Morris points out that conventional sources aren’t as reliable as their proponents like to think either. Renewables have actually repeated performed critical services during extreme weather events that knocked out conventional power stations.

Europe putting on the brakes? “I’m not disappointed by Barroso”German daily FAZ interviewed climate scientist Hans Joachim Schellnhuber (interview in German) on last week’s publication of the European Commission’s proposal for post-2020 climate and energy policy (see previous post). In his view, an EU emission reduction of 40% ist at the low end of what’s acceptable, but nonetheless a step in the right direction. -50% would in his view be practically feasible but more than 40% is currently not politically possible. But he’s optimistic that decarbonisation is going to accelerate and that the EU will in the end achieve more than 40% as a renewables-based system is in his view superior to a fossil-based one and at some point the system will tip.

Energy efficiency will trigger €250 billion yearly net savings by 2030. A study by Ecofys finds that energy savings do not only bring direct cost savings; they also indirectly reduce energy prices. That is, with consumers using fewer units of energy, the price of the remaining units will be lower than they would have been otherwise. Including the effects of lower prices, by 2020 consumers could achieve total yearly net savings of nearly €200 million. If ambitious energy savings were pursued until 2030, total net savings could sum up to €250 billion per year.

World Bank chief backs fossil fuel divestment drive. Ed King from RTCC reports that World Bank president Jim Yong Kim at his address at the World Economic Forum in Davos called for taxing and divesting from carbon. “Through policy reforms, we can divest and tax that which we don’t want, the carbon that threatens development gains over the last 20 years.” He added that financial regulators should set this agenda by forcing companies to reveal their exposure to climate-related impacts. “The so-called “long-term investors” must recognize their fiduciary responsibility to future pension holders who will be affected by decisions made today. Corporate leaders should not wait to act until market signals are right and national investment policies are in place.”

U.S. pushes for outside oversight of World Bank, opposes push toward ‘big hydro’. Howard Schneider from the Washington Post reports that the US is demanding stricter oversight of World Bank projects to prevent human rights violations and that Congress recently approved an appropriations bill that orders the bank’s U.S. board member to vote against any major hydroelectric project, which have frequently been at the center of such violations.

Obama touts ‘responsible’ energy development measures, climate goals. Reuters summarised the climate-related elements of Obama’s state of the union address. While he said that climate science was settled, he at the same time continued touting his “all of the above” energy strategy. Responds to State of the Union. NGO were rather discontent. In their reaction, chief May Boeve noted, “You can’t say you care about ending cancer and then go buy a carton of cigarettes–and you can’t say you care about the climate and then go dig up more fossil fuels.” founder Bill McKibben added, “A“An all of the above energy strategy is exactly as sensible as an all of the above foreign policy–I kept waiting for the part of the speech where he’d explain why North Korea and England should be treated the same.”

Chinese coal use set for slowest growth this century. Damian Kahya from Greenpeace reports that growth in Chinese coal consumption slowed to 2.6% last year – the average over the last decade was 10% per year.

Emissions Trading in China: First Reports from the Field. Ranping Song and Hongpeng Lei from the Word Resources Institute did an interesting roundup of the current status of emission trading in China.

The truth about David Cameron’s fracking fairytale. Former UK energy and climate state secretary Chris Huhne harshly criticised Prime Minister Cameron in an op-ed in the Guardian. In his view, shale may not happen in the UK because it may actually not be frackable. If it does, it will be slow due to citizen resistance and environmental regulations. Even if it is eventually massive, prices will not drop because if prices get lower than in the rest of Europe it will be exported. British industry, far from re-shoring, will be squeezed by the strong pound, buying of which will be made attractive for foreigners by the strongly positive balance of payments strong gas exports would yield. “Could the prime minister please hire a respectable economic adviser with a memory?”

For the NSA, espionage was a means to strengthen the US position in climate negotiations. As the world is gearing up for the next attempt to conclude a comprehensive climate agreement, leaked documents show that the US NSA spied heavily on the 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen, Henrik Montgomery reports.

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