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Al Gore & Innovation: Challenging Perspectives on Global Warming & Climate Change

This evening Former Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore delivered a keynote speech on the subject of innovation at the Fairmont San Jose. The occasion was the annual meeting of the $28 billion CPA firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu where about 300 of the most senior partners gather together from all over the world for a few days. There were no cameras or recording devices permitted, but I had the privilege of attending along with a few other select clients and friends.

EcoWorld’s position on climate change has been consistent for several years, and it didn’t change tonight: (1) If humans are causing climate change, it is from a variety of factors – in general, the role of anthropogenic CO2 is being overemphasized and the role of tropical deforestation is being underemphasized, (2) Even if the rise in atmospheric CO2 is due to burning fossil fuel, by the IPCC’s own reasoning, it is impossible to lower it sufficiently to make any impact without completely shutting down industry on planet earth, meaning adaptation would be a more rational investment, (3) CO2 is not pollution, and the emphasis on reducing CO2 is undermining our efforts to reduce other air pollution, and address environmental challenges in general, (4) the political changes that are being proposed and enacted in the name of reducing CO2 emissions are causing increasing harm to our rights and freedoms, and (5) demonizing people who sincerely doubt the “consensus” is absolutely wrong.

So watching this incredibly powerful man, who has become larger than life, stride the stage not more than 20 feet in front of me was something that aroused mixed feelings, to say the least. He spent several minutes cracking jokes, funny jokes at that, with an endearing southern twang that matched his dark black cowboy boots. There sure have been a lot of southerners in high office in recent years in the USA. And it was hard not to like this one.

When Gore got down to business, he said things I was in complete agreement with, such as “we have a series of problems relating to short term thinking,” and things I found refreshingly optimistic, such as “I believe the recession will be shorter than everybody thought.” But when he started to discuss climate change, he said some things that simply must be challenged.

After leading into the topic with the statement “there’s an illusion still out there that the climate crisis may not be real, and if you want to be one step ahead, believe me, it’s real,” he used as his first example “a tale of two planets, Earth and Venus,” which are the “same size, same amount of carbon, but on earth most of the natural processes have put carbon into the earth as fossil fuel.” He then pointed out the average temperature on Earth is 59 degrees (fahrenheit), and the average temperature on Venus is 875 degrees. But he didn’t point out that Venus is 67 million miles from the sun, and earth is 93 million miles from the sun – that plus undoubtedly many other significant differences in the composition of Earth and Venus would account for the difference in temperature. So Gore was not off to a good start.

There isn’t space here to recount all the points Gore made in a generous speech that lasted, including questions, over an hour. But he referenced the IPCC reports as being 99% certain there was human induced climate change – without specifying exactly what they meant by that. To be fair, Gore didn’t have time to go into all these details either. But he didn’t point out that the IPCC reports are written and reviewed by the same people – something that is never supposed to be done in a scientific paper. Peer review of compilations like this are always supposed to be by a separate panel of experts.

Gore then discussed sea ice in the arctic, explaining that on the northern equinox each year the extent of the northern ice cap is measured by scientists, and noting that last September the ice was 40% smaller than it has been historically. “What does it take to get our attention,” he noted, continuing “our kids are going to wonder why you watched this happen and didn’t do anything,” and “it can come back, but only when we quit turning up the thermostat,” and “if we let the heat build up in the Arctic Ocean it [the ice cap] won’t come back, and we will live on a different planet.” Well let’s see what happens this year. Gore did not mention that two recent studies acknowledge the northern hemisphere is about to embark on a cooling period, as the interdecadal oscillations of ocean currents begin to return cool water to the arctic. What Gore and his followers won’t yet consider is that these changes are the result of natural fluctuations.

Gore then noted “there are ten to fifteen other major events,” mentioning a few of them; sea level rise (negligible), storms and floods (tragic, but not more numerous or severe, and only more destructive because we’ve got far more people living in marginal areas on earth today), drought (true, but much of that is being caused by deforestation), extinctions (most of these are from other causes), and deforestation (which we are doing on our own with no help from rising CO2). But as we have noted in previous posts and features, the earth, overall, has had stable temperatures for ten years, and it isn’t clear where all these supposed exajoules of solar heat, allegedly captured by excessive concentrations of atmospheric CO2, are being sequestered, waiting for their moment. In the deep ocean? That’s not what our latest temperature buoys are saying. So where?

Case closed, Gore than leapt to rhetorically asking “why are we seeing these changes.” And here is where Gore’s message becomes something it is far easier to agree with. Because believe it or not, even if you think CO2 induced climate change alarm is overstated, you can still be an environmentalist. Gore noted that along with fossil fuel burning, we are seeing these changes because of a rising population, greater per capita income, and an abundance of short term thinking. And if you take away the fossil fuel burning, and substitute “environmental challenges” for “climate change,” Gore is absolutely right. What ever happened to that iconic image of the ships in the desert, Mr. Gore, published in your book Earth in the Balance? Why can’t we refill the Aral Sea?

On the topic of population growth, Gore reminded the audience that global population will stabilize due to four factors, (1) empowering women, (2) educating girls, (3) making sure people have culturally acceptable access to family planning, and (4) increasing the survivability of children. This is an excellent point, and Gore might have gone on to predict the inevitable population decline that will begin as soon as the peak is reached sometime around 2040. The cultural and economic challenges an aging, declining world population will pose are also things we should be confronting now, as we think ahead.

Along with climate change Gore dealt with the other reason to wean ourselves of fossil fuel, “shifting away from a dirty, expensive [fossil] fuel from dangerous, politically fragile regions,” and not having to compete with the rising nations of China and India for fossil fuel supplies. These are true enough, and the reason many Americans and other westerners embrace climate change even if they aren’t convinced – and I have spoken with countless highly educated and informed people who have stated off the record they are still completely skeptical of the role of CO2 in causing climate change. But so what, if we transition to something new; solar, wind, greater efficiencies, geothermal, “good” biofuel?

Gore is on to something here, as he describes high voltage direct current lines that can be put underground and are far more efficient in transmission, or solar thermal fields so efficient that “a 100×100 square mile area (10,000 square miles) could power 100% of the energy requirements of the entire USA” (we’ve run the numbers and that is theoretically true). Gore has done a lot to stimulate innovation in technologies that will deliver energy independence, and cleaner energy. But there have been tragic missteps as well, such as subsidizing biofuel from tropical rainforests, something that has not only needlessly destroyed tropical rainforests – causing regional droughts and warming, along with heartbreaking losses of wildlife habitat – but has now created an overreaction against all biofuel.

There is nothing wrong with, as Gore puts it “figuring out how to get one step ahead to create a better world.” One of Deloitte’s partners, an urbane gentleman from France, discussed Gore’s remarks with me, saying “we have to exaggerate the problem to solve the problem.” This is a wise sentiment. The problem is letting this crisis mongering cause us to move so fast that we enact political changes and embrace technological solutions that ultimately turn out to be too draconian and too dated, respectively, when high energy prices might have stimulated all the innovation we would ever need, in good time.

Nobody can say with certainty that Al Gore is right or wrong about climate change. But the political changes afoot in the name of fighting climate change are not trivial, they are epochal, and therefore simply arguing we should invoke the precautionary principle is not something that should be stated unequivocably, or so selectively. The debate is not over, the debate has scarcely begun, and that perhaps is my biggest disagreement with Al Gore. His world changing message has awakened a generation to the values of environmentalism, which is wonderful, but now that generation might consider the nuances of the mission and the message. There are myriad environmental challenges, and they cannot possibly be viewed or mitigated in their totality purely through the lens of climate change alarm. If you doubt this, just ask the Orangutans of Borneo.

Posted in Air Pollution, Causes, Drought, Geothermal, Global Warming & Climate Change, Office, Other, Population Growth, Regional, Solar, Wind13 Comments

Rational Environmentalism

Earlier in March we attracted the attention of a professional PR firm dedicated to exposing “deniers,” and felt personally what it’s like to have your integrity questioned by people with no idea who you are, or what you truly believe. As we stated in our response, we are not going to descend into hyperbole or personal attacks, and we are going to respect the opinions of anyone who presents a credible argument – no matter whether they agree with us or disagree with everything we write. The truth matters, and often only ongoing debate can reveal the truth.

We would much prefer to report on clean technology and the companies and entrepreneurs who are delivering it – as well as report on the status of species and ecosystems. But there is an urgent need to maintain a dialogue as to the nature of environmentalism, especially since it has suddenly acquired momentum orders of magnitude greater than it had ten years ago. There are a lot of new entrants into the world of environmentalism, and we all need to step back and think about what environmentalism means – what are the unintended consequences, what is the underlying philosophy, and what are the competing visions of environmentalism?

So here is an updated, and fairly spontaneous statement of our editorial position at EcoWorld. Anyone who has a different point of view is welcome.

(1) We believe in emphasizing limited government, free markets, and individual liberties.

(2) We believe “smart growth” is damaging the economy and the environment. Read “Taking on Smart Growth.”

(3) We believe there is not compelling evidence that human CO2 emissions are causing potentially catastrophic climate change. Read: “The Case Against Climate Alarm.”

(4) We believe in most cases, there is no shortage of land, and the hidden agenda behind “urban service boundaries” is to keep building fees and property taxes within existing jurisdictions at inflated values, in order to increase revenues of municipal governments who have utterly failed to keep their employee’s pension and benefit packages within sustainable (and equitable) limits. Read “California Land Use Choices.”

(5) We believe California’s government is using the “Global Warming Act” to create new regulations and fees relating to Lower Carbon Fuel Standards and Land Use, when a small additional improvement to vehicle efficiency could yield far more of the allegedly necessary reductions in CO2 emissions. We think the regulations that will govern new fuel standards and land use will be draconian, subjective and capricious, will tragically undermine property rights, and do grevious harm to California’s economy.

(6) We believe that public employee unions are backing new taxes and fees in the name of global warming to win new revenues to fund otherwise unsustainable benefits for their members. While we believe in the ideals of unions, we believe that all workers in the USA should get the same taxpayer funded guarantees when they are unable to work – social security and medicare. This reform would render public entities solvent again. While some defined-benefit early pensions may be necessary for government workers in hazardous or physically demanding jobs, these benefits should be brought down to earth. No public servant should make more when they’re retired than when they work, for example. We believe labor unions in the government sector should be strictly regulated, because they operate under few of the restraints that force unions in the competitive private sector to be reasonable.

(7) We believe nuclear power is safer than ever and should be part of the global energy future. We believe Yucca Mountain is a safe repository for nuclear waste and should be opened for business.

(8) We believe the “alarm industry” is far, far better funded than the alleged “denial industry,” by a factor of one-thousand to one or more. Read: “The Debate Goes On,” or “Carbon Fundamentalism.”

(9) We believe cars are getting smarter, cleaner and greener all the time, and that roads and freeways – which can convey busses, trucks and personal automobiles – are the best means to improve transit options for everyone.

(10) We believe genuine air pollution – now euphemistically referred to as “collateral pollution” – is what we should be concerned about, not CO2, and that the focus on CO2 emissions has distracted us from this more important environmental and health challenge.

(11) We believe that if anything is causing some elements of climate change, such as regional cases of extreme weather or drought, it is the result of tropical deforestation, not human CO2 emissions.

(12) We believe that since the 1970′s, green snake oil been one of the favorite currencies of charlatans, and that global warming alarm is making them come out of the woodwork. We believe the green mania currently sweeping the world will advance green technologies, but that most investors and entrepreneurs will lose.

(13) We believe that the green bubble, to the extent it relies on global warming alarm, is causing marginal business models to receive investment and subsidies and this is creating vested interests in politically contrived solutions and will inhibit genuine competitive green innovation.

(14) We believe there are compelling, urgent environmental problems, from deforestation in Borneo, to depleting aquifers and endangered ocean fisheries. But in general, we think threats to ecosystems, especially in the USA, are vastly overstated – and that more emphasis needs to go to rational cost/benefit analysis.

(15) We reserve the right to add, delete, modify or enhance all of these points, because we believe in evolving our position in accordance with whatever important new information we receive. Global warming alarmists – can you do that too?

These are some principles of what we like to refer to as rational environmentalism – focusing on the big picture, steering clear of hype and panic, respecting property rights, appreciating the power of humanity and the earth to adapt, and trying to remove ALL of our blinders when searching for hidden agendas wrapped in clean green cloaks.

Posted in Air Pollution, Cars, Drought, Energy, Philosophy, Policy, Law, & Government, Regional, Science, Space, & Technology2 Comments

China's Coal

THE REALITY OF ENERGY DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA
China Coal Mine
Jin Hua Gong Mine, Datong, Shanxi, China
(Photo: Peter Van den Bossche)

Editor’s Note: The Chinese rely on coal for about two-thirds of their total energy production. And with relatively abundant reserves of coal, and relatively scarce reserves of other fossil fuels, as China increases energy production, coal will remain their main source of energy. This is the reality of energy development in China.

According to the US DOE’s Energy Information Administration, over the next 20 years or so, the amount of energy produced in China from coal is going to double, from about 50 quadrillion BTUs (“quads”) of energy in 2007 to 95 quads by 2030. It is a certainty that China can achieve this level of coal production – what is uncertain is what ultimate level of overall energy production will guarantee the Chinese the lifestyle enjoyed by fully industrialized nations, and hence how much more energy they will have to find elsewhere.

The answer lies in two unpredictable trends – technological advancements in clean, renewable energy production, and improvements in energy efficiency, or “energy intensity,” which is how many units of energy correspond to a unit of gross national product. There is reason for optimism on both counts. Non-hydroelectric renewable energy currently amounts to less than 1% of global energy production, yet advancements in photovoltaic technology, solar thermal technology, possible breakthroughs in biofuel yields and extraction methods, and enhanced geothermal technologies all promise exponential growth over the next two decades.

As China completes their process of industrializing and urbanizing, they also have the opportunity to implement cradle-to-cradle, highly advanced technologies that leapfrog the legacy technologies in-place elsewhere. It is often easier to start from scratch than to retrofit, and China can make the most of this and achieve unprecedented levels of energy efficiency and energy intensity.

Meanwhile coal production in China increases at an astonishing pace, and most of the operating coal plants in China lack modern scrubbers to remove gross air pollution. In this regard, concerns over CO2 may be misplaced. It could be that black soot that settles on arctic ice is warming the northern polar regions more than the CO2 that accompanies that soot. And the ill-health attendant to that soot is beyond debate. The costs to remove genuine pollution, nitrogen dioxide, sulpher dioxide, carbon monoxide, particulate matter and toxic metals – is far, far less costly than attempting to sequester the CO2 emissions. And the technology to do this is well established.

It is going to take decades for clean renewables to replace coal. In the meantime, the international community should encourage the Chinese to at least clean up their coal emissions. Getting rid of the particulates and other pollutants would improve the health of hundreds of millions of people, it would prevent black soot from melting northern ice, and unlike schemes for CO2 sequestration – or ending coal burning all together – it is feasible in the short term. – Ed “Redwood” Ring

China’s Coal – The Reality of Energy Development in China
by Gordon Feller, January 2008

COAL CONSUMPTION IN CHINA BY SECTOR
2004, 2015, and 2030
Bar Graph of Coal Consumption in China by Sector
Sources: 2004: Energy Information Admin. (EIA),
2015 and 2030: EIA, “System for the Analysis
of Global Energy Markets” (2006).

China is the second largest energy consumer in the world and most of its energy consumption is coal. This dominance of coal is not expected to fall significantly even as China’s energy demand grows.

China’s Development Research Center of the State Council estimates that coal will account for 66 percent of primary energy consumption in 2010. Coal-based power generation will account for 65 to 70 percent of total generation for the next decades. Industry is the other major consumer of coal.

While China’s coal resources are deemed sufficient for its needs in the coming two decades, the environmental cost of coal use is already beginning to take its toll, particularly through SO2 and NOX emissions which are the leading causes of acid rain. In 2002, about 34 percent (or 6.6 million tons) of China’s SO2 emissions were released from power plants. Acid rain falls on an estimated 30 percent of China’s land mass and can become a threat to agricultural output. China’s CO2 emissions, now even surpassing those from the United States, are also a threat to the global environment. A combination of clean-coal technologies at the input, processing and output stages of the power generation process, the enforcement of emission control regulation, and sector policies (such as pricing) have the potential to mitigate the environmental impact of coal use. Significant reductions in environmental impact in the long-term will require a major effort.

The World Bank’s recent analytical work on China’s coal sector found that coal mining is in desperate need of restructuring and modernization. Overall, coal is far behind China’s power and oil/gas sub-sectors in economic efficiency, modern management, and technology. There are more than 30,000 coal mines in the country, most of them small mines producing a third of the country’s coal even after widespread mine closures. The small mines are a major source of the sector’s problems including lack of safety (some two-thirds of the reported 6,000 coal mining fatalities per year occur in small coal mines), environmental damage (small mines are the least equipped to address the environmental impacts of coal – only a small fraction of small mines wash their raw coal), and sub-optimal exploitation or, at worst, waste of resources. At the same time, small-scale mining is a sensitive issue that needs to be addressed in the wider context of the economic and social priorities of the town and village governments which most often operate them.

Coal Barge on the Yangtzee River
From mine to market, a fully laden coal barge
floats its way down the Yangtzee River.

China is the second largest producer of electricity in the world and its power demand growth is also among the world’s highest. With rapid economic growth continuing to drive energy demand, China faces supply reliability concerns across the energy sector. These concerns are particularly acute for power and oil. The key priorities and challenges facing China’s energy sector in the medium-term are:

(1) Ensuring Energy Supply Reliability to Meet Demand Growth:

With rapid economic growth continuing to drive energy demand growth, China faces supply reliability concerns across the energy sector. These concerns are particularly acute for power and oil.

(2) Ensuring power supply reliability:

China is the second largest producer of electricity in the world and its power demand growth is also among the world’s highest. By the end of 2000, China’s total installed capacity reached about 320 gigawatts and was expected to grow to about 400GW by 2005, about 500 gigawatts in 2010 and between 850 gigawatts and 950 gigawatts in 2020. But electricity consumption has jumped by much higher rates annually than are implicit in the above 2000-2005 estimate with power shortages first affecting the provinces responsible for the country’s export boom (Guangdong, Fujian, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, and Shanghai) along the eastern sea-board. In 2004, 19 out of 31 provinces had to ration electricity. The reliability of the power supply system, particularly, the transmission grid has also become an issue. The government forecasts a power shortage of 10 to 15 percent in the key manufacturing areas estimating that about $108 billion of new generation capacity will be needed in the coming five years to close the gap.

Despite progress in power sector reform, the sector has suffered from systemic problems such as a piecemeal approach to restructuring, slow development of a regulatory framework leading to inefficiencies and abuses of monopoly/monopsony power, mismatch between loan maturities and economic lives of power projects, inadequate wholesale electricity and transmission pricing regimes, and low efficiency of electricity supply and use.

To guide the sector’s evolution, the national government of China released a comprehensive reform program for the power sector in April 2002 whose ultimate objective is to provide customers the best service at the lowest possible cost through continued break-up of the monopolistic industry structure and gradual expansion of competition to improve sector efficiency.

(3) Managing the security of oil supply:

China’s oil consumption accounted for nearly a quarter of primary energy in 2002. With a growing passenger vehicle fleet, greater inland freight transportation, and the high growth rate of industrial output, oil consumption is expected to retain this share of primary energy till 2010 even as China’s total primary energy consumption will more than double between 2000 and 2020. In 1993, China became a net importer of oil. And the proportion of imports in oil consumption has risen from 7.3 percent in 1995 to 31 percent in 2000. The government estimates that oil imports will account for 60 percent of total oil consumption by 2020. The government is responding to the vulnerability to oil price volatility and supply risk through a mix of measures including the development of a strategic oil reserve, acquisition of upstream oil assets, and fuel efficiency standards for vehicles. The government has sought the World Bank’s advice in developing a coherent and comprehensive policy response to the question of oil supply security under the wider rubric of a policy report on long-term energy security.

(4) Managing the Environmental Impact of Coal:

China is the second largest energy consumer in the world and most of its energy consumption is coal, 67 percent of primary energy consumption in 2002. This dominance of coal is not expected to fall significantly even as China’s energy demand grows. The Development Research Center of the State Council estimates that coal will account for 66 percent of primary energy consumption in 2010. Coal-based power generation will account for 65 to 70 percent of total generation for the next decades. Industry is the other major consumer of coal.

While China’s coal resources are deemed sufficient for its needs in the coming two decades, the environmental cost of coal use is already beginning to take its toll, particularly through SO2 and NOx emissions which are the leading causes of acid rain. In 2002, about 34 percent (or 6.6 million tons) of China’s SO2 emissions were released from power plants. Acid rain falls on an estimated 30 percent of China’s land mass and can become a threat to agricultural output. China’s CO2 emissions, second only to the United States, are also a threat to the global environment. A combination of clean-coal technologies at the input, processing and output stages of the power generation process, the enforcement of emission control regulation, and sector policies (such as pricing) have the potential to mitigate the environmental impact of coal use. Significant reductions in environmental impact in the long-term will require a major effort.

Human Drawn Coal Carts in China
Old and new mingle as human-powered coal carts
deliver energy to fuel China’s industrial boom.
(Photo: USGS)

Overall, coal is far behind China’s power and oil/gas sub-sectors in economic efficiency, modern management, and technology. There are more than 30,000 coal mines in the country, most of them small mines producing a third of the country’s coal even after widespread mine closures. The small mines are a major source of the sector’s problems including lack of safety (some two-thirds of the reported 6,000 coal mining fatalities per year occur in small coal mines), environmental damage (small mines are the least equipped to address the environmental impacts of coal – only a small fraction of small mines wash their raw coal), and sub-optimal exploitation or, at worst, waste of resources. At the same time, small-scale mining is a sensitive issue that needs to be addressed in the wider context of the economic and social priorities of the town- and village-level governments which most often operate them.

(5) Reducing Environmental Damage by Increasing the Proportion of Gas and Renewables in the Energy Mix:

China’s gas consumption is low (at 2.7 percent of primary energy in 2002). But gas is beginning to gain momentum and substantial growth is expected with the share of gas in final consumption anticipated to more than double during the next decade.

Renewables accounted for less than 10 percent of China’s primary energy consumption in 2002. With respect to renewable sources of electricity, China is one of the most well-endowed countries in the world estimated to include 160 gigawatts of wind power, over 75 gigawatts of commercially exploitable small hydropower, about 125 gigawatts of biomass energy, 6.7 gigawatts of known geothermal energy and high levels of insulation in many parts of the country. Analyses indicate that the greatest potential for displacing coal by renewable energy is in the power sector. Even so, renewable sources accounted for only 7.8% of primary energy in 2002 with large hydropower plants as the dominant source.

Recognizing this potential, the government seeks to begin use of the resources which are economically feasible. The government has decided to adopt a policy aimed at building demand by mandating electricity suppliers to meet some of their needs from renewable resources, often known as a mandated market policy. The policy is to be implemented through the enactment of a Renewable Energy Promotion Law (REPL) which has been ratified by the People’s Assembly in February, 2005. In addition to the development of the law, regulations need to be introduced. Rather than introduce a law that requires all provinces to comply immediately, the government intends to try out the approach in four provinces (Fujian, Inner Mongolia, Jiangsu, and Zhejiang) which have all volunteered to participate as pilot provinces. These provinces have agreed to adopt the law and to take the actions necessary to comply with it over the period 2005-2008.

(6) Increasing Efficiency of Energy Use Including Heating Services:

The energy consumed to produce every one thousand dollars of GDP (or energy intensity) reduced from 2.49 tons of oil equivalent in 1980 to 0.84 by 2002. The reduction of waste since 1980 has been significant but it means that the easier gains have already been made. In an increasingly market-based economy, government-mandated programs are unlikely to succeed and stronger regulatory oversight will be needed. Despite the progress so far, a greater energy efficiency challenge lies in the future as China currently has a comparatively low per capita energy consumption level (1.1 tce per person in 2001 compared to 6.16 for South Korea, 6.2 for Japan, and 12.04 for the United States). Energy intensity reductions will be heavily influenced by the speed at which China’s major energy-consuming industries move closer to international efficiency standards. Economic growth, rising incomes and the spread of a modern, technology-based way of life – al of these mean that energy efficiency needs to remain a major priority for energy policy.

(7) Efficiency in the heating sector:

Roughly half of China’s population lives in northern regions where temperatures fall below 5oC for over 90 days every year. China currently consumes about 180 million tons of raw coal per year for space heating in urban residential and commercial buildings in its cold and severe cold regions. During winter, emissions from coal-fired central heating facilities are the primary cause of the serious air pollution that is prevalent in northern Chinese cities, and are a major public health concern of the Government. And energy use per unit floor area is at least double that of buildings in similar cold climates in Western Europe or North America, yet far lower levels of comfort are achieved. Due to its major cost advantage, and shortages of alternatives, coal is expected to remain the dominant fuel for central heating systems for the foreseeable future. To address these problems, it is critical to drastically improve the efficiency of coal-fired heating systems in residential buildings.

Satellite Image of Haze from China to Japan
Air pollution from China can easily be seen from
outer space as a plume of smoke thousands of miles long
(Photo: NASA)
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China’s urban residential building stock is expected to more than double in the next 20 years. The Government estimates that energy use per unit floor area in new residential buildings can be cut in half, compared with the existing building stock, if compliance with the current energy code is ensured. But China’s construction boom is already overwhelming efforts to enforce the country’s new building energy codes. The housing development industry in general has little incentive to adopt energy-efficient building designs, materials and practices. Similarly, the central heating sector currently provides no incentives for consumers to respond to market-based energy costs. The heating systems are based on Soviet technologies that do not allow consumers to control their heating. Heat metering is non-existent. Billing is based on a flat per square meter price. Chinese leadership has made it clear that urban heating sector reform must proceed.

China’s growth and development has been achieved at the expense of its natural resource base. For example:

- Land degradation is widespread and increasing. China has huge tracts of rapidly degrading grasslands, some of the worst water erosion problems and the highest ratio of actual to potential desertified land in the world.

- Thanks to large investments in tree plantation and shelterbelt development and a natural forest-logging ban, China has successfully turned the tide of formerly rapid deforestation. However, the country’s natural forests had been in a continuous decline for over 50 years and the return of many forest ecosystems to a sustainable condition is still a long way off.

- Despite the establishment of a national system of nature reserves, the stresses on them have put the country’s unique and globally significant biodiversity under serious pressure.

Water availability and quality continues to be a critical problem, particularly in northern China, and the situation is likely to deteriorate over the next decade, especially in the rivers north of the Yangtze. In order to equitably resolve the conflicting claims for water and other natural resources there is a need for both technical progress and improvements in institutional, administrative and regulatory arrangements.

China’s rapid growth is now a driving force in the global economy and is achieving unprecedented rates of poverty reduction. However, growth is also seriously damaging the natural resource base and generating major environmental liabilities. The country’s environmental problems include land degradation, deteriorating water quality and water scarcity, severe air pollution and declining natural forest cover. These problems threaten the health and prospects of current and future generations and are undermining the sustainability of long-term growth.

Gordon Feller Portrait

About the Author: Gordon Feller is the CEO of Urban Age Institute (www.UrbanAge.org). During the past twenty years he has authored more than 500 magazine articles, journal articles or newspaper articles on the profound changes underway in politics, economics, and ecology – with a special emphasis on sustainable development. Gordon is the editor of Urban Age Magazine, a unique quarterly which serves as a global resource and which was founded in 1990. He can be reached at GordonFeller@UrbanAge.org and he is available for speaking to your organization about the issues raised in this and his other numerous articles published in EcoWorld..

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Additional EcoWorld reports on China:

- Cleaning Up China

- China’s Energy Demand

- China’s Renewable Energy

- Wind Power in China

- China’s Energy Outlook

- Fuel Cell Development in China

- China, Canals & Coal

Email the Editor about this Article
EcoWorld - Nature and Technology in Harmony

Posted in Air Pollution, Biodiversity, Buildings, Causes, Coal, Consumption, Electricity, Energy, Energy & Fuels, Energy Efficiency, Geothermal, Hydroelectric, Other, Policies & Solutions, Science, Space, & Technology, Services, Solar, Transportation, Wind5 Comments

Zap Electric Vehicles – Plug It In And Drive!

Driving is not as fun as it could be. Gas prices, congested roads and the pollution that constantly sputters from the engine all put a damper on the weekend road trip or commute to work. Electric cars might be able to solve many of these problems. Imagine quietly rolling by a gas station in car that reduces pollution by 98% and smiling to yourself comforted by the fact that you don’t need to shell out almost 70 dollars to fill the tank. It is funny to think that watching TV can cost more than running an electric car.

The first electric cars date back to the 1830s! Unfortunately they didn’t catch on with a range of about 10 miles and a huge price tag. Electric cars used to be up to three times more expensive than the internal combustion engine vehicles that came along later. This is definitely no longer the case: In fact, with the tremendous increase in gas prices, an electric vehicle can pay for itself within a year.

ZAP or ‘Zero Air Pollution’ Vehicles, based in Santa Rosa, California, distributes a variety of electric vehicles that fit everyone’s needs. Trucks, scooters, motorcycles, off-road vehicles and cars are all available through http://www.zapworld.com Prices for these vehicles range from 500-50,000 dollars and these cars and bikes come in every color imaginable-There is even a vehicle available that has the option of painted zebra stripes!

Don’t think that you are restricted to driving to your neighborhood grocery store before you need to recharge your electric car. The range of these vehicles is constantly rising. A typical electric vehicle has a range of 100 miles which is perfect for the daily commute to work or running errands and the price of running an electric car can be compared to about 600 miles/gallon, which is an incentive in itself.

Many people assume that you have to give up power and luxury when buying an electric car. This is not the case. Like with anything else, you get what you pay for. The higher end Zap-X, for example, boasts 644 horsepower, gets 350 miles per charge (which averages to about 1 cent per mile), comes with an electric touch screen and GPS system and can seat up to 7. A car like this is not going to be mistaken for an inferior vehicle on the road. (http://www.zapworld.com/electric-vehicles/electric-cars/zap-x )

There is a demand for cars that are efficient and environmentally friendly. Who doesn’t want a car that just needs to be plugged in to run? It is more complicated to run an electric razor (maybe even more expensive.)

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China's Green Revolution

When will China do something about the cloud of air pollution that drifts across the Pacific? It’s going to cause an ice age, for goodness sakes. Can’t we have economic growth, without asthma? This isn’t to say China shouldn’t increase her footprint – isn’t the Three Gorges complex just like America’s Grand Coulee and Hoover Dam and many other glorious national achievements? It’s their river.

China’s Three Gorges become 17.5 Gigawatts.

On the other hand, there is a plume of emissions from coal plants, oil combustion, flares and fires, that wafts across the Pacific from Asia to America, and it is thousands of miles wide.

It comes from China, workshop of the world, from its burgeoning economy, and let’s not say there aren’t other Asian tigers emitting plenty of their own, because they are. From Korean furnaces to Indonesian rainforests, the burning is epic.

So here one may comment on our “China’s Eco-Crisis” feature report by Gordon Feller. The fact that in the last ten years India has improved their energy intensity from 30,000 BTUs per $1.00 GNP to only 4,500, and that China has improved their energy intensity from 46,000 BTUs per $1.00 of GNP to less than 6,500 – while America is now behind them at a greatly improved 7,000 – is very, very encouraging. We are greener and greener – dramatically.

Perhaps projections of solar adoption and retrofitting are far, far below potential, as well. Perhaps adaptation through free enterprise is the freedom humanity needs to create the weath that will let us tackle anything, be it global warming or global cooling.

So wither China? Is it possible they might at least remove the particulates and most noxious pollutants from their industrial emissions? That would certainly be cheaper than stopping the burning entirely, or sequestering all the CO2! And if we argue that CO2 may be terrible, why don’t we end biodiesel subsidies in Europe? That would probably help put out the flames in Indonesia, where the CO2 belched to burn rainforests to grow biofuel dwarfs the CO2 output of our industries.

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China's Eco-Challenge

COULD IT BE THAT CONTINUED ECONOMIC GROWTH
REQUIRES GREATER ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION?
CHINA, USA, INDIA – 1995 vs. 2005
Energy Graph between the United States, India, and China
China’s economy has grown by nearly
14 times in the last ten years

Editor’s Note: Back in early 2001, using 1995 data, we published an analysis of global energy production trends entitled “The Good, the Bad, & the BTUs,” where we calculated if everyone on earth were to require 100 million BTUs of energy per year, on average, energy production on earth would have to double to nearly 700 million BTUs. And with global energy production topping 500 BTUs last year, we are well on our way.

Something else happened over the past decade, however, something difficult to explain, which may provide an encouraging note as we struggle to find enough energy to complete the industrialization of the world. Referring to the chart that accompanied our 2001 story (BTUs & GNP by Nation), we noted that in 1995 the major developing nations were far less efficient at turning energy into wealth than the developed ones. In 1995, for example, China required 46,666 BTUs to generate one dollar of GNP, and India required 30,759 BTUs to do the same. In the USA back then, by contrast, only 12,583 BTUs were needed to generate one dollar of national wealth.

The table “CHINA, USA, INDIA – 1995 vs. 2005″ tells a dramatic and encouraging story: In the last decade, the energy intensity – the efficiency with which a nation turns energy into wealth – has flipped-flopped, and China and India are now able to turn energy into wealth more efficiently than the USA. While the USA has logged a commendable achievement in the last ten years, improving its energy intensity by 44%, China has improved its energy intensity by 86%, and India’s national energy intensity has improved by 85%. The numbers are almost unbelievable: China’s BTU’s per GNP has plummeted from 46,666 to 6,608, and India’s have dropped from 30,759 to 4,541. This incredible achievement should encourage anyone who hopes global energy production can level off quickly enough to allow clean energy technologies to catch up.

Yet challenges are remain daunting as these massive nations transform themselves at breathtaking speed. With a real growth rate of over 11% per year, China, whose GNP has increased nearly 14x in the last ten years, is poised to have a larger economy than the USA by 2009! And with a population nearly four times larger than the USA, China’s economy is going to keep on growing well beyond parity with the USA.

This article by Gordon Feller explores some of the tradeoffs China faces as they wrestle with issues of economic growth, environmental protection, and sustainability in both areas. Increasingly, it is evident in China that environmental protection is a prerequisite for ongoing economic growth – it is not always one at the expense of the other. That realization is encouraging as well, as the Middle Kingdom awakens.

- Ed “Redwood” Ring

China’s Eco-Crisis – Could it be that continued economic growth requires greater environmental protection?
by Gordon Feller, October 24, 2007
Yangtzee River, China
Nowhere is the environmental impact of China’s
modernization more evident than in the Three Gorges
section of the Yangtze River.

The standard discussion of environmental challenges treats them as more socio-political, in the short-term, and a threat to economic development, but only in the long-term.

The May 2007 suspension of construction on a paraxylene plant in Fujian, for instance, was widely characterized as a gain for local interest groups at the expense of jobs. The primary force behind the suspension was indeed local and political rather than environmental, since far more damaging projects are underway all across the country.

Moreover, the Communist Party obviously sees a short-run trade-off between economic and environmental gains. The October 2005 Party plenum denounced the blind pursuit of economic growth at the expense of, among other things, pollution control. More recently, the 2007 National People’s Congress reasserted growth as the top priority, explicitly of more importance than environmental objectives.

It is certainly true that environmental degradation – especially of the water supply – threatens long-term growth. But there are also short-term dangers, exacerbated by sustained and ill-advised policies.

Carbon emissions and the long-term question of climate change are the pollution issues that receive the most publicity. But there is also the short-term cost of respiratory ailments from conventional air pollution. The last World Bank report on the topic puts the majority of the world’s most (air) polluted cities on the mainland. A generation of urban children has grown up under conditions of poor to abysmal air quality, which will affect their participation in the labor force just as the PRC begins a demographic shift to labor shortage.

Wen Jiabao Portrait
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao

In carbon emissions the present debate over whether China has passed the US as the worst offender is immaterial. If it hasn’t already it will do shortly; shortly after that it will lead the world by a huge amount. Rapid growth in heavy industry ensures this outcome and the last four years are irrefutable evidence the central government will not undermine the industrial boom. Only four of 32 provinces met emissions targets in 2006.

Beijing is correct that much offending output is in high demand by the same trade partners objecting to carbon emissions. In the current setting, though, this argument might chiefly turn out to be ammunition for foreign protectionists. Dismissing overseas environmental concerns could contribute to an economic shock as access to export markets is inhibited Energy constraints.

Closely connected to emissions is energy use. The State Environmental Protection Administration happily projects cuts in the discharges of major pollutants and, thus, a decline in chemical oxygen demand by 2010. This is difficult to reconcile with the objective of a 20% drop in energy consumption per unit of GDP, as the latter implies a considerable increase in absolute energy consumption from GDP growth.

As an illustration, demand for oil products is so high that improvement in the quality of gasoline has stagnated, delaying implementation of tougher auto emissions standards.

Since energy use is rising, chemical oxygen demand will only decline if the energy mix changes significantly. Yet efforts to change the energy mix for environmental and other reasons are being aborted due to environmental and economic consequences.

A mad flight to divert corn stocks to ethanol production, encouraged by central government incentives, has boosted corn prices at a time when food costs are driving inflation. The State Council has thus been forced to halt corn-for-ethanol production. The State Development and Reform Commission is now discouraging once popular coal-to-oil liquefaction projects in light of the power and water these projects require.

Hu Jintao Portrait
Chinese President Hu Jintao

Water shortages and their economic implications are being recognized in Beijing. By 2010 there is supposed to be a dramatic 30% cut in water per unit of industrial value added. Coincident with this announcement, though, the State Statistical Bureau stopped making industrial production totals public, so that progress cannot be monitored. In May deteriorating conditions in some agricultural areas, in particular lack of clean water, contributed to the spread of Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (blue ear disease). According to the Ministry of Agriculture, this is the main factor pushing up the cost of pork, another notable contributor to food costs.

Over a longer timeframe low water inflow has inhibited the anticipated expansion of hydropower use for at least a decade. This partly explains increased reliance on coal and has contributed to power shortages. Now the Ministry of Water Resources is worried, not just about water flow on the Yangtze but that large sections of the river are so polluted that the damage might be irreversible. This would obviously be a death-blow to regional agriculture. International development banks are being asked to ease the scarcity of clean water and multinationals corporations are stepping into remaining gaps. In June alone the World Bank approved a $170m loan for water supply and waste disposal in Liaoning and the Asian Development Bank lent $150m to treat wastewater in Anhui.

France’s Veolia Environnement is the principal private-sector operator. It won a 30-year, $1bn water management contract for Haikou, Hainan in June, one of many for Veolia. Desalinization may not be sensible except in desert countries, but China’s problems are such that is becoming so. Israeli water company IDE will build a $120m desalinization plant serving Beijing and Tianjin.

About the Author: Gordon Feller is the CEO of Urban Age Institute (www.UrbanAge.org). During the past twenty years he has authored more than 500 magazine articles, journal articles or newspaper articles on the profound changes underway in politics, economics, and ecology – with a special emphasis on sustainable development. Gordon is the editor of Urban Age Magazine, a unique quarterly which serves as a global resource and which was founded in 1990. He can be reached at GordonFeller@UrbanAge.org and he is available for speaking to your organization about the issues raised in this and his other numerous articles published in EcoWorld.

MAP OF CHINA
Map of China
CIA China Facts 2006
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A 7 Point Counterpledge to Al Gore's Global Warming Pledge

Later today, when somewhere in this world begins the seventh day of the seventh month of the seventh year of the new millenium, the concert heard round the world will start, and global warming consciousness will continue to build. Now we have a pledge that all 2.0 billion likely listeners will be urged to sign. On Larry King Live yesterday, Al Gore denied this has anything to do with politics, stating that global warming is a moral issue.


7th day of 7th month of 7th year,
the world generation awakens.

But with a pledge being presented to 2.0 billion people, and climate crisis trainer training camps in full bloom around the planet, this is not just a moral issue. This is the biggest political mobilization in the history of mankind. So the most constructive thing we can do is take what must include an incredible amount of positive energy, and help keep the juggernaut in touch with reality. To that end, here are some considerations presented as an alternative seven point pledge:

1. Gore: To demand that my country join an international treaty within the next two years that cuts global warming pollution by 90 per cent in developed countries and by more than half worldwide for the next generation to inherit a healthy earth.

Redwood: To recognize the “climate crisis” is useful as a propaganda campaign for pragmatic interests with multiple agendas, helping to create a mob mentality that may have devastating consequences for our personal and economic freedoms.

2. Gore: To take personal action to help solve the climate crises by reducing my own CO2 pollution;

Redwood: To recognize that CO2 is not a pollutant, indeed, that plants cannot survive without it. To recognize that emphasizing CO2 emissions reduction takes the emphasis away from reducing genuinely unhealthy air pollution, such as ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and particulates.

3. Gore: To fight for moratorium on construction of any new facility that burns coal without the capacity to safely trap and store the CO2;

Redwood: To recognize 90% of the world’s energy comes from burning; 80% from fossil fuel. To understand that trying to inject CO2 underground is probably not feasible, could be dangerous, and could be an incredibly expensive waste. To realize that we are burning rainforests to grow biofuel; to realize that biofuel is not carbon neutral and is not going to replace fossil fuel; to fight to stop rainforest destruction.

4. Gore: To work for a dramatic increase in energy efficiency of my home, workplace, school and transportation;

Redwood: To support energy efficiency technologies, but not through product bans or rationing. Further, to also support increasing energy production.

5. Gore: To fight for laws and policies that expand use of renewable energy sources and reduce dependence on oil and coal;

Redwood: To fight for laws that expand all sources of clean energy, and to recognize that over-regulation stifles innovation and leads to destructive waste of resources.

6. Gore: To plant new trees and to join with others in preserving and protecting forests;

Redwood: To plant trees, recognizing that tropical deforestation is a more significant threat to global climate than industrial CO2 emissions, especially since meaningful restoration of tropical rainforests is far more feasible than reducing CO2 emissions.

7. Gore: To buy from businesses and support leaders who share my commitment.

Redwood: To stop demonizing businesses and to recognize that the ideology of total control of land and production that underlies radical environmentalism requires tyrannical governments.

Posted in Air Pollution, Coal, Energy, Energy Efficiency, Global Warming & Climate Change, Ozone, Policies & Solutions, Transportation3 Comments

Free Market Environmentalism

THE ROAD TO AN EPIPHANY
Green Hills of Montana
The green hills of Montana.

Editor’s Note: The idea to harness the forces of the free market to pursue environmentalist objectives is initially counterintuitive – after all, isn’t the free market to blame for all environmental misery? Isn’t government intervention necessary to keep rapacious profiteers in check?

The first step to recognizing the need to embrace market principles in order to further environmental objectives is to examine the opposite extreme. Communist societies, where all property belongs to the government, are demonstrably the worst stewards of the environment. In the Soviet Bloc, during the years between World War II and the liberation of 1989, environmental destruction was far worse than in the capitalist western nations. The air pollution was so thick it dimmed the sunlight reaching earth. The Aral Sea was drained dry, destroying the livelyhood and the climate through half of Central Asia. It will take decades, and the wealth of capitalist nations, to clean up this mess.

Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic, and someone who suffered under communist tyranny, has put it thus: “When I study and analyse environmental indicators concerning my own country and when I compare them with the situation in the communist era, there is an incredible improvement. The improvement is not because of ‘collective action’ you advocate (it existed in the communist era), but because of freedom and of free markets.”

It’s not easy to articulate the principles of free market environmentalism. When the air and water is fouled by pollution, the natural emotional reaction is to blame the polluters and demand regulations. By extension, the polluters are assumed to be motivated by profit, which in-turn is demonized. But it’s not so simple. Profit creates wealth, and wealth funds environmental restoration. Central planning – communism – destroys wealth, destroys incentives, and the practical result is abominable pollution, worse than anything we’ve ever seen in the capitalist west, and harder to correct.

Free market environmentalism is what the economists at the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) have been studying and promoting for over 15 years. When we began publishing EcoWorld in 1993, we quickly came across the work PERC was doing and we’ve been following them and learning from them ever since. Their message is more important now than ever, as the emotional juggernaut called global warming threatens to drown out reason and demands immediate and extraordinary measures.

Incentives are not easy to formulate, and require governments to referee. But regulations and takings are even more problematic – in the extreme they lead to environmental devastation exemplified by the failed communist economies of Eastern Europe. The question is one of emphasis, and free market environmentalism recognizes that private property, ownership, stewardship, incentives, and the profit motive properly channelled is superior to central planning. This recent report by noted author Matt Ridley attests to his conversion to free market environmentalism, something that even – indeed especially – today’s global warming alarmism should not consign to the list of endangered ideologies.

- Ed “Redwood” Ring

Free Market Environmentalism, The Road to an Epiphany
by Dr. Matt Ridley, June 28, 2007
Elk Herd Grazing
Elk grazing beneath the big sky – PERC country.

It had hardly occurred to me that conservation could be done by anybody other than governments…

In 1987 I became chief correspondent for the Economist in Washington. My predecessor gave me a few tips as he moved to London. One of them was: “If you get an invitation to a PERC meeting in Montana, grab it! You’ll have a great time in the Rockies watching elk and, although they’ve got some crazy ideas, they are worth listening to.’

He was right. I went to a PERC journalists’ conference, right in the middle of the infamous Yellowstone fire, which proved to be a big distraction. Still, I recall Terry Anderson bugling to elk, Aaron Wildavsky making no sartorial concessions to the West, and some great late-night arguments about the role of the state.

It came at a time when my eyes were opening. Aged 30, I was a keen conservationist and enthusiastic naturalist. I had briefly been a field research biologist before I became a journalist and I was born on a farm in northern England. But it hardly occurred to me until then that conservation could be done by anybody other than governments. And like most Europeans, I knew all about “market failures” and not nearly enough about the perverse incentives and bureaucratic momentum of government failures.

Meeting PERC and reading Terry and Don’s book set me thinking. The following year I found myself covering the Clean Air Act revisions as they passed through Congress, and I was very struck by how most of the environmental organizations dismissed emissions trading in sulfur and nitrogen dioxide. It sounded to me (and later proved) to be a very good idea.

But it was November 1989 when the penny finally dropped. Not only were communism’s appalling human crimes bared for the entire world to see, but its environmental ones were as well. The day the Berlin Wall came down, I recalled a conversation I had a few years earlier on an airplane with a prominent British pop star (now a respected leftist politician) about how happy East Germans really were under communism and how much freer and more sustainable their lives were than those of Americans. He’d been there. He knew. I resolved the day the Wall came down to stop tolerating such excuses for all forms of state domination.

The legacy of utopian central planning – hideous
air pollution in the Soviet Union.

Ten years later I was plowing a lonely furrow as a pro-environment, but pro-market, newspaper columnist in Britain. My stance baffled people. I met (and still meet) absolute incredulity rather than opposition from state-employed conservationists. It is not that they think command-and-control is the only way to conserve; it’s that they have never even considered an alternative – never imagined markets generating incentives. Grimly they repeat the mistakes of Gosplan (the committee for economic planning in the Soviet Union), wondering why their central planning, nationalization, and confiscation of people’s interest in wildlife and amenity doesn’t seem to generate enthusiasm.

Here is an example. To convert a barn into a house in Britain today you must survey it for bats before you apply for permission to convert. The bat survey must be done by an “accredited” bat group and only in the summer months. Guess what? Bat groups are very busy in the summer and charge very high fees. If the survey says there are rare bats in the building you may be refused permission to convert; as it turns out, the bats, not you, own the building. So what happens? People respond to incentives. Most barn owners resent and detest bats. I’m told playing Wagner at full volume clears a building of bats in short order. A simple scheme of small tax rebates for owners of barns who add bat-roosting boxes to their houses would achieve good will as well as bat babies. But it would not make paid work for bat groups.

PERC inspired me to see the world differently. The vision of free market environmentalism is inspiring because it is optimistic, and the solutions it suggests are voluntary, diverse and (for the taxpayer) cheap. The only things standing in its way are vested interests of politicians, bureaucrats, and pressure groups.

Matt Ridley Portrait

About the Author: Matt Ridley received a doctorate in zoology from the University of Oxford before commencing a career in science journalism. Ridley worked as a science correspondent for the Economist and the Daily Telegraph and is the author of several acclaimed works including The Origins Of Virtue (1997), Genome (1999), and Nature Via Nurture: Genes, Experience, and What Makes us Human (2003), also later released under the title The Agile Gene: How Nature Turns on Nurture (2004). This article originally appeared in the March 2007 issue of “PERC Reports.” The Property & Environment Research Center, PERC, is a nonprofit institute dedicated to improving environmental quality through markets. Republished with permission.

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China's Energy Demand

IMPROVING ENERGY INTENSITY IS PROVING A DAUNTING TASK IN THE WORLD’S MOST POPULOUS NATION
Boat on a Lake in China
How much of the old China will remain?

Editor’s Note: China, like India, is a nation of staggering population – well over 1.0 billion people – that is careening into the modern industrial age. In this report by Gordon Feller, it is clear that China recognizes the need to “leapfrog” the technologies of the west, in order to avoid resource scarcity and hideous pollution. But how feasible is this?

There are several measures of leapfrogging – what is China’s CO2 footprint, what is their energy intensity, and how much are they removing pollutants during energy production? Only in the past year have economists generally acknowledged that China has now replaced the USA as the world’s greatest producer of industrial CO2. Is this just the beginning?

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, China relies on coal for 70% of their energy needs. EIA projections indicate that consumption of coal in China will nearly double in the next twenty years, and that if anything, the percentage of energy usage represented by coal in China is going to increase. Activists who want to shut down American industry need to remember two things: Over 90% of the fuel consumed in the world requires combustion, and the Chinese (and many other nations) are not going to shut down their industries just because we want them to.

Similarly, China’s (and India’s) energy intensity – how many units of energy they require to produce one unit of wealth – is currently only 25% as efficient as the United States or the European Community. Moreover, in their headlong rush to industrialize, China’s energy intensity has actually worsened in the last year, not improved.

The average American consumes 12 times as much energy and 4 times as much water as the average Chinese person – in spite of the fact that China’s energy intensity is only 25% as efficient as the America’s. If China were able to equal the U.S. or EU in energy intensity, and perhaps they will, and if at the same time their per-capita income were to equal that of the Americans, then China’s energy production would have to increase by a factor of 8x. As it is, projections from the EIA only show their energy production doubling between now and 2020. These projections could be low.

It is in the final measure of leapfrogging where we might find the greatest reason to hope. While unenthralled by the notion that industrial CO2 causes global warming – and recent findings indicate tropical deforestation might actually be a bigger cause of global warming – the Chinese are very concerned about the dangerous criteria pollutants they are spewing into into the atmosphere. But, unlike CO2, most forms of air pollution from industry can now be effectively removed at an affordable cost. Perhaps if the western nations joined to help the Chinese develop clean burning fossil fuel, it would be a great – and feasible – leap forward. – Ed “Redwood” Ring

China’s China’s Energy Demand – Improving Energy Intensity is Proving a Daunting Task in the World’s Most Populous Nation.
by Gordon Feller, May 20, 2007

China’s energy shortage in recent years has resulted in extensive efforts to obtain additional energy supplies….

Beijing has called for domestic production to be increased as alternative and renewable energy resources are now being strongly considered. This desire for energy security has also become an impetus in China’s foreign policy, with state-owned oil majors encouraged to secure production rights at oil fields throughout the world. Conservation, however, seemed to be the key word for China’s strategy for energy security in 2006. The government set compulsory targets for the first time in history, requiring the entire country to reduce energy intensity by 20 percent in unit GDP production by 2010. Yet, the target, announced in March 2006 as a part of the 11th Five Year Economic Program, may be a long shot for a country with an overheating economy.

In a recent study by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, entitled “China’s Energy Economic Situation and Policy Trends” (Woguo nengyuan jingji xingshi yu zhengce zouxiang), the authors acknowledged that little has changed in the wasteful consumption of energy in Chinese industries [1]. While China’s economy grew by 10.9 percent in the first half of 2006, coal and electricity consumption jumped by 12.8 percent and 12 percent, respectively. The energy consumption in producing every 10,000 yuan GDP did not decrease, but in fact increased by nearly 1 percent during the same period. This means that the 20 percent energy intensity reduction plan for 2006-10 already failed to achieve its target in its first year. Rather than meeting the annual energy efficiency goal of 4 percent as it had planned to do so last year, China must now reduce energy intensity by 5.4 percent per year in the next four years in order to meet the overall national energy conservation target for 2010.

KEY VARIABLES: MOST POPULOUS/WEALTHIEST NATIONS
Resource Use Among China, India, the United States, and Europe
China & India convert energy into wealth (BTUs per $1.00 of GNP)
at only about 25% the efficiency of the USA or European Community
-

Structurally speaking, high-energy consuming industries are still leading the way in China’s economic development. Large-scale investments have gone into nationwide energy development projects, many of which are low-tech, high-waste ventures. Yet, they are still profitable in a country with a voracious appetite for energy. While additional energy industries are moving into other industrial sectors, profit margins continued to grow in the 2000-2005 period with the profits from the energy industry accounting for over 30 percent of the total profits in China’s industries [2]. At the same time, most of the investments are still focused on traditional energy sectors rather than on conservation technologies or “green technologies” that can conserve energy. For instance, China continues to rely upon coal for nearly 70 percent of its energy needs, consuming 22.5 percent more coal than other advanced countries [3].

CHINA ENERGY PRODUCTION BY FUEL TYPE, 1980-2015
This projection from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows
that China’s energy consumption could nearly double in the next twenty
years, and virtually all of this new energy will come from coal.
-

China also set a supposedly compulsory goal to reduce industrial pollutants by 2 percent in the same five-year plan. Yet, the record in the first half of 2006 showed an increase of 3-4 percent, making it impossible for China’s industries to reach the target for the year [4]. This increase in pollutants was largely due to the rapid rate of unregulated economic growth; from January to September last year, Chinese industries grew by 17.2 percent, while heavy industries increased by 18.2 percent [5].

In the past year, the central government attempted to curb pollution and encourage energy conservation by implementing a number of top-down measures:

March 2006 – Accompanying the announcement of energy intensity targets, the National People’s Congress began to draft the Energy Conservation Law.

April 2006 – Multiple government agencies launched a conservation campaign in 1,000 enterprises belonging to major high-energy consuming industrial sectors.

May 2006 – Beijing announced an ambitious plan to conserve and better utilize energy in nearly 1,000 categories.

June 2006 – Relevant government agencies set the unit GDP energy consumption standards for all provinces.

July 2006 – The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) held a national energy conservation conference, signing energy target responsibility agreements with local governments.

August 2006 – The State Council issued a new directive for strengthening energy conservation.

October 2006 – China Coal Industry Association held a conservation conference.

November 2006 – NDRC distributed provincial quotas for energy conservation targets in the 11th Five Year Program.

Such extensive administrative regulations and guidance have produced notable achievements. Shandong Province, for example, has implemented 100 large conservation projects. Hebei Province, ranking second nationwide in heavy industrial energy consumption, has added “energy conservation” as a category in its cadre performance evaluation. Ningbao, a major industrial city in the eastern part of China, has reported the reduction of energy intensity in all of its industries by over 10 percent in 2006 [6].

These are nonetheless isolated achievements. For most of the country, conservation remains a low priority. Many of the administrative announcements and measures are lost in the convoluted bureaucracy. Even for those local governments wanting to do more, concrete directions from the central government are unclear. Moreover, the market still favors traditional (and unclean) sources of energy, such as coal, and for many, achieving high GDP numbers through large-scale investments in energy, construction and other heavy industrial sectors remains the priority.

The Great Wall of China
China’s first major civil engineering project…

China’s domestic efforts in conservation have also extended into the foreign energy policy area. For years, Beijing has called on its major energy and resource companies to engage in a “go-out” strategy. Chinese firms have traveled around the world searching for oil and gas fields, securing exploration rights and purchasing multi-year contracted supplies. Under this plan, Africa has quickly become a major provider, supplying nearly a third of China’s imports last year (AFP, June 20, 2006). Large Chinese oil majors have negotiated $70 billion in energy exploration deals with Iran, purchased large assets in Kazakhstan and sealed multi-billion dollar, multi-year natural gas supply commitments from Australia.

Recently, though, there are some indications that the Chinese are looking beyond their borders in acquiring and developing conservation technologies and strategies. At a World Bank workshop with China’s State Council last June (at which this author was a part of the World Bank expert team), the consensus after two days of closed-door discussions was that China could not sustain itself if it continued to consume energy at the same rates as advanced industrialized countries. Neither the Chinese environment nor the world ecosystem is capable of supporting massive large-scale waste or pollution related to energy consumption. The workshop called for China to pursue innovative technologies, develop alternative and renewable energy sources and ultimately use “technology leapfrogging” to solve China’s future energy requirements. For that purpose, the Chinese government is eager to examine, evaluate and import advanced technologies from abroad.

Sino-Japanese relations offer an example of China’s changing priorities in international energy cooperation. Until last fall, Sino-Japanese relations were in a deep chill due to former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s insistence on visiting the Yasukuni Shrine. At the time, Beijing and Tokyo were also engaged in a bitter dispute over the potential oil and gas deposits in the East China Sea. Yet, when the NDRC organized an energy conservation and environment forum in Kyoto in May 2006, it attracted 900 participants, far exceeding initial expectations. Even Shinzo Abe, then Chief Cabinet Secretary and a contender to replace Koizumi, attended the conference. When Abe became the new Prime Minister in September, he made improving Japan’s relations with China a top priority and proactively propositioned to the Chinese leaders that both countries establish a “reciprocal relationship based on mutual strategic interests.” When asked to elaborate on his comments, Abe explained that the core of such a reciprocal relationship would consist of cooperation on environmental concerns and energy conservation, a message that rang sweetly in Beijing’s ears (Asahi Shimbun, October 9, 2006). While Beijing remains concerned with Abe’s nationalist tendencies on a range of defense-related issues, it is willing to engage Tokyo on projects of “mutual strategic interests.”

WHAT IF THE CHINESE HAD AN AMERICAN LIFESTYLE?
Chart of Energy and Water use by different parts of the World
In the late ’90′s Americans used, on average, 12 times as much energy and 4 times
as much water per person, compared to the Chinese during the same period.
-

China has also exhibited its willingness to work in multilateral settings as demonstrated by the recent second annual East Asia Summit. On January 15, the ten ASEAN countries as well as China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand gathered in the Philippines to sign an energy security pact. The 16-nation group called for decreasing the dependency on oil; reduction of greenhouse gas emissions; promotion of bio fuels, hydropower or nuclear power; and enhanced cooperation among the participating parties for energy conservation and efficiency [7]. Although the meeting did not produce any hard targets in terms of emission reductions, it was nevertheless a good start for a region containing half of the world’s population and many major energy-consuming powers.

It will be a welcoming sign if China makes the decisive shift in its global quest for energy security from focusing on traditional energy supplies to seeking alternative and renewable energy sources as well as new technologies from other countries. This would enable China to greatly improve its domestic efforts in conservation and environment protection. In that regard, the United States, other advanced industrialized countries and the international community may play positive roles in encouraging China’s move in the direction of becoming a greener energy consumer.

Notes:

1. Available online at: http://www.cass.net.cn/file/2007011785915.html.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Available online at: http://www.zgxxb.com.cn/news.asp?id=6078

5. Ibid.

6. Available online at: http://www.sdpc.gov.cn/mtbd/t20070118_112022.htm

7. Available online at: http://www.int.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=14&click_id=143&art_id=qw1168851060307B225.

About the Author:
Gordon Feller is the CEO of Urban Age Institute (www.UrbanAge.org). During the past twenty years he has authored more than 500 magazine articles, journal articles or newspaper articles on the profound changes underway in politics, economics, and ecology – with a special emphasis on sustainable development. Gordon is the editor of Urban Age Magazine, a unique quarterly which serves as a global resource and which was founded in 1990. He can be reached at GordonFeller@UrbanAge.org and he is available for speaking to your organization about the issues raised in this and his other numerous articles published in EcoWorld.

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India's Solar Power

GREENING INDIA’S FUTURE ENERGY DEMAND
Industrial Scale Solar Water Heating Array
This industrial-scale solar water heating array
supplies 120,000 litres per day at Godavari
Fertilizers & Chemicals Ltd. in Andhra Pradesh

Editor’s Note: Using sunlight to create electrical and thermal energy remains the most promising source of clean renewable energy, and projections as to how quickly solar power takes off could be grossly understated. As the author points out, the costs for photovoltaic electricity, for example, have dropped by an order of magnitude in the last 30 years.

The challenge however lies in just how much energy solar power would have to displace if it were to become the dominant source of energy in the world. In 2006, according to the International Energy Agency, 80.3% of the world’s energy came from fossil fuel: Oil (34.3%), coal (25.1%) and gas (20.9%). Fully 90.9% of the world’s energy came from combustion, because alongside these fossil fuels in 4th place are “combustible renewables,” mostly wood (10.6%). Include nuclear power (6.5%) and hydro-electric power (2.2%), and you have accounted for 99.5% of the world’s energy!

So where does solar fit into this equation? Most of this last half-percent of one percent of the world’s energy, .41%, is provided from geothermal sources. The energy we love so much, wind and solar, currently only provide .064% and .039% of the world’s power requirements. Put another way, for solar energy achieve its potential and replace all other sources of energy in the world, this .039% would have to increase 2,500 times.

Moreover, since nations such as India and China have only begun to industrialize, and since the industrialized nations only comprise approximately 20% of the world’s population yet consume over 50% of the world’s energy production, it is unlikely that global energy production will not have to increase. It is these sobering realities that should inform any reading of the potential of solar power. – Ed “Redwood” Ring

India’s Solar Power – Greening India’s Future Energy Demand
by Avilash Roul, May 15, 2007
The World's Largest Solar Steam Cooking System
The world’s largest solar steam cooking system
at Tirupathi in Andhra Pradesh

Human civilization has been witnessing a gradual shift towards cleaner fuels-from wood to coal, from coal to oil, from oil to natural gas; renewables are the present demand…

With the fluctuating high cost of petroleum, minimizing dependence on importing conventional energy resources, stewardship to protect the Planet and providing affordable energy to all, countries including India have stepped up their energy path for harnessing indigenous renewable resources. To tap the infinite energy and transform as well as transmit it to each household, the Indian government has accelerated promotion of the use of universally available Solar Energy.

India due to its geo-physical location receives solar energy equivalent to nearly 5,000 trillion kWh/year, which is far more than the total energy consumption of the country today. But India produces a very negligible amount of solar energy – a mere 0.2 percent compared to other energy resources. Power generation from solar thermal energy is still in the experimental stages in India. Up till now, India’s energy base has been more on conventional energy like coal and oil. However, India has now attained 7th place worldwide in Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Cell production and 9th place in Solar Thermal Systems. Grid-interactive renewable power installed capacity as on 31.10.2006 aggregated 9,013 MW corresponding to around 7 percent of the total power installed capacity which equates to over 2 percent of total electricity.

Worldwide photovoltaic installations increased by 1,460 MW in 2005, up from 1,086 MW installed during the previous year. That was a 67 percent increase over the 750 MW produced in 2003. In 2002 the world solar market increased 40 percent. Solar Energy demand has grown at about 25 percent per annum over the past 15 years. In 1985, worldwide annual solar installation demand was only 21 MW. According to the IEA’s factsheet, “Renewables in Global Energy Supply,” the solar energy sector has grown by 32 per annum since 1971. Worldwide, grid-connected solar PV continued to be the fastest growing power generation technology, with a 55 percent increase in cumulative installed capacity to 3.1 GW, up from 2.0 GW in 2004, as per “Renewable Global Status Update Report 2006″ (http://www.ren21.net). Similarly, India witnessed an acceleration of solar hot water installations in 2005. Global production of solar PV increased from 1,150 MW in 2004 to over 1,700 MW in 2005. Japan was the leader in cell production (830 MW), followed by Europe (470 MW), China (200 MW), and the US (150 MW).

Photovoltaic Battery Lantern
In the sun during the day, providing lighting at night,
a photovoltaic/battery lantern illuminates the home

India: Status of Solar Energy:

The solar PV program was begun in the mid 70′s in India. While the world has progressed substantially in production of basic silicon mono-crystalline photovoltaic cells, India has fallen short to achieve the worldwide momentum. In early 2000, nine Indian companies were manufacturing solar cells. During 1997-98 it was estimated that about 8.2 MW capacity solar cells were produced in the country. The total installed manufacturing capacity was estimated to be 19 MW per year. The major players in Solar PV are Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd. (BHEL) (http://www.bhel.com/bhel/home.php); Central Electrtonics Ltd., and Rajasthan Electricals & Instruments Ltd., as well as by several companies in the private sector. The latest, 100 million dollars investment from Tata BP Solar in India is the pointer towards the booming solar market in India. Of late, the market is growing for SPV applications based products with the active encouragement of the government.

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (www.mnes.nic.in), earlier known as the Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources – have initiated innovative schemes to accelerate utilisation and exploitation of the solar energy. Number of incentives like subsidy, soft loan, 80 percent accelerated depreciation, confessional duty on import of raw materials and certain products, excise duty exemption on certain devices/systems etc. are being provided for the production and use of solar energy systems. The Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) – http://mnes.nic.in/annualreport/2004_2005_English/ch12_pg1.htm – a Public Limited Company established in 1987- provides revolving fund to financing and leasing companies offering affordable credit for the purchase of PV systems. As a result, the Renewable Energy Sector is increasingly assuming a greater role in providing grid power to the Nation as its total capacities reached about 9,013 MW. This apart, the Electricity Act 2003, National Electricity Policy 2005 and National Tariff Policy 2006 provide a common framework for the regulation of renewable power in all States/UTs through quotas, preferential tariffs, and guidelines for pricing ‘non-firm’ power.

However, in the Draft New and Renewable Energy Policy Statement 2005, which is yet be approved, the federal government is very cautious about the status of renewable energy in the future. It says, “despite the fact that the biomass-solar- hydrogen economy is some decades away, it should not make industry and the scientific & technical community of the country unduly complacent into believing that necessary steps for expected changes can wait.”

Present Scenario of Solar Power:

The MNES has been implementing installation of solar PV water pumping systems for irrigation and drinking water applications through subsidy since 1993-94. Typically, a 1,800 Wp PV array capacity solar PV water pumping system, which cost about Rs. 3.65 lakh, is being used for irrigation purposes. The Ministry is providing a subsidy of Rs.30 per watt of PV array capacity used, subject to a maximum of Rs. 50,000 per system. The majority of the pumps fitted with a 200 watt to 3,000 watt motor are powered with 1,800 Wp PV array which can deliver about 140,000 liters of water/day from a total head of 10 meters. By 30th September, 2006, a total of 7,068 solar PV water pumping systems have been installed.

A total of 32 grid interactive solar PV power plants have been installed in the country with financial assistance from the Federal Government. These plants, with aggregate capacity of 2.1 MW, are estimated to generate about 2.52 million units of electricity in a year. In 1995, an aggregate area of 4 lakh square meters of solar collectors were installed in the country for thermal applications such as water heating, drying cooking etc. The thermal energy generated from these devices was assessed at over 250 million kwh per year. In addition, solar PV systems with an aggregate capacity of 12 MW were installed for applications such as lighting, water pumping, communications, etc. These systems are capable of generating 18 million kwh of electricity per year. In 2003 alone, India added 2.5 MW of solar PVs. For rural electrification as well as employment and income generation, about 16,530 solar photovoltaic lighting systems were installed during 2004-05. Over 150,000 square meters of collector area has been installed in the country for solar water heating in domestic, industrial and commercial sectors making the cumulative installed collector area over one million square meters. State-wise details of cumulative achievements under various non-conventional energy programmes, as on 31.03.2006 are shown in the table below:

MINISTRY OF NON-CONVENTIONAL ENERGY
FUNDED PHOTOVOLTAIC OUTPUT BY STATE
Chart of Solar Power Produced by Indian States from 2003 to 2005
Government-funded solar energy in India only accounted for
approximately 6.4 megawatt-years of power as of 2005
-

Similarly, India’s Integrated Rural Energy Program using renewable energy had served 300 districts and 2,200 villages by early 2006. More than 250 remote villages in seven states were electrified under the program during 2005, with additional projects under implementation in over 800 villages and 700 hamlets in 13 states and federal territories (see table below). Rural applications of solar PV had increased to 340,000 home lighting systems, 540,000 solar lanterns, and 600,000 solar cookers in use.

INDIA’S INTEGRATED RURAL ENERGY PROGRAM
REMOTE VILLAGES SELECTED FOR SOLAR ELECTRIFICATION
Chart of Number of Villages Selected for Solar Electrification by Indian State
By 2006 over 2,400 off-grid villages in India had
received solar thermal and photovoltaic systems
-

Future Plans:

An Expert Committee constituted by the Planning Commission has prepared an Integrated Energy Policy that aims at achieving integrated development and deployment of different energy supply sources, including new & renewable energy. The grid-interactive renewable power installed capacity is expected to reach 10,000 MW as on corresponding to a share of over 2 per cent in the electricity-mix, by 31.3.2007. Further capacity addition of 14,000 MW is envisaged during the 11th Plan (2007-12) leading to a then share of around 5 per cent in the electricity-mix but mostly through hydro-power. A 10 million square meter solar collector area capable of conserving electricity equivalent to that generated from a 500 MW power plant is expected to be set up by 2022. India has recently proposed to augment cooking, lighting, and motive power with renewable in 600,000 villages by 2032, starting with 10,000 remote off-grid villages by 2012.

External Support:

A four-year $7.6 million effort was launched in April 2003 to help accelerate the market for financing solar home systems in southern India. The project is a partnership between UNEP Energy Branch, UNEP Risoe Centre (URC), (http://uneprisoe.org/) two of India’s major banking groups – Canara Bank and Syndicate Bank, and their sponsored Grameen Banks. As per the existing policy, Foreign Direct Investment up to 100 percent is permitted in non-conventional energy sector through the automatic route. The FDI received in non-conventional energy sector from January 2003 to September 2006 is estimated at around Rs.35 crore. The Multilateral Development Banks like World Bank and Asian Development Bank are also helping India to achieve its potential on renewable resources. But, the funding from MDBs on solar energy enhancement is negligible compare to other clean energy support in India.

Solar Water Heating System
A 200 litre per day solar water heating system
installed in Karnataka by IREDA

Challenges and Constraints:

Solar energy is facing three fundamental challenges of cost, its manufacturing procedure as well as its waste products that have any impact on the environment and the land acquisition for erecting solar PVs.

The hunt for better, cheaper solar cells is due in India. Solar PV now cost one tenth of what they did in early 1980s. Despite the fact that the price of solar photovoltaic technology has been coming down over the years it still remains economically unviable for power generation purposes. During 1999, the cost of solar cells being manufactured in the country was estimated to be in the range of Rs. 1.35 to 1.50 lakhs per kW. The average cost of solar PV modules was around Rs. 2 lakhs per kW. At present the initial cost of both types of solar energy systems is higher compared to the cost of conventional energy systems and also the other non-conventional energy systems. However, the estimated unit cost of generation of electricity from solar photovoltaic and solar thermal route is in the range of Rs. 12 -20 per kWh and Rs. 10 – 15 per kWh respectively in India. With present level of technology, solar electricity produced through the photovoltaic conversion route is 4-5 times costlier than the electricity obtained from conventional fossil fuels.

There are number of R & D projects are going on solar PV Program in India. The Solar Energy Centre (http://mnes.nic.in/solarenergy1.htm) has been established by Government of India as a part of MNES to undertake activities related to design, development, testing, standardization, consultancy, training and information dissemination in the field of Solar Energy. Recently, development of polycrystalline silicon thin film solar cells and small area solar cells concluded at the Indian Association for Cultivation of Science at Jadavpur University. The National Physical Laboratory, New Delhi is working on development of materials and process to make dye sensitized nano-crystalline TiO2 thin films. The Centre for Materials for Electronics, Pune has been working on development of phosphorous paste for diffusion of impurities in solar cells. Under a joint R&D project of MNES and Department of Science & Technology (DST), the Indian Association for Cultivation of Science (IACS), Kolkata continued to work on optimization of process for fabrication of large area double junction amorphous silicon modules.

However, considering the fact that solar energy systems do not require any fuel, the running costs are lower. Therefore, the cost of some of the solar energy systems such as solar water heaters, solar cookers and solar lanterns can be lower than that of conventional energy products when calculated over the life of the systems. The other advantages of solar energy systems are modular nature, long-life, reliability, no recurring requirement of fuel, low maintenance and so on.

In the very near future, breakthroughs in nanotechnologies promise significant increase in solar cell efficiencies from current 15% values to over 50% levels. These would in turn reduce the cost of solar energy production. However, capital costs have substantially declined over the past two decades, with solar PV costs declining by a factor of two. PV is projected to continue its current rapid cost reductions for the next decades to compete with fossil fuel. However, the realisation of cost reductions is naturally closely linked to market development, government policies, and support for research and development.

Environmental Costs:

In India, of late there has been a debate regarding whether hydro-power and solar power are green or renewable? Since solar power systems generate no air pollution during operation, the primary environmental, health, and safety issues involve how they are manufactured, installed, and ultimately disposed of. Also, an important question is how much fossil energy input is required for solar systems compared to the fossil energy consumed by comparable conventional energy systems. Another concern area is installing solar cells on the land area. The large amount of land required for utility-scale solar power plants – approximately one square kilometer for every 20-60 megawatts (MW) generated – poses an additional problem in India. Instead, solar energy in particular requires unique, massive applications in the agricultural sector, where farmers need electricity exclusively in the daytime. This could be the primary demand driver for solar energy in India.

Conclusion:

Even though energy from renewable energy sources is growing rapidly, with markets such as solar cells, wind and biodiesel experiencing annual double digit growth, the overall share is only expected to increase marginally over the coming decades as the demand for energy also grows rapidly, particularly in many developing countries. In India, the scientific focus is deliberately moving towards transforming coal into clean energy as well as harnessing hydropower. The recent surge in nuclear energy is also diverting focus from the solar energy enhancement. In all probability, the Indian government will support off-grid solar energy production through a decentralized manner. In spite of this, India needs to focus research on solar energy and cheaper photovoltaics to provide affordable energy to all.

Additional State Info on Solar Energy:

Andhra Pradesh

The Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) (http://www.self.org/) founded the Solar Electric Light Company (SELCO) Photovoltaic Electrification Pvt. Ltd. The SELCO was established in 1995 to market, install, and service Solar Home Systems (SHS) in south India. The SELCO has achieved international recognition as the first company to concentrate on marketing and servicing SHS in the rural Indian market. The Company uses TATA-BP solar modules and deep-cycle batteries purchased on the Indian market, while manufacturing its own lights and charge controllers. Currently, its primary products are 22 and 35 watt SHS, and it will be introducing a 50 Wp system to customers shortly.

The Ministry had sanctioned a project to Non-conventional Energy Development Corporation of Andhra Pradesh Ltd., Hyderabad for installation of 50 solar dryers to individual users in rural areas with a view to promote the technology and show its potential in income generation and leading to development of entrepreneurship. The dryers were developed by Society for Energy, Environment and Development (SEED), Hyderabad.

West Bengal

Since 1995, with the help of the US Department of Energy (http://www.eren.doe.gov/international.html) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (http://www.nrel.gov/), the Ramakrishna Mission, a non-governmental organization in West Bengal (http://www.sriramakrishna.org/) has installed more than 500 PV domestic lighting system and has established ‘Aditya’ – a solar shop in the mission campus in Narendrapur, which sells PV systems up to nearly 10 in each day. The systems are manufactured in India and the US. The technical staff of the Mission has expected to establish six more Aditya solar shops and more than 2000 additional domestic lighting system and seven-community systems in the West Bengal. Through 2005, 73 Aditya Solar Shops were established in India.

About the Author: Avilash Roul has been writing, advocating, researching, and creating knowledge on Environment and Development in various English Daily media since 2000. He has worked with Down To Earth (fortnightly magazine published in New Delhi, India) for the last three years. He has also contributed a Sunday column in New India Express on the environment and development. Right now Mr. Roul is working as an Assistant Coordinator for the Bank Information Center (www.bicusa.org), an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization that advocates for the protection of rights, participation, transparency, and public accountability in the governance and operations of the World Bank, regional development banks, and the International Monetary Fund.

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