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During May 2013 a solar-fuelled plane, piloted by two entrepreneurial Swiss citizens, is crossing the USA from California to New York, with a few stop-overs in major cities. It is an unprecedented event aiming to encourage policy makers and business to adopt sustainable energy solutions.
The SOLAR IMPULSE has been conceived by its two pilots, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, and developed with the support of dozens of engineers and technicians of the Technical University of Lausanne during the last 10 years.
The crossing of the USA serves as a test for an even more ambitious tour around the earth, scheduled for 2015 in an improved version equipped with a pressurised cabin for two pilots.
SOLAR IMPULSE weighs no more than a car. It is composed of specially developed super light carbon-composite material. Its wings stretch over 60 m, comparable to those of an Airbus 380; its cruising speed is about 70 km/h.
Thanks to its 12 000 photovoltaic cells and its rechargeable lithium polymer batteries it can fly by day and night at altitudes up to 10 000 m. This is a major progress compared to the remotely piloted solar-fueled planes developed and launched by NASA in 2008 for long-duration scientific flights.
The SOLAR IMPULSE has cost € 120 million to build, largely financed by more than 80 mostly European partners and sponsors, among them many big names of European business, from Omega, to Schindler, Swiss Re, Bayer and Deutsche Bank, who have found it worthwhile to be associated with this experiment of solar flying.
Because of technical constraints PV will never be able to power large commercial air craft. But it may very well give an impetus to amateur flying which may become much cheaper because of fuel costs solar.
The main merit of the transcontinental flight, however, is to have demonstrated a new application for PV power. So far we have used it for road signs, remote electricity generation and, recently, grid-connected power plants.
But nobody would have guessed 25 years ago that in 2013 a plane would be able to cross the United States by means of electric engines driven by PV cells.
60 years after Bell Laboratories have produced the first practical photovoltaic cell we should pay tribute to European imagination and technical curiosity for having developed its most advanced application so far.
Brussels 10.05. 2013 Eberhard Rhein
The energy director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has made astonishing statements about coal investments prompting Bankwatch’s EBRD campaign team to react.
posted on the Bankwatch blog by Fidanka Bacheva-McGrath, Bankwatch EBRD campaign coordinator
At about the same time as scientists declared an unprecedented and increasingly dangerous CO2 concentration in the earth’s atmosphere, the Energy Director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Mr. Ricardo Puliti, warned in an interview with the guardian against an “ideological” approach to financing energy projects that only takes climate change into consideration. Clearly as a reaction to a widespread call to end coal financing, Mr. Puliti specifically ruled out a “No” to coal.
The news has been received with surprise and open criticism not only by environmental organisations. [*] Colleagues here at Bankwatch were particularly astonished by Mr. Puliti’s understanding that what scientists repeatedly called for was “ideological”: to reduce carbon emissions as quickly as possible. (We were also surprised by the claim the EBRD only financed two coal-related projects between 2006 and 2012. A quick look at the database for 2006-2011 – one that includes natural resources projects and is based on Bankwatch’s own methodology – shows 16 coal-related projects worth more than EUR 600 million.) [**]
Yet, Mr. Puliti is not the only one at the bank talking about balancing [the apocalyptic threat of] climate change with other priorities such as security of supply and affordability. We have heard the same repeatedly in the corridors and meetings at the EBRD’s annual meeting in Istanbul last week, which is why it is time to make a few points in reaction:Ideology vs. science
First of all, intensified efforts to halt climate change are not urged by ideologists, but for decades by climate scientists, on the one hand, and by respected institutions like the International Energy Agency, on the other hand. Bankwatch’s demand to exclude coal projects from the EBRD’s portfolio is informed by these scientific analyses and supported by calls from several other international institutions (including other development banks) for a discontinuation of fossil-fuel subsidies and by the warnings about the economic “cost of inaction”.
Climate science suggests one meaningful target, to keep the rise in global temperature under a maximum of 2 degrees if catastrophic climate change is to be prevented. Seemingly blind to this goal, the EBRD has expressed great satisfaction and pride with ANY contribution to CO2 reductions, even if it enforces the status quo by entrenching coal in the energy mix of countries for decades to come.
A case in point is the Kolubara lignite mine which provides more than half of Serbia’s electricity. The EBRD’s investment will bring estimated emission reductions of 200 000 tonnes CO2 equivalents while the mine’s remaining lignite reserves will produce 540 million tonnes if burned. (Other examples are the Sostanj lignite power plant in Slovenia and potentially a lignite power plant in Kosovo.)Does excluding coal contradict affordability?
Mr. Puliti suggests affordability as one possible reason to keep coal in the mix. But affordability calculations often favour fossil fuels, because promoters
A 2012 report by Corner House vividly discusses the pitfalls of “energy security” (and security of supply), both as policy and as rhetoric.
[T]he more that the term “energy security” is invoked, the less clear it is just what is being “secured” as a range of different interest groups use it to signify many often contradictory goals. The multiple meanings of “energy security” are an obstacle to clear thinking and good policymaking. They are also an open invitation for deception and demagoguery, making it easy for politicians and their advisers to use fear to push regressive, militaristic social and environmental programmes.
I’m certainly not accusing the EBRD of demagoguery or militarism, but our experience with the bank has often been that where security of supply is the core justification, alternatives to the damaging energy sources have not properly been assessed.If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading
I have been struggling to understand why in our communication with the EBRD we seldom come to a shared understanding. In the endless policy consultations in which the banks engages us these days, if we get to agree, usually it is an agreement to disagree. In Istanbul we reached one conclusion with the bank’s staff, that perhaps our disagreements have to do with our incompatible definitions of ‘sustainability’. Why else would we consider the Sostanj lignite power plant an outrageous investment that will lock Slovenia into a high carbon future while the EBRD places it under its Sustainable Energy Initiative?
If the EBRD believes in a low-carbon transition and indeed wants to act as a responsible “active citizen” (Mr. Puliti) it should invest in projects that enable the fundamental shifts in industrial, institutional, social and political relationships that are needed in our region for an effective response to the climate threat. Anything less than that will not be fit for purpose.
[*] The EBRD’s Director of Communications stated on twitter that Mr. Puliti has been misquoted in the guardian article, referring, however, to the notion of a possible expansion of coal funding by the EBRD, not the points discussed in this blog post. By the time of publication, no correction has been made on the guardian’s website.
[**] More details, including an outline and explanation of Bankwatch’s methodology can be found in the report Tug of War: Fossil fuels versus green energy at the EBRDRelated articles
The EU is in the process of defining its energy/climate policy beyond 2020.
This is timely for two reasons:
There is a wide consensus on the need for ambitious 2030 targets.
By 2050 the EU aims at having reduced its C02 emissions by 80-95 per cent over 1990. By 2020 it will have achieved at best 20 per cent reduction! We are therefore far away from the ultimate objective and have to speed up the process.
2030 being mid-term towards the middle of the century, the EU needs to have reduced its emissions by at least 45 per cent over 1990! That may come as a shock; but it is time to make citizens aware of the implications of a low carbon society.
The crucial issue is how to achieve a much more ambitious target in 2030.
Should the EU again fix separate targets for the share of renewable sources in the energy mix and the rise of energy efficiency? This is what part of the business community, especially the solar and wind industries, claim.
Or is it preferable to stick to one over-riding target – 45 per cent of C02 emission reduction – and focus on concrete policies for implementing it.
Defining more ambitious targets for renewable energies will become tough. To be meaningful, wind and solar electricity would have to supply about two thirds of EU power consumption in 2030. That seems unrealistic without a generous EU-wide system of incentives. But more important, we would need 28 targets, as the comparative advantages for generating renewable energies vary widely among member states. In some of them renewable energies are very difficult to generate at competitive costs, while others have enough land, wind or the sun to generate essentially all their electricity demand even without granting any subsidies.
To achieve a quantum leap in the reduction of C02 emissions within the next 15 years the EU will need to put in place an effective policy framework. This requires a balanced inter-action between EU and member states.
Member states should bear the main responsibility for implementing the average EU emission target, which should continue to be differentiated according to per capita emissions.
The new framework should introduce a regular policy dialogue between Commission and energy ministries of member countries, under which member states will have to report to Commission and all member states on the concrete policy measures they intend to take and their effective transposition.
At EU level the main policy instruments should be reinforced:
The pace of annual C02 reductions will have to be lifted in according with the tougher 2030 target and provide for possibilities of adjustment to avoid the violent fluctuations of carbon prices that have impaired the effectiveness of EU climate policy during the last few years.
The pace of renovation needs to be accelerated.
A € 200 billion programme for energetic renovation of private buildings, enabling the EU to tackle its biggest source of C02 emissions, to be financed by EIB and structural funds.
This job is progressing slowly, due to political obstacles. But the principle to tax fossil energies according to C02 emissions is largely accepted, except for heating fuel and gas.
The EU must lift taxes on heating fuel/gas in view of encouraging house owners to improve insulation and heating systems. This politically unpopular measure will boost employment in the construction and mechanical industries.
In conclusion, the EU has the unique chance of putting in place a comprehensive strategy by which to tackle its excessive C02 emissions and show the rest of the world that such a strategy pays. The Commission must urgently come up with effective recipes to enable EP and Council to adopt the new package before the end of the present legislature in May 2014.
Eberhard Rhein, Brussels
What exactly is an energy efficient home? Provided it meets with it’s owner’s energy demands, an energy efficient home is one that reduces energy waste by reducing unnecessary consumption of energy; consequently, energy efficient homes reduce their environmental impact by reducing emissions of greenhouse gasses. Comparing an energy efficient home with a conventional home, one can easily spot the differences in their respective energy behaviours; and energy behaviour translates to home energy bill, thus significant cost savings of energy efficient homes over conventional ones.
There are various areas for improving the energy performance of your home aiming at improving its energy efficiency. But before we look in to those let us first take a look at some important definitions.What is energy efficiency?
Increasing the energy performance of your home would mean to change your home in such a way that it requires less energy to provide you with the same output level of services. This involves taking measures at all levels, from orienting your home, designing it, building it and living in it.What is energy Conservation?
Along conservation of energy come all measures that we take to reduce our consumption of energy. The difference between energy efficiency and energy conservation lies to the fact that with conservation of energy we refer to measures that reduce our demanded level of output. For example, lowering our heater thermostat and compensating with heavier clothing indoors would be a measure towards conserving energy whereas, improving thermal insulation and sealing air leaks would be an example of improving energy efficiency.
Conserving energy and using energy efficiently are generally considered passive measures for saving energy and constitute main cornerstones of recent movements towards lowering consumption of fossil fuels (non-renewable) and generally reducing our environmental footprint towards environmental and economic sustainability.
So how can you increase the energy performance of your home? Below we list some main methods for increasing your home energy performance.Home Insulation
During hot summer periods we need energy for cooling our home to the desired temperature level for internal comfort. On the other hand, during cold winter periods we use energy for heating it. A well insulated home will require less energy to reach internal comfort as proper insulation keeps unwanted heat out during the summer and keeps internal heat from escaping (energy waste) during winter. Consequently, properly insulating your home, roof insulation, wall insulating material, using thermal brakers, thermal glass and thermal frames, will make it consume less energy for heating and cooling and effectively reducing your energy bill.House heating and cooling
According to the US department of energy, space heating and cooling account for almost 50% of home energy bills. To improve your heating and cooling system at home try using it more sensibly according to your real needs and family shedule. Also, by keeping up with its maintenance such as changing air filters regularly, insulating air ducts on a scheduled basis and having it services according to manufacturers specifications can lead to 20% energy savings.Energy efficient Electrical appliances and installations
Apart from building design and construction properties of your home, energy efficiency also involves using energy efficient appliances at home. Adopting sensible energy behaviour dictates choosing energy efficient electrical appliances and other equipment for your home. Generally, all energy rated appliances bear an energy certificate that states the appliance’s energy behaviour – energy consumption. Appliances such as electrical house appliances, water heaters, fans, light bulbs and other equipment can significantly increase the energy performance of a home.Bioclimatic design and home planning
As mentioned, incorporating energy efficiency as early as design stages of your home can be a life saver! Passive energy saving measures such as bioclimatic design, using solar lighting and solar heating for compensating towards home energy needs (for heating and lighting) and designing openings to optimise desired energy gains from surroundings and environment can help increase the energy performance of your home.Energy consulting and energy audits
If you have an existing home and wish to seriously increase its energy performance you are looking at making an investment now to save energy from all you future energy bills. Apart from above directions, if you want to look into this at the next level it is recommended that you hire a professional to make an energy assessment of your home. That is, identifying your sources of energy waste and setting up a plan to combat your specific energy losses. Energy audits constitute a detailed and effective methodology of identifying sources of energy losses and ‘solving’ them through proper financial evaluations.
In the UK, awareness of climate change and its relation to energy supply is at an all-time high. The current technological and legislative context offers significant financial incentives for the expansion of renewable energy systems. This has created an attractive environment for shared investment in and ownership of renewable energy technologies.
In April 2013 ManagEnergy reported on a new revolving loan fund for community renewable energy projects launched by Cornwall Council (UK). The loan fund, worth EUR 1.2 million, is aimed at community groups to help build renewable energy installations in their local area. At the heart of this model is the principle that the benefits of energy should be localised, and that strong links between communities and energy should be forged to increase awareness and encourage community benefit through the way that agreements are structured. As such, only projects that could evidence strong community benefit were accepted. The Council’s Green Cornwall Programme has made a loan facility available to The Low Carbon Society (TLCS), who is working in partnership with Kabin and Community Energy Plus. This is the first loan facility of its kind for a local authority.
Two projects have applied for the revolving loan fund, former ManagEnergy runner up Community Power Cornwall (CPC) and Helford Energy Society (HES). The first application comprises of three projects while the second is a stand-alone project. Cornwall Council intends to launch another round of funding soon.
The first applicant Community Power Cornwall (CPC) is a co-operative that enables local communities to own and benefit from renewable technologies. All revenue generated will be reinvested locally. The common ownership model created by CPC contributes to a diverse, sustainable and secure energy supply infrastructure, under community control and for community benefit. A portfolio of three projects has been proposed by CPC for the fund application:
In 2012 Community Power Cornwall was shortlisted for the ManagEnergy Local Energy Action Award from the European Union. The co-operative was one of only three innovative finalists out of a record 64 submissions from 23 countries.
Helford Energy Society (HES), the second applicant, is a community energy co-operative that was established to benefit people around the Helford river area.
This project will be the first installation for this society. It will secure an income to develop further sites for renewable energy directed by local people. HES is working with Fal Energy Partnership (FEP), Kabin and R-ECO.
Over five years ago HES were granted planning permission for a 10kW wind turbine in the Helford area. The turbine is to be held in common ownership. This year an application was granted to extend the planning permission for a further 3 years, however it stipulated that the height of the turbine must be reduced. HES is will now install at a 3.5kW wind turbine.
These cooperative projects offer inspiration to other communities that share similar characteristics to Cornwall such as rural location, not connected to a gas grid, have poorly insulated buildings and wish to reduce carbon emissions while securing their energy supply through investment in the local economy. Cornwall Council, through launching this initiative, was determined to reinforce the principle of local benefit and only applications from fully constituted Cornish based community groups were eligible. Through embedding this principle, it is hoped that communities will continue to see the benefit of renewable energy and that a less dependent relationship with energy can be fostered.
With more than 7,500 aircraft entering service in Europe over the next two decades, the European Union has to move fast into the next phase of the Single European Sky.
A few days ago the Commission adopted two new regulations to advance the implementation of both the SES and the deployment phase of SESAR, the programme to develop the technology to implement and support the SES.
The Commission announced that it will use four mechanisms to support the SESAR deployment strategy. The deployment programme will provide clear directions for implementation. Governance mechanisms will ensure that all the key stakeholders are involved in the process and together can define and drive the deployment roadmap. Common projects will help to ensure that member states collaborate successfully. And targeted incentives will support the implementation of SESAR’s common projects. The first common project is set to be adopted early in 2014.
When fully deployed, SESAR will undergird a modernised air traffic management system that is intended to triple current airspace capacity, increase safety by a factor of 10, cut airline costs by 50 percent, and reduce air travel’s environmental impact by 10 percent – as the Commission points out in its press release.
Also the Commission laid out the framework for the next phase of SES performance target negotiations in 2015 to 2019. The negotiations will set binding targets for member states to deliver better ATM services under SES. These targets are intended to reference the four benchmarks (capacity, safety, costs, and environmental impact) and must focus on outcomes rather than inputs to ensure ATM progress is being made.
Boeing believes that SESAR’s implementation will be most successful with industry-wide collaboration and partnership. Therefore, the process should include participation by all stakeholders, including airlines, air navigation service providers, manufacturers, and military operators. As an active SESAR participant itself, Boeing fully supports the development of the Single European Sky. It also emphasizes the importance of cooperation between the EU SESAR and the US Federal Aviation Administration’s NextGen ATM modernisation program — the two systems must be interoperable to meet the needs of the 21st century economy and air travellers. Both SESAR and NextGen should be deployed and linked in such a way as to ensure competition and cost-efficiency for all users across the airspace.
A recently published European Commission Report found that investments in energy efficiency are increasing. However, the report noted that there is limited information on the effectiveness of the different financial support measures, both at EU and national level. Few member states have provided details on the effectiveness of national support measures, making it difficult to obtain a good overview of the impact of financial mechanisms in Europe. A report commissioned by the French Environment and Energy Academy (ADEME) reinforced this message stating that that annual national spending by EU countries on energy efficiency measures varies from €4 to €40 per person, per capita.
According to Paul Hodson, head of Head of Unit C3 (Energy Efficiency) within DG ENER, sufficient investment in energy efficiency is lacking. EUR 100 billion a year of investment is needed to meet the EU’s energy efficiency target of 20% improvement by 2020 but “we’re seeing only about half at the moment”.
A key barrier to increasing investment in energy efficiency projects is the lack of data and the lack of harmonised assessment methods for gathering data. As a result sufficient proof of how much energy savings projects or products can deliver is missing. Evaluating programmes would strengthen the case for increasing public budgets dedicated to energy efficiency as a responsible use of scarce public resources.
Some useful online portals for sharing data and analysing energy efficiency in buildings:
I’m going to stray a bit from my usual topics, on account that this is a subject close to me. The subject at hand being the loss Romania is going to suffer from failure to understand the geographical and geo-political situation it is in, and the opportunities this entices.
4 years ago, roughly about the same time as now, I came up with an analysis and strategy to use all the above mentioned opportunities to spark development in Romania on a larger scale than anything I had done before – a 25 year investment strategy with 50 years of associated growth. It was the foundation on which I built my thesis and my diploma project, albeit at a smaller scale due to academic restrictions. However, it was this strategy that enabled my project. At the time I postulated that Romania had a very good chance of providing the Europort of the East – Constanta, the largest port to the Black Sea had definitive advantages in this respect, especially since it is connected to the Danube by a canal that would allow for a very good connection to Central Europe. Romania also has the advantage of more than one major Pan-European transport routes going across it’s territory connecting South and North, East and West. At the time, my strategy involved a list of priority investments that were meant to validate this routes and create a new cargo lifeline from the East to the heart of the Union – goods from India for example could be shipped by boat trough Suez, the Bosporus then Constanta and then by train or significantly cheaper up the Danube to Central Europe. The same would apply for goods coming across the Black Sea. You get the general idea. At the same time I identified a list of problems, or temporary circumstances that needed to be adressed and a list of circumstances that will most likely change within the next decade and that would undermine the validity of the entire strategy should action not be taken.
Presenting this entire strategy to my professors at the University, same people who at large are responsible with Romania’s development strategies, it became obvious that parts of my strategy had already been taken into account at a smaller or larger scale.
The 4 years that passed in-between that moment and today I kept hoping that all these ideas would migrate from the strategy part and move into the implementation phase, or that at least it would become an object of public policy or agenda. None of that actually happened. Instead, my if not scenario started to become reality, faster than expected, as follows:
1. Infrastructure projects in Romania – railways and highways – stalled or disappeared, most of them under shady circumstances.
2. Romania did not enter accede to the Schengen Area – this rendered Constanta’s ability to become a serious Europort useless, since all goods going into the Schengen area will not be checked here, but at Romania’s western border, albeit EU membership – it was important that checks, validation and Schengen customs would be done at the entry point – in Constanta. Conspiracy aficionados would see here a different reason why Holland (where Rotterdam is, the EU’s largest port) vetoed Romania’s accession to the Schengen area.
3. There is still no pan-European Danube strategy – at the EPP summit in Bucharest last year, president Băsescu of Romania adressed this subject in his speech, so it is not with out importance.
4. The Serbian counter-scenario – Serbia is the biggest problem in this scenario – if Serbia was to join the EU (which is quite possible in the near future – within a decade), and if Serbia was to develop it’s infrastructure faster, then Romania could loose most advantages. Earlier tonight I read an interesting article on Serbia’s plans for it’s infrastructure: a canal to link the Mediterranean Sea to the Danube (effectively short-circuiting Constanta by activating Piraeus in Greece), high speed railway to Budapest, and extended network of highways to connect Serbia to pan-European transport routes – from Hungary to Bulgaria and Greece. As Serbia is not a member of the EU, it can do this with Chinese money, something that would be less possible in Romania, which is a member of the EU, and where increased Chinese investment would not be taken as lightly. Kosovo was the biggest issue in Serbia’s accession to the EU, but it seems this will be soon resolved, as under EU pressure Belgrad seems to seek agreement with Kosovo.
Looking to these 4 points above, it is clear that my initial scenario would no longer constitute a valid choice, as we missed the opportunity to have it well underway today. A consolidated Romanian positive scenario would make it a lot more costly for the Serbian scenario to be implemented. Romania has failed in achieving that upper hand.
It is a bit sad to me to see my strategy play the if not scenario, but on the other hand recent developments validate it, which makes me happy that it was correct in it’s larger scale. All is not lost for Romania just yet, as it can still develop it’s capacity to concentrate Black Sea traffic. But, firstly it must understand that this bet was lost.
I wrote this primarily to explain why the scenario I presented 4 years ago is from this point on unsuccessful. And why we need a new one.
Because if we were in a Bond movie, this is where the strategist would tell Romania (sort of Bond, if you accept my paralel) – ” No, mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”. It remains to be seen if Romania, as Bond, safely escapes this and moves on. I hope it will.