Archive for September, 2009

Hu-jintao-obama-400x280Speeches made today at the UN’s climate summit may have left much to be desired in the eyes of countries eagerly hoping for the U.S. and China to make specific commitments to emissions reductions in the run-up to climate negotiations in Copenhagen. Yet, willingness on the part of both nations to invest in clean energy technology may signify more direct action to mitigate climate change than any potentially empty emissions promises.

In his speech this morning, China’s President Hu Jintao did not agree to binding carbon emissions targets, however, according to the New York Times, he did outline a four step plan that includes reducing the carbon intensity of the economy to 2005 levels by 2020, boosting nuclear and renewables to account for 15% of China’s power, increasing forest cover, and furthering action to develop a green economy. According to the UN Climate Change Conference website, Hu promised to cooperate on climate change efforts so long as they aligned with China’s ambitious development goals:

“Climate change is an environment issue, but also, and more importantly, a development issue. We should and can only advance efforts to address climate change in the course of development…Out of a sense of responsibility to the world…China has taken and will continue to take determined and practical steps to tackle this challenge,”

While international leaders have put considerable effort into cajoling China, not to mention India, to accept binding emissions reductions targets by the time climate negotiations commence in Copenhagen this December, China’s planned stimulus investment of $440-$660 billion in clean energy over the next ten years is far more indicative of China’s willingness to mitigate climate change as it simultaneously grows its own economy. (more…)


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NIE Event - Clean EnergyBy Juliana Williams, Originally Posted at It’s Getting Hot in Here

Yesterday, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ) joined Third Way and the Breakthrough Institute in releasing a new report that calls for the creation of a new “National Institutes of Energy” and a dramatic increase in federal funding for energy research and development.  The report, titled Jumpstarting a Clean Energy Revolution with a National Institutes of Energy, argues that these two measures are necessary to make clean energy cheap and get America running on clean energy.

Modeled after the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a National Institutes of Energy (NIE) would be designed to most effectively channel R&D funding toward the development of new, low-cost commercial clean energy technologies.  The NIE would function as a nationwide network of regionally based, commercially focused and coordinated innovation institutes.

“Clean energy is the future of our nation, but it can also create jobs now,” Sen. Brown said. “Done right and well funded, increased research and development of new clean energy technologies will drive innovation and reduce our dependence on foreign energy.”

The report also calls for a sustained increase of $15 billion in annual federal clean energy R&D funding, as proposed by President Barack Obama.  This would result in a total clean energy R&D budget of $20 billion per year.  The purpose of both the R&D increase and the NIE is to close what the authors call the “clean energy price gap” – the difference between the current low price of carbon-intensive energy production like coal and the comparatively higher price of today’s non- or low-carbon emitting technologies. (more…)

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us_map_windtubinesClean energy technology hubs are rapidly developing all over the world, except in the United States. Business leaders who met at the Reuters Global Climate and Alternative Energy Summit acknowledged that massive government investment has created vibrant clean energy markets in countries around the world, but unfortunately the U.S. has not taken part in this trend. As The Business Insider reports, Google Green Energy Czar, Bill Weihl noted:

“Other countries, China being one of the major examples, are investing very heavily in this space across the whole innovation pipeline…from shower to power, from the idea in the shower to generating the power (in a) commercial scale enterprise.”

Just yesterday, the China Greentech Initiative released a report describing how large-scale government investment is driving a clean energy market that could be worth upwards of US$1 trillion annually.

While China is home to some of the fastest growing clean energy centers, particular in the solar industry, Denmark, Japan, South Korea, India, North Africa, Singapore, and Abu Dhabi are all directly investing in creating domestic clean energy hubs.

Executives in Silicon Valley, who have become accustomed to leadership in key technology industries like IT and semiconductors are starting to sense the shift in power. (more…)

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china yuan-thumb-200x150-1The China Greentech Initiative, a partnership of more than 80 largely Western companies and organizations, released a hefty report (registration required) projecting that China’s massive government investment in its “greentech” industry will drive follow-on private sector investment that could create a national market worth up to US$1 trillion annually.

According to the report:

“Chinese government policies are positive drivers for greentech market development and…stakeholders have clear opportunities to accelerate market development…”

The report evaluates the market potential of a variety of “green” technologies including renewable energy and low carbon transportation, which are expected to be two of the largest growth sectors.

Through strong policies and financial support, the Chinese government has been a major driver of China’s clean energy markets. In addition to numerous fiscal incentives and subsidies for clean energy, China’s economic stimulus plan allocated 37% of its US$586 billion ($4 trillion yuan) to “greentech” sectors. China is also planning a new stimulus to invest $440 to $660 billion over 10 years focusing specifically on renewable energy. (more…)

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china-flag-thumb-200x149A recent RAND Review provides a slew of recommendations to help China expand the Tianjin Binhai New Area (TBNA) and turn it into a driver of economic progress. As a result of an enormous stimulus package (second only to that of the U.S.) with significant allocations for “indigenous innovation” in science and technology, China may already be well on its way to taking those suggestions to heart, particularly in the clean energy sector.

Tianjin Binhai New Area (TBNA), located in China’s Bohai Rim region, has been a strong center for modern industry and manufacturing. But in 2006, the Chinese government mandated that TBNA become the next “regional engine for economic growth.” To that end, the area has been the beneficiary of significant government support aimed at making the area the country’s next “economic powerhouse” and orienting it towards leadership in providing solutions to national problems: among them, rising energy demand.

According to RAND:

The goal of TBNA is to present an alternative to the traditional industrial economy, offering China a model of sustainable development and eco-friendly industry. Innovation in science and technology lies at the core of this vision of economic and environmental development.

In the report, RAND offers TBNA guidance in its endeavor to meet China’s growing technology needs, both domestically and internationally, by recommending that it pursue seven emerging technologies including cheap solar energy and electric-hybrid vehicles. (more…)

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UN.jpgThe 1947 Marshall Plan seems to be referenced whenever it becomes clear that an overwhelming social problem can only be solved through large scale government spending. The results of the UN’s World Economic and Social Survey 2009 (WESS) revealed the need for just that type of federal investment in order to manage the global climate and energy crisis. And, according to Reuters, the head of Development Policy and Analysis division at the UN department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), Richard Kozul-Wright, believes it may be time to call on the Marshall Plan framework, yet again, this time to fund a green new deal.

Regardless of past global policy, the UN’s WESS enhances the climate debate leading up to the negotiations set to take place in Copenhagen this December, by pointing out the need for a global investment push in clean energy technology, energy efficiency, transportation, and forest-management. Thus far, much of the debate has centered on coercing developing nations to agree to carbon emissions targets – even as rich nations’ carbon “commitments” skew towards symbolism over substance. But as WESS explains:

“[M]itigation and adaptation efforts can move forward effectively only if they are part of a consistent development strategy built around a massive investment-led transformation along low-carbon, high-growth paths.”

That means giving up on Kyoto’s tired call for empty promises to cut emissions. While reducing global carbon intensity was, and is, a primary goal of climate negotiations, targets are not only too narrow a focus to be a viable solution to the climate crisis, they have been shown to be ineffective. As has been explained by the Breakthrough Institute and most recently by Michael Levi, in Foreign Affairs, the Kyoto Protocol is failing because the too weak carbon emissions targets it set are not even being met by the participating countries. (more…)

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Japan Politics ElectionsElected less than a week ago, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) may be new to power but according to a recent Bloomberg piece, it has already acknowledged the urgency of the clean energy race. Centered on an aggressive target to reduce carbon emissions 25% by 2020 from 1990 levels and increasing the share of renewables to 10% of its energy mix by 2020, the DPJ has set forth a proposal to achieve those cuts that is on course to outdo its predecessor, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), in both promise and execution.

While many nations’ emissions targets end up as nothing more than empty promises, the DPJ’s proposal outlines plans that include direct investment in clean energy technology that could have a variety of positive impacts on Japan’s clean energy sector and ultimately improve its ability to compete in the clean energy race.

With the intent to expand and improve upon the LDP’s clean energy deployment initiatives and grow the share of renewables in its energy mix, the DPJ is offering increased subsidies for solar photovoltaics as well as planning to extend Japan’s soon-to-be feed-in tariff system, to include all renewables, instead of just solar. (more…)

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