U.S. States & Regions
States and regions across the country are adopting climate policies, including the development of regional greenhouse gas reduction markets, the creation of state and local climate action and adaptation plans, and increasing renewable energy generation. Read More
With the Northeast still reeling from the impacts of Hurricane Irene, the possibility of even more flooding was almost too much to comprehend. But last week the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee stalled and sent plumes of precipitation toward the Northeast, creating a replay of the floods a few weeks earlier. This time the area along the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania and New York was in the bulls-eye. Since the ground was still saturated from Irene, this new round of flooding was worse, surpassing the previous record event set in 1972 when Hurricane Agnes dropped a torrential downpour on the area.
This Q&A orginally appeared on Singapore International Energy Week's website.
Q1. The Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. Do you see an agreement on its successor during negotiations at Durban later this year? Or is an extension of the Kyoto Protocol or a move to a transitional framework a more likely outcome?
Eileen Claussen: The Kyoto Protocol has played an important role in advancing climate change efforts in some parts of the world. Most notably, the European Union established its successful Emissions Trading System and other policies in order to fulfil its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. However, because developing countries are exempt from Kyoto's emission targets and because the United States has chosen not to join, the Protocol covers just one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. Japan, Canada and Russia have made clear that they will not take on new binding targets post-2012 without commensurate obligations by the United States and the major developing countries, which are not prepared for binding commitments. Hence, there appears very little prospect of new Kyoto commitments being adopted in Durban.
While our ultimate aim should be a comprehensive and binding international climate framework, we must accept that getting to binding commitments will take time. The Cancún Agreements made important progress in strengthening the existing frameworks in the areas of finance, transparency, adaptation and technology. Further incremental progress in these areas will promote near-term action and will strengthen parties' confidence in one another and in the regime, thereby building a stronger foundation for a later binding agreement. At the same time, countries must continue strengthening political will and policies domestically. In Durban, parties should make concrete progress in implementing the Cancún Agreements--for instance, by establishing the Green Climate Fund and agreeing on stronger transparency measures--while affirming their intent to work toward binding outcomes.
Q2. Global GHG emissions increased by a record amount last year. Is the goal of preventing a temperature rise of more than 2 degree Celsius just a "nice Utopia" as IEA's Dr Fatih Birol put it?
EC: Long-term goals are tricky. On the one hand, they provide a rallying point to help focus attention and orient action, and a yardstick for measuring progress. On the other hand, they are meaningful only if they can be operationalized, and if interim efforts don't appear to be on track, people may be discouraged as a result and the will to act may actually weaken. In the case of climate, a temperature goal is appealing because it is easily related in the public mind to the core issue--global warming. But as a metric, it is several steps removed from the action that is needed: Reducing emissions. From a practical standpoint, a global emissions goal might be more helpful.
Countries' pledges to date clearly do not put us on the path to meeting the 2 degree goal. While achieving the goal is not yet out of the question, it would require a dramatic acceleration of efforts around the globe. The bottom line is that we know what direction we must go. Whatever our long-term goal--indeed, whether or not we have a long-term goal--the immediate challenge is the same: Ramping up our efforts as quickly as possible.
Q3. How much of an impact will the recent nuclear power crisis in Japan have on GHG emissions reduction?
EC: It is still too early to know what impact the Fukushima disaster will have on energy choices and greenhouse gas emissions around the world. The most dramatic example is the recent decision by Germany to completely phase out nuclear power. While many in Germany believe that the gap can be filled by renewable energy and improved energy efficiency, others are deeply concerned that the country will deepen its reliance on coal, making it impossible to achieve its ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals.
Other countries must assess for themselves the implications of Fukushima for their energy futures. For those countries choosing to continue or deepen their reliance on nuclear power, the tragedy clearly offers lessons for improving safety. Given the continued growth in energy demand projected in the future, particularly in developing countries, it is difficult to imagine that we will be able to meet the world's energies needs and simultaneously meet the climate challenge without continued reliance on nuclear power. It is therefore imperative that we continue striving to enhance safety and solve the issue of long-term waste disposal.
Q4. Technology is seen as a key enabler to achieve low emissions growth. In your opinion, what are the top three technologies available today that can make the biggest impact?
EC: There are thousands of technologies available today that could make a huge impact with the right policy support, such as a price on carbon. But the problem, at least in the US today, is that it is unclear when such policy support will be forthcoming. So I will pick my top three based on the ones that need the least additional policy support to make a contribution, either because they yield multiple economic benefits beyond climate, or because they benefit from existing policy drivers.
a. Batteries in cars. Batteries can be used in vehicles in a variety of ways. While a battery-only vehicle may only be able to fill a niche market, hybrid vehicles that run on either gasoline or electricity will likely have broader appeal, and start-stop batteries, which turn off the gasoline engine while a vehicle idles, can be applied to just about any vehicle, achieving modest per-vehicle reductions that add up to significant reductions fleet wide. The combination of new US standards for fuel economy and GHG emissions and electric utility interest in selling electricity can drive battery costs down. The potential emission reductions are enormous, but they depend on cleaning up the electricity grid.
b. Information technology. IT can enable dramatic GHG reductions, for example through energy efficiency (e.g. smart buildings that turn on lights and HVAC when they're needed and turn them off when they're not), substituting videoconferencing for travel, and using wireless communication to optimize transportation routing for people and goods. Convenience and time savings are such powerful drivers of IT that it needs little incremental policy support.
c. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) using CO2. CCS is technically available, and potentially a game changer, enabling us to continue to use fossil fuels but with very low CO2 emissions. CO2-EOR is already economic using naturally occurring CO2, and is close to economic using captured CO2. With very little policy support, EOR using captured CO2 could yield some near-term emission reductions while driving CCS costs down, thereby enabling enormous emission reductions in the future.
Q5. Energy efficiency has long been touted as the lowest hanging fruit to address the energy and climate change challenges. Many Asian countries have announced ambitious targets to cut their energy and carbon intensities. For example, as part of its 12th Five-Year Plan, China has indicated that it aims to cut energy intensity by 16 percent and carbon intensity by 17 percent in the next five years. Do you think Asian countries are doing enough? What more can they undertake to help combat climate change?
EC: Efficiency improvements that generate more economic output with less energy input are important for a variety of reasons, including energy supply security, pollution and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction, and improvement of livelihoods. Countries such as Korea, China and India have taken significant measures to improve efficiency, with the result that the energy intensity of their economies has been lowering over the past decade.
Many energy efficiency measures are classified as "low hanging fruit," meaning the energy savings and other benefits they produce far outweigh the cost of investing in them. Asian countries are currently focusing on exploiting these low hanging fruit, notably in the industrial and power sectors, as well as in appliances and equipment, and large commercial and public buildings. Eventually, achieving additional energy savings will require more expensive investments, and targeting more difficult sectors, such as small and medium enterprises and households.
Asian governments will need to adjust policy tools to meet these new challenges. Policy certainty and appropriate price signals are important to ensure the efficiency improvement potentials of current investments are maximised. One way of providing these is through cap-and-trade type systems, such as those being considered or developed in China, India and Korea. This will also require the phase-out of subsidies that artificially decrease energy prices and encourage consumption rather than conservation. Though progress is slow, several Asian countries have taken or are taking steps in this direction as well.
Limiting the growth of or reducing energy consumption is, of course, essential. However, shifting to less carbon-intensive sources of energy is equally important in the medium to long term. As such, many Asian countries should also be commended for investing in developing less GHG-intensive energy sources.
The Pew Center's September 2011 newsletter highlights a new intiative focused on expanding carbon dioxide enhanced oil recovery, a new brief on international climate assistance, the lessons we can learn from Hurrican Irene, and more.
During the last weekend of August, the Eastern U.S. braced for a walloping. Hurricane Irene spiraled up the Atlantic coast, ripping trees out of the ground in North Carolina and drenching much of the rest of the coast. When I heard that Irene was making her way up toward my hometown of Ridgewood, NJ, I had flashbacks to Hurricane Floyd, a devastating storm in 1999 that brought us much destruction and devastation.
On June 9, 2011, the Maine Legislature established oil savings targets and commissioned the Governor’s Office of Energy Independence and Security to make recommendations for cutting oil consumption by at least 30 percent in 2030 and 50 percent in 2050 (from 2007 levels).
An Act to Improve Maine’s Energy Security
LD 553 proposes that the Governor’s Office of Energy Independence and Security, with input from stakeholders and the state’s renewable energy & energy efficiency trust, establish targets to reduce Maine oil consumption by at least 30 percent in 2030 and 50 percent in 2050 (from 2007 levels). The targets should prioritize increasing energy efficiency and transitioning to renewable energy in transportation and heating. The targets should draw on existing data and analyses related to the state’s climate change and energy use plans. The Governor’s Office of Energy Independence and Security should make recommendations with any suggested legislation by December 1, 2012, along with cost and resource estimates for technology development.
Recently, I had the opportunity to attend as an observer the launch of the National Enhanced Oil Recovery Initiative, facilitated by the Center and the Great Plains Institute. In the short time since the launch, the EOR Initiative has generated notable
Carbon dioxide enhanced oil recovery (CO2-EOR) works by injecting CO2 into existing oil fields to increase oil production. It is not a new concept. In fact, around 5 percent, or 272,000 barrels per day, of all domestic oil produced comes from oil recovered using this technique, which was first deployed in West Texas in 1972. Decades of monitoring CO2-EOR sites have shown that in properly managed operations the majority of CO2 is retained in the EOR operation and not released to the atmosphere. One of the initiative’s goals is to better understand the role of CO2-EOR for carbon storage as this industry grows to produce more than 1 million barrels per day, or around 17 percent of domestic oil supply in 2030.
On July 11, 2011, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed two bills that will encourage greater use of electric vehicles. The bills create a council to explore the uses of electric vehicles and provide grants to eligible car-sharing organizations to purchase and use electric vehicles.
Electric Vehicle Adoption Act
House Bill 2902 creates the position of Electric Vehicle Coordinator for the State of Illinois, to be appointed by the Governor, who will be the point person for electric vehicle related policies. The bill also creates the Illinois Electric Vehicle Advisory Council to investigate and recommend policies for greater electric vehicle adoption in Illinois. The Council is required report its finding to the Governor and the General Assembly by December 31, 2011.
Alternative Fuels Car-sharing Program
House Bill 2903 authorizes the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to make grants to not-for-profit car-sharing organizations to purchase and use electric vehicles. The vehicles must be registered in the State of Illinois and remain in Illinois for five years after purchase under the program. The Bill sets aside $500,000 to the program, which comes from the modification of the existing Illinois Alternative Fuels Act, and may not exceed 25 percent of the grantee’s project cost. The law is effective immediately until the end of fiscal year 2013.
In Brief: Clean Energy Markets: Jobs and Opportunities
July 2011 Update (originally published February 2010)
Download this Brief (PDF)
This brief discusses how investment in clean energy technologies will generate economic growth and create new jobs in the United States and around the globe. The United States stands to benefit from the expansion of global clean energy markets, but only if it moves quickly to support domestic demand for and production of clean energy technologies through well-designed policy that enhances the competitiveness of U.S. firms.
Clean energy markets are already substantial in scope and growing fast. Between 2004 and 2010, global clean energy investment exhibited a compound annual growth rate of 32 percent, reaching $243 billion in 2010. Forecasts of investment totals over the next few decades vary according to assumptions made regarding the nature of future global climate policies. Over the next decade, assuming strong global action on climate change, cumulative global investment totals for clean power generation technologies could reach nearly $2.3 trillion.
Recognizing the potential of these markets, the European Union, China, and other nations are moving to cultivate their own clean energy industries and to position them to gain large market shares in the decades ahead.
- The European Union continues to lead the world in clean energy investments, spending nearly $81 billion in 2010. Since 2009, China has invested more money per year in clean energy technologies than the United States, investing $54.4 billion in 2010 compared to the United States’ $34 billion. Over 85 percent of today’s market for clean energy technologies is outside of the United States, primarily in Asia and Europe.
- Germany’s clean energy investments of $41.2 billion were the second most for any country in 2010, surpassing the now third-place United States.
- China now boasts the world’s largest solar panel and wind turbine manufacturing industries, accounting for nearly 50 percent of manufacturing for both technologies.
- Danish wind manufacturers produce close to 22 percent of annual global installed wind capacity.
These countries have taken deliberate steps to position themselves as leaders in the 21st century clean energy economy. History shows that it matters where industries are first established, and countries can use policy to foster domestic “lead markets” for particular industries, giving them the foothold that can lead to significant growth in global market share. In the United States, well-crafted climate and clean energy policy can give nascent clean energy industries such a foothold by creating domestic demand and spurring investment and innovation. Strong domestic demand creates not only export opportunities but also jobs – many of which must be located where the demand is, thus fostering domestic job growth even when industry supply chains are globally dispersed.
National climate and clean energy policy in the United States can help create jobs and domestic early-mover industries with the potential to become major international exporters. Such policy should provide incentives for investment in clean energy, for example through a clean energy standard, that requires a certain amount of electricity be obtained from clean energy sources, or a market-based mechanism that puts a price on carbon. The time to act is now: through policy leadership at home and abroad, the United States can position itself to become a market leader in the industries of the 21st century.
Click here for the press release.
On June 22, 2011, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Power NY Act of 2011 (Act) that will help homeowners make energy-efficiency upgrades and streamline the siting process for new power plants that generate more than 25 megawatts.
Loans for the Homeowner
Homeowners can borrow up to $13,000 for energy-efficiency upgrades and small businesses can borrow up to $26,000. The loan is to be paid back through a surcharge on the monthly utility bill. The program is cost-effective because the surcharge will be less than the energy savings after upgrades. The source of the initial funds will be some of the revenue from New York State’s auctions for the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the nation’s first regional greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program.
Streamline Power Plant Approvals
The Act also establishes a seven-member permitting board for power plant siting that could bypass some of the layers of regulation for faster approval. The panel will provide permits for power plants generating greater than 25 megawatts.
On June 15, 2011, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell signed eight renewable energy bills. Highlights from the bills include the establishment of a Clean Energy Manufacturing Incentive Grant Program that includes job creation mandates; establishment of a Voluntary Solar Resource Development Fund to finance solar installations in residential, non-profit and commercial sectors; doubling of the allowable on-site electricity generation capacity for net metering from 10 to 20 kilowatts; and extension of tax credits for purchase of biofuel vehicles to 2014.
SB 862 Commonwealth Energy Policy; local renewable energy facility siting ordinances. Requires that a local ordinance addressing the siting of renewable energy facilities be consistent with provisions of the Commonwealth Energy Policy, and provide reasonable criteria and requirements on the siting of any such facility.
HB 1686 Distributed solar generation demonstration programs.Directs the State Corporation Commission (SCC) to exercise its existing authority to consider for approval petitions filed by a utility to own and operate distributed solar generation facilities and to offer special tariffs to facilitate customer-owned distributed solar generation as alternatives to net energy metering.
HB 1912 Electric utility ratemaking procedures; recognition of Commonwealth Energy Policy. Directs the State Corporation Commission (SCC), when required to approve the construction of an electric utility facility, to consider the economic and job creation objectives of the Commonwealth Energy Policy, including whether the cost is likely to result in unreasonable increases in customers’ rates.
HB 1983 Net energy metering program. Increases the maximum capacity of an electrical generation facility of a residential customer that qualifies for participation in a net energy metering program from 10 to 20 kilowatts.
HB 2191 Voluntary Solar Resource Development Fund. Establishes the Voluntary Solar Resource Development Fund, from which money will be loaned for projects that involve the acquisition, installation, or operation of photovoltaic devices, solar water heating devices, or certain solar space heating devices at residential, commercial, or non-profit facilities. The measure requires the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy to provide the option to make voluntary contributions to the Fund, and expires July 1, 2016.
HB 2316 Clean Energy Manufacturing Incentive Grant Program. Repeals the Solar Photovoltaic Manufacturing Incentive Grant Program effective July 1, 2013, and the Biofuels Production Incentive Grant Program effective July 1, 2017, to create a program that provides financial incentives to companies that manufacture or assemble equipment, systems, or products used to produce renewable or nuclear energy, or products used for energy conservation, storage, or grid efficiency purposes. To be eligible for a grant, the manufacturer must make a capital investment greater than $50 million and create at least 200 full-time jobs. A wind energy supplier must make a capital investment of greater than $10 million and create at least 30 full-time jobs
HB 2389 Virginia Resources Authority; renewable energy projects. Adds renewable energy projects to those projects which the Virginia Resources Authority may finance.
SB 1236 Clean fuel vehicle and advanced cellulosic biofuels job creation tax credit. Extends the sunset date of the tax credit from the 2011 taxable year to the 2014 taxable year.