Will 2013 Be a Boom or Bust Year for Renewable Energy?
By Sven Teske
For many energy experts around the world, the New Year starts this coming week in Abu Dhabi at the World Future Energy Summit.
This year, the summit is coupled with two political conferences dedicated to renewable energy: the Assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency and the Abu Dhabi International Renewable Energy Conference (ADIREC).
It is going to be exciting. The ADIREC continues a renowned series of high-level political conferences that started back in 2004 in Germany. While these conferences have been based on voluntary cooperation, pledges and networking, each conference has helped stimulate action and build momentum for the incredible clean energy race, as highlighted in Renewables 2012 Global Status Report, that’s unfolded since 2004. This is what we expect this year too, at a time when strong political and business leadership are needed.
Renewable energy markets are now at the most critical phase. This is especially true for solar photovoltaic (PV) and onshore wind power, which have become mainstream technologies. Prices have fallen dramatically over the last two to three years, and the competition between the solar and wind equipment manufacturers is fierce. Profit margins are minimal and many smaller companies will not survive this price battle.
The wind and solar market in 2012 was half the size of manufacturing capacity because of drastic expansion of capacity in China. But this also had a positive effect. In many countries, the price for solar and wind is now cost competitive with coal, and in some places even competes with gas power plants.
Since 2010, more than half the new power plants have been renewable energy. Increasingly, the fossil fuel industry is feeling the heat of competition with renewables, putting them in the line of fire. While the first half of the “Fossil against Renewable” match went to wind and solar, the second half starts now. The conflict will be about the required infrastructure and new storage technologies—the battle of the grids. “Smart grid,” “Smart meter” or “Smart Cities” are the buzzwords at the center of many energy debates.
Despite all these positive messages for the renewable industry, the fight is not over at all. In 2013, many companies will merge, get taken over or drop out of the market.
The well-known energy players—AREVA, Siemens, GE or ABB—are already starting to dominate the wind and solar industry. But will they prioritize renewables ahead of their on-going interest on conventionals?
And with the “shale gas revolution” in the U.S. almost turning the entire global power-plant market on its head, “cheap,” or more accurately “cross-subsidised” gas, drives not only coal, nuclear but also renewables out of the market.
Renewable energy still needs political support. Not so much in the form of subsidies any more, but in fundamentally different market regulations: increased grid access, modernized power-market design and to some extent a different infrastructure are needed to achieve an energy market that is 100 percent renewable energy. High-level renewable energy conferences, like the ones taking place this week, can help build momentum for good policies and leadership.
Financial institutions have learned a lot about wind and solar. New global investment in renewables rose 17 percent to a record $257 billion in 2011—six times higher than in 2004 and almost twice the total investment in 2007, the last year before the acute phase of the recent global financial crisis. Figures for 2012 are not available yet, but are expected to be on 2011 level. This is not good news.
Fortunately, the first announcements for the crucial year of 2013 are promising. China will step up its solar PV market to 10,000 megawatt in 2013—five times higher than two years ago. Announcements in India might at least double the PV market in 2013.
But what do we need to see to really save our climate and to provide clean, safe and affordable energy for all?
To achieve an Energy [R]evolution (a clean-energy pathway Greenpeace has outlined together with our partners EREC and GWEC) we need to maintain the past decade’s growth of the renewable market for another decade. This is completely possible, but only with long-term political support for renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Let’s hope that the coming week in Abu Dhabi will provide an inspiring start for the renewable energy policy debates and decisions this year.
Sven Teske is an expert on renewable energy with Greenpeace International.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
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Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.
How to Rock Your Walk<p>Walking isn't just fun and healthy. It's accessible.</p><p>"Walking is cheap," says Dr. John Paul H. Rue, a sports medicine doctor at <a href="https://mdmercy.com/" target="_blank">Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore</a>. "You can do it anywhere at any time; [it] requires little to no special equipment and has many of the same cardio benefits as running or other more intense workouts."</p><p>Want to up your walking game? Try the tips below.</p>
Use Hand Weights<p>Cardio and strength training can go hand-in-hand when you add weights to your walk.</p><p>A <a href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2019/03000/Associations_of_Resistance_Exercise_with.14.aspx" target="_blank">2019 study</a> found that weight training is good for your heart, and <a href="https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(17)30167-2/abstract" target="_blank">research</a> shows it reduces the risk of developing a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/nutrition-metabolism-disorders" target="_blank">metabolic disorder</a> by 17 percent. People with metabolic disorders have a higher chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.</p><p>Rue suggests not carrying weights for your entire walk.</p><p>"Hand weights can give you an added level of energy burning, but you have to be careful with these because carrying [them] over a long period of time or while walking could actually lead to some overuse injuries," he says.</p>
Make It a Circuit<p>As another option, consider doing a circuit. First, put a pair of dumbbells on your lawn or somewhere in your home. Walk around the block once, then stop and do some bicep curls and tricep lifts before walking around the block again.</p><p>Rue recommends <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/running-with-weights" target="_blank">avoiding ankle weights</a> during cardio workouts, as they force you to use your quadriceps rather than hamstrings. They can also cause muscle imbalance, according to the <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/wearable-weights-how-they-can-help-or-hurt" target="_blank">Harvard Health Letter</a>.</p>
Find a Fitness Trail<p>Strength training isn't limited to weights. You can get stronger by <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/bodyweight-workout" target="_blank">simply using your body</a>.</p><p>Often found at parks, fitness trails are obstacle courses with equipment for pullups, pushups, rowing, and stretches to build upper and lower body strength.</p><p>Try searching "fitness trails near me" online, checking out your local parks and recreation website, or calling the municipal office to <a href="https://calisthenics-parks.com/" target="_blank">find one</a>.</p>
Recruit a Friend<p>People who workout together stay healthy together.</p><p><a href="https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-017-0584-3" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that older adults who exercised with a group improved or maintained their functional health and enjoyed their lives more.</p><p>Enlist the help of a walking buddy with a regimen you aspire to have. If you don't know anyone in your area, apps like <a href="https://www.strava.com/" target="_blank">Strava</a> have social networking features so you can get support from fellow exercisers.</p>
Try Meditation<p>According to the <a href="https://www.nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/nhis/2017" target="_blank">2017 National Health Interview Survey</a>, published by the National Institutes of Health, meditation is on the rise, and for good reason.</p><p>Researchers <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29616846/" target="_blank">found</a> that mind-body relaxation practices can regulate inflammation, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/biological-rhythms" target="_blank">circadian rhythms</a>, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/glucose" target="_blank">glucose</a> metabolism, as well as lower <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension" target="_blank">blood pressure</a>.</p><p>"Any form of exercise can be turned into a meditation of some type, either by the surroundings you are walking in, like a park or trail, or by blocking out the outside world with music on your headphones," Rue says.</p><p>You can also play a podcast or download an app like <a href="https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app" target="_blank">Headspace</a> that has a library of guided meditations to practice while you walk.</p>
Do Fartlek Walks<p>Typically used in running, fartlek intervals alternate periods of increased and decreased speed. These are <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit" target="_blank">high-intensity interval training (HIIT)</a> workouts, which allow exercisers to accomplish more in less time.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154075" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that 10-minute interval training improved <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/metabolic-syndrome" target="_blank">cardiometabolic</a> health, or lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just as well as working out at a continuous pace for 50 minutes.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111489" target="_blank">Research</a> also shows that HIIT workouts increase muscle <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fast-twitch-muscles" target="_blank">oxidative</a> capacity, or the ability to use oxygen. To do a fartlek walk, try walking at an increased pace for 3 minutes, slow down for 2 minutes, and repeat.</p>
Gradually Increase Pace<p>A faster walking pace is associated with a lower risk of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/copd" target="_blank">chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)</a> and respiratory diseases, according to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30303933/" target="_blank">2019 study</a>.</p><p>Still, it's best not to go from a stroll to an Olympic-worthy power walk in a day. Instead, increase your pace gradually to prevent injury.</p><p>"Start by walking at a brisk pace for about 10 minutes per day, 3 to 5 days per week," Rue says. "Once you've done this for a few weeks, increase your time by 5 to 10 minutes per day until you get to 30 minutes."</p>
Add Stairs<p>You've likely heard that taking the stairs instead of an elevator is a way to add more movement into your daily routine. It's also a way to step up your walking. Stair climbing has been shown to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335519301123?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">decrease the risk of mortality</a> and can easily add a bit more challenge to your walk.</p><p>If you don't have stairs in your home, you can often find them outside a local municipal building, train station, or at a high school stadium.</p>
Is Your Walk a True Cardio Workout?<p>Not all walks are equal. A walk that's too leisurely may not provide enough burn to qualify as cardio. To see if you're getting a good workout, try to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-check-heart-rate" target="_blank">measure your heart rate</a> using a monitor.</p><p>"A target goal for a good walking workout heart rate is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate," Rue says, adding that maximum heart rate is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/fat-burning-heart-rate" target="_blank">typically calculated</a> by 220 beats per minute minus your age.</p><p>You can also monitor how easily you can carry on a conversation while you walk to gauge your heart rate.</p><p>"If you can walk and carry on a normal conversation, that's probably a lower intensity walk," says Rue. "If you are slightly breathless but can still have a conversation, that's probably a moderate workout. If you are out of breath and can't talk normally, that's a vigorous workout."</p>
Takeaway<p>By shaking up your routine, you can add excitement to your workout and reap even more rewards than a basic walk provides. Increasing the pace and intensity of a workout will make it more effective.</p><p>Simply pick your favorite variation to add some spice to your next walk.</p>
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