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.
The National Hurricane Center has run out of names for tropical storms this year and has now moved on to the Greek alphabet during an extremely active hurricane season. Late Monday night, Tropical Storm Beta became the ninth named storm to make landfall. That's the first time so many named storms have made landfall since 1916, when Woodrow Wilson was president, according to NBC News.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Karen L. Smith-Janssen
Colette Pichon Battle gave a December 2019 TEDWomen Talk on the stark realities of climate change displacement, and people took notice. The video racked up a million views in about two weeks. The attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) advocates for climate justice in communities of color. Confronted with evidence showing how her own South Louisiana coastal home of Bayou Liberty will be lost to flooding in coming years, the 2019 Obama Fellow dedicates herself to helping others still reeling from the impacts of Katrina face the heavy toll that climate change has taken—and will take—on their lives and homelands. Her work focuses on strengthening multiracial coalitions, advocating for federal, state, and local disaster mitigation measures, and redirecting resources toward Black communities across the Gulf South.
Between 2000 and 2013, Earth lost an area of undisturbed ecosystems roughly the size of Mexico.
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By Stuart Braun
"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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A new report from Oxfam found that the wealthiest one percent of the world produced a carbon footprint that was more than double that of the bottom 50 percent of the world, The Guardian reported. The study examined 25 years of carbon dioxide emissions and wealth inequality from 1990 to 2015.