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Wind generation falls as Lord Stern’s delivers his latest warning

Stern vs. Apathy vs. Nature = Climate Change Hiatuswind farm at sea

“Reducing emissions is not only compatible with economic growth and development – if done well it can actually generate better growth than the old high-carbon model,”

Lord Stern

Those are the latest findings from Lord Stern the author of the eponymous 2006 Stern review into the economics of climate change.

Eight years ago, Stern’s report underlined that prevention (of climate change) would be significantly cheaper than cure once the damage was done.

Those findings were a catalyst for the commitments that fed from the 2009 Copenhagen agreements for countries to join forces in a consistent attempt to tackle the impact of greenhouse gas emissions.

In his latest report Stern highlights a utopian vision of cities in both the developed and developing world being built around environmental principles to the benefit of all mankind.

The report New Climate Economy, from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate claims that though the advent of “renewable energy, low-carbon fuels, better urban design and better use of agricultural land” are welcome, the pace of development is far below that required to deliver a genuine, technologically driven solution to climate change.

The report highlights that the world’s infrastructure is largely still built through the design and building eye on a “high carbon basis” and that regardless of individual low carbon initiatives the endemic high carbon structures will be difficult it not impossible to mitigate.

The report supports more coordinated efforts that reward sustainability and that penalises high-carbon growth.

Ottmar Edenhofer, Chief Economist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and an adviser to the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, said:

“Economic growth and emissions reductions can be achieved together, the report clearly confirms … Pricing CO2 is key. The heaven above us today is a waste dump for gases that harm our climate system. Wealthy states are disposing of them, free of charge, at the expense of all of us. If emitting CO2 came at a reasonable price, this would stabilise investors’ expectations so they can push forward the innovation of climate friendly technologies.”

Ed Davey, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change welcomed the revised approach since 2009 and the impact of the original Stern report saying:

“It [the report and subsequent agreement] has required UK business and international investors to recognise the costs of failure and the benefits of change and it has been sustained by a strong, vocal and committed network of NGOs, pressure groups and activists who have been instrumental in sustaining political will and public acceptance.”

New York, September 2014 marks the first gathering of the heads of state involved in the 2009 Copenhagen conference hence the updated review from Stern, with expectations high following the landmark commitment reached with China and India as well as the US to agree to binding emissions targets and the principles of intention to which the more climate conscious nations had already committed.

This latest meeting sits at a crucial point in the climate change timetable with the ‘new Copenhagen’ Paris 2015 intended to deliver a new consensus on cutting emissions after 2020, the point at which the current commitments end.

Some countries are further ahead than others with the EU having vowed to cut emissions compared to 1990 levels by 40% by 2030. Others however are significantly behind in their commitments.

That level of commitment was underlined by the attendance of the New York Conference with Greg Barker, the former Energy Minitster, castigating world leaders saying:

“President Obama is a few blocks away [from the dinner] at a party in the Waldorf-Astoria. China’s [premier Xi Jinping] is thousands of miles away. The prime minister of India [Narendra Modi] could not make time for it. The chancellor of Germany [Angela Merkel], the biggest economy in Europe, is in Berlin. We will never get a deal on climate change if leaders don’t turn up.”

Another attendee echoed the opportunity lost saying:

“This was supposed to be pivotal: Obama and Jinping in a room, eyeball to eyeball. Everyone knows that the US and China [the world’s biggest emitters and economies] are the pivot. But it didn’t happen.”

China’s vice premier Zhang Gaoli attempted to calm fears of a departure from the détente of 2009, telling the summit:

“We will announce post-2020 actions on climate change as soon as we can, which will bring about marked progress in reducing carbon intensity, increasing the share of non-fossil fuels and raising the forest stock, as well as the peaking of total CO2 emissions as early as possible.

“China will advance a revolution in energy production and consumption, cap total energy consumption, raise energy efficiency and vigorously develop non-fossil fuels. We will step up efforts against air pollution, promote ecological progress, establish a carbon trading market at a faster pace, intensify technological innovation and raise public awareness of green and low-carbon development.

“By so doing, China will blaze a path of sustainable development that leads to both economic growth and effective tackling of climate change.”

However China’s Foreign Minister Xie Zhinhua appeared to contradict the commitment by underlining that any decision would be taken with the unique and self-serving circumstances of modern China and its global ambitions at its centre, in the spirit of the “common but differentiated responsibilities” of Kyoto 1997.

“China is a developing country. We have 18m people living in poverty. China has paid equal attention to growth, mitigation [of carbon dioxide emissions] and adaptation [to climate change]. We are similar to developing countries and the least developed countries, we are on the same page as these countries.”

Whilst commitments waver amongst other nations however, the UK continues to diversify its energy sources, albeit echoing Stern’s findings that progress is too slow to justify premature self-congratulation.

In the spirit of progress, EDF Energy is the latest energy supplier to announce a new investment in renewable technology with a tie up with a new tidal project.

The project, located off the Pembrokeshire coast of Wales and operated by Tidal Energy Ltd claimed it could be providing “green, sustainable and predictable” energy within weeks,

Dan Brimelow, of EDF Energy welcomed the deal saying:

“The UK needs electricity generation from a range of low-carbon sources. Technologies like tidal power help improve the diversity of electricity supplies and reduce our reliance on imported energy, which is good for the country’s future energy security.”

Whilst Martin Murphy of Tidal Energy Ltd claimed:

“DeltaStream [the deployed unit] is not just about proving a new, innovative technology – it is about proving that tidal power can make a real and lasting contribution towards the UK’s renewable energy targets and energy security. Taking the first steps to commercialisation, by securing a buyer for the electricity generated, is essential to that.”

The initial project revolves around a 400kW machine that is intended to prove concept so as to enable scaling up producing 10MW.

It is not all good news for the UK’s renewable energy contribution however with a clear warning that the vagaries of British weather are more than a simple annoyance and instead are becoming a potential barrier to renewable energy generation with the news that abnormally low wind speeds has meant that Q2 2014 saw a drop of 22% in wind energy generation.

The drop of 2 TWH compared to the same period in 2013 was despite a significant increase in the amount of offshore wind turbine capacity available up from 3.5GW to 4.1GW.

It was a similar story for onshore wind with 8GW of capacity up from 7GW the in 2013 but a 17% drop in production to 3.2 TWH

DECC, revealing the figures explained that:

“Average wind speeds were 1.6 knots lower than a year earlier, and the lowest for quarter two for four years. Average wind speeds in June were the lowest for any month in the last 14 years”

A spokesman for the wind industry trade association RenewableUK defended the performance saying:

“Although it’s no secret that there are some periods that are even windier than others, the wider statistics show that wind energy is generating increasing amounts of clean electricity for British homes and businesses year on year.

“When you look at the last twelve months as a whole, generation from renewable sources in the UK went up to just over 17 per cent – up from 13 per cent in the previous 12 months. The lion’s share of that came from onshore and offshore wind – just over 50 per cent of it.

“In August, wind energy outstripped coal and nuclear for several days, and hit at all time 24-hour record high of 22 per cent of the UK’s electricity needs.

“National Grid has no problem taking clean power generated by wind whenever it’s available as often as it can, and it can predict exactly where the power will come from in advance with pinpoint accuracy. Every unit of electricity we generate from wind offsets a unit from polluting fossil fuels, so anyone who cares about climate change knows that we need to make the most of it whenever we can.”

However Dr John Constable, Director of the Renewable Energy Foundation, an anti renewable subsidy body, said:

“The latest DECC data is further confirmation that wind power output is highly variable over all timescales, minutes, hours, months, and even from year to year.

“These variabilities are physically manageable but they have highly significant negative economic impacts on the rest of the power generation fleet, whose market is made very uncertain, and these uncertainties ultimately mean much higher costs for consumers.”

Whilst wind power took a bettering the amount of electricity generated from solar farms soared by 67% to 1.2TWh, the increase was largely driven by the rise in capacity available rather than an unusually sunny quarter. Typical.

Whether it is the reluctance of nation’s to commit to a new way of thinking or the reluctance of the wind to blow, Stern’s utopia is a long way from being achieved right now.









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