Ukraine Crisis Is Connected To Climate & Energy Policy

Originally published on By Sonja van Renssen Decisions on a new European climate and energy policy for 2030 are relegated to autumn as heads of state are caught up in the Ukraine crisis. At their spring summit in Brussels, EU leaders gave centre stage to energy dependence. First climate change, then competitiveness, now security of

Ukraine Crisis Is Connected To Climate & Energy Policy was originally published on CleanTechnica.

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Will Solar Stock Returns Keep Growing?

Originally published on Roen Financial Report. Any way you slice it, solar investing has been on a tear for the last year. Of the 69 solar stocks that the Roen Financial Report tracks, three-quarters are up for the year. On average solar stocks have gained 85% for the year, with 60% of solar companies up in the double digits.

Will Solar Stock Returns Keep Growing? was originally published on CleanTechnica.

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Germany CO2 Emissions From Power Sector Unchanged

Originally published on Renewables International.
By Craig Morris

The AGEB published its official review of German energy in 2013 yesterday, confirming our estimate from January: CO2 emissions from power are down.

The official figures from Germany’s Environmental Agency (UBA) are not yet in, but AGEB has published its official estimate of energy statistics for 2013. For the power sector, the original preliminary report from December did not contain any estimate of carbon emissions, or of actual coal consumption (primary energy). Rather, it only discussed power production (final energy).

But as our Thomas Gerke pointed out in January, carbon emissions are related to the amount of primary fossil energy consumed, not the amount of final energy produced. Germany is making more electricity from less coal. Gerke estimated that carbon emissions from the power sector – remember, we are only talking about electricity, not total energy consumption – must be down by around 0.3 percent.

2013CarbonEnergyConsumption (1)

The original chart from January in which we estimate that carbon emissions from the power sector in Germany were probably stable or slightly down in 2013.
Image Credit: Thomas Gerke

Now, the AGEB has confirmed his findings, though they refrained from stating outright that carbon emissions are down. Here is the statement from the press release (PDF, all texts only in German; these are my translations):

Lower emissions from natural gas turbines and lignite power plants compensated for the increase in CO2 emissions from hard coal plants.

A more literal translation would read that the “increase” in CO2 from hard coal was “balanced” by the drop in consumption of natural gas and lignite for power.

The full report (PDF) states that CO2 emissions “are practically unchanged year over year.”

While power from natural gas shrank considerably, the increase in electricity from lignite and hard coal was compensated for by greater use of renewables, so that the CO2 intensity of power generation remained the same in 2013 as in the previous year.

The figure given for 2013 for “general power supply” is 0.51 kg of CO2/kWh. Strangely, no number is reported for the previous year. If you want to compare, you have to go find the official report for 2012 (PDF). Et voilà, the figure for that year is 0.52 kg of CO2/kWh. Carbon emissions from the German power sector were down in 2013.


The Berlin-based think tank Agora Energiewende is only one of a large number of organizations that estimated higher carbon emissions from the German power sector based on an uptick in final energy (electricity) from fossil fuel. Agora has made quite a splash with its “Energiewende Paradox” (meaning that the Energiewende is leading to higher carbon emissions from the power sector), but the real paradox is that no one is reporting that carbon emissions from the power sector are down. Agora is itself working to reduce carbon emissions, so the think tank probably cannot use the news about lower carbon emissions.
Image Credit: Agora

Why is this message suppressed?

In any normal situation, such hard facts would simply be reported – it’s not like there’s no way to say “carbon emissions are slightly down year-over-year” in German. But the AGEB writes only that “Germany was probably not on target for its carbon emission reductions in 2013.” The organization is focusing on total energy consumption, not just power. In other words, Germans actually are seriously concerned about carbon emissions, and they are not going to celebrate some minor downturn in the smallest of the three main energy sectors (Germany consumes roughly a fifth of its energy as electricity, but 2/5 as motor fuel and 2/5 as heat).

Why is Renewables International celebrating this outcome? We’re not; we are reporting on it. We would also like to speed up the transition to renewables and phase out fossil fuel even more.

The charge that German carbon emissions are up because it is switching to coal is a popular meme in particular among the nuclear community. It is therefore important to set the record straight. Nuclear plants produce electricity, not liquid fuel, and the waste heat from nuclear plants is almost never used; apparently, not enough people want to live or work close enough to a nuclear plant to make the recovery of waste heat practical. The power sector is the easiest thing to fix. German carbon emissions largely come from heat and motor fuel, where too little is being done.

In a few weeks, the UBA should produce its own estimate of carbon emissions in the power sector, so we expect to be back with further confirmation of these findings soon. And keep in mind that we have estimated lower carbon emissions for 2014 as well from the power sector for various reasons, including most recently lower power exports to France, though the overall forecast for the power sector remains bleak until the end of the nuclear phaseout in 2022. (Craig Morris)

Germany CO2 Emissions From Power Sector Unchanged was originally published on CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 50,000 other subscribers: Google+ | Email | Facebook | RSS | Twitter.

SolarCity Enters Into Largest Rooftop Solar Aggregation Facility

Editor’s Note: Here’s some rather big news hot of the wires regarding SolarCity, and rooftop solar in general: SAN MATEO, Calif., March 25, 2014—SolarCity (Nasdaq: SCTY), a leading provider of clean energy, today announced it has received all commitments to its $250 million financing facility provided by a group of lenders that includes BofA Merrill

SolarCity Enters Into Largest Rooftop Solar Aggregation Facility was originally published on CleanTechnica.

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Norway Can End Energy Poverty

norwegian flag

Norway can take the lead to end energy poverty with its new mandates for renewable energy investment and sustainable development. These mandates can and should call for transitioning energy access investment away from large-scale centralized energy investments to small scale, distributed clean energy investments. Norway and others have already committed over $1B in funding announced during the Rio +20 meeting in 2012, now it is time to figure out how to put that money to work. In doing so, Norway can lead the world in ending our failing approach to energy poverty.

Addressing energy poverty has been a 40-year wait. During that time span, the World Bank, India, and others have promised the poor a connection to the electricity grid. In India’s case every 5-year plan is littered with broken promises and the poor wait in the dark. As a result the world’s population is growing at about the same rate as the population gaining access to electricity – meaning 1.3 billion people are permanently left behind if something doesn’t change. What’s worse, nearly 2.5 billion people today considered “electrified” receive only a few hours of electricity per day.

The reasons for this failure are many. Beyond corruption alone, grid extension is expensive, cumbersome, and slow. But we have an opportunity to change all that. With a twenty-year track record and recent cost reductions, it is well acknowledged today that distributed renewable energy is the fastest, cheapest and most effective means of delivering on the world’s energy access goals.

But it’s not just us that believe distributed renewables are the solution to energy poverty. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has made clear in a series of reports the only way to reverse energy inequality is to rely heavily on small scale distributed energy infrastructure in rural areas. However, current investments by governments, public institutions, and multi-lateral banks involved in the United Nations Sustainable Energy for All (SEFA) are heavily skewed towards investments in large scale centralized power plants and grid extension. But a new way forward, catalyzed by the convergence of distributed renewable energy and mobile phone technology is emerging.

Today, three out of every four new mobile phone subscribers live in emerging markets. Just as mobile phones leapfrogged landlines across the developing world, distributed renewable energy is leapfrogging the grid, in part to power these off grid mobile customers. More importantly, mobile operators are not earning enough profit on these customers because over 500 million mobile phone customers don’t have a place to charge their phones at home. Support of this 21st century approach requires investment.

Entrepreneurs have solutions to this problem that can save families money and their lives. Already the off grid solar lighting market in sub Saharan Africa is growing at a 95% compound annual growth rate according to Lighting Africa. In Bangladesh, Grameen Shakti and others are deploying 30,000 to 40,000 solar home systems every single month. But despite this initial success, a stifling lack of access to finance so acute it can take years for entrepreneurs to raise the money to test their ideas is holding back our ability to end the travesty of energy poverty.

Luckily small amounts of venture capital from Khosla Impact, Solar City, and other mainstream, hard-nosed investors has changed the sector in the past 6 months. But private sector capital is not enough in infrastructure. That’s why twenty of the world’s leading off-grid clean energy entrepreneurs are requesting $500 million in financial commitments from leading public institutions to help them deliver on the world’s energy access goals. The group’s efforts have been backed by CEOS of more than 25 leading civil society organizations from around the world. This money has already been pledged by Governments around the world by Norway’s own Energy+ work. Now it is time to actually unlock this money not just pledge it.

So, many people are coming together to create a parallel track to the false hope of building polluting power plants and extending the existing electricity grid infrastructure to the poor. We are asking the Norwegian Sovereign wealth fund shift 5% of its total fund or ~$50B to renewable energy, and that at least 1% of that be provided to off-grid renewables. This money would not be a subsidy. It would be provided to mainstream capital providers to leverage their expertise and provide a compelling return back to investors – just like was done with microfinance.

We have a once in a generation opportunity to do something that matters. The eradication of energy poverty is an essential step to the empowerment of women, education of children, effectiveness of health care, and attainment of the millennium development goals. There are over one billion reasons for Norway to help us make this happen. We’re asking them to help us bring the world from darkness to light.

Jigar Shah is author of Creating Climate Wealth: Unlocking the Impact Economy, 2013 Icosa Publishing. Shah unlocked the multi-billion dollar worldwide solar industry with a business model innovation (Power Purchase Agreement), not a new technology. This model created SunEdison, the largest solar services company worldwide. Jigar Shah has shown that business model innovation applied to the biggest challenge of our lifetime – climate change – will unlock a $10 trillion dollar new economy.

After SunEdison was sold in 2009, Jigar served through 2012 as the first CEO of the Carbon War Room —the global organization founded by Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Unite to help entrepreneurs address climate change. SunEdison and Carbon War Room proved that we could make positive change through business and financial model innovation in many industries. Today, as CEO of Jigar Shah Consulting, he works with global companies in a multitude of industries to deploy existing clean energy solutions fueled by new business models.

Image Credit: Norwegian flag with typical norwegian red wooden house with sod roof via Shutterstock

Norway Can End Energy Poverty was originally published on CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 50,000 other subscribers: Google+ | Email | Facebook | RSS | Twitter. Ranks Renewable Energy Leaders

Lisanne Boling, Vermont, Pennsylvania and California ranked as the most friendly to renewable energy according to new rankings from’s ranking system takes not only state policies into account but also energy consumption and generation data. Other factors considered include growth of renewable energy, state programs for renewable energy, and other factors. Bonus Ranks Renewable Energy Leaders was originally published on CleanTechnica.

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Solar Net Metering Survival & Progress In Massachusetts, Washington, Vermont, & Utah

Originally published on PV Solar Report. Net metering continues to be a theme for solar, with legislative victories in several states. Massachusetts looks forward to favorable outcomes despite attempts to weaken net metering there. Last week, we reported on legislation in Massachusetts that would increase homeowners’ access to net metering in the state. The legislation

Solar Net Metering Survival & Progress In Massachusetts, Washington, Vermont, & Utah was originally published on CleanTechnica.

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Solar PV Market May Increase To 500 GW By 2018

Originally published on RenewEconomy. By Sophie Vorrath. The global solar PV industry is headed into a five-year growth spurt that will put it on track for cumulative installed capacity of 500 gigawatts (GW) by 2018, according to the latest NPD Solarbuzz Marketbuzz report. The report, released on Thursday, predicts a huge 100GW of solar PV

Solar PV Market May Increase To 500 GW By 2018 was originally published on CleanTechnica.

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World Energy Outlook Underestimates Renewables

Originally published on Energy Post.
By Rolf de Vos and David de Jager.

Ecofys-EU-Wide-Renewable-Energy-Target-Necessary-Part-of-2030-PortfolioThe IEA’s annual World Energy Outlook (WEO) is seen as the most authoritative set of energy scenarios in the world. Yet when we test the forecasts for the growth of renewable energies in the WEO’s main scenario against reality, we find that the WEO consistently comes out too low. Each year from 2006 on the WEO has had to increase its forecast for wind and solar power. Yet each year the WEO predicts the growth of renewables to level off by 2020, for no clear reason. This sends a wrong message to policy makers about the real potential of renewable energy. It is time for the IEA to acknowledge that its assumptions need correcting.

Every year in November, the International Energy Agency publishes its annual World Energy Outlook (WEO). It intends to show the possible directions for our global energy system, with the goal of guiding policy makers in designing their policies and measures. The World Energy Outlook is the most authoritative scenario exercise in the world, and is seen as such by policy and decision makers. It’s not a prediction of the future, but a sketch of possible pathways. The fact that the WEO appears every year makes it possible to assess how well it forecasts the development of renewables in the various scenarios.  Looking back is not a favourite activity of scenario builders – they prefer to look forward. But it is instructive if you want to evaluate how well the scenarios hold up against reality.

As it happens, the IEA has a sub-programme for Renewable Energy Technology Deployment, IEA-RETD, supported by eight IEA country members, which carried out a limited assessment of the WEO-2013 and earlier editions. The results are very interesting. First the good news. In general, the scenarios are of high quality. That is to say, they generally pass the recommendations made in the IEA-RETD’s scenario guidelines (called “RE-Assume”), which were published last summer and which show policy makers how they should understand energy scenarios and transpose their conclusions into policies. The WEO does well by most criteria, e.g. on transparency.

This implies that policy makers should take to heart the WEO’s main conclusion regarding climate change policies: We need to take action that goes much beyond current policies to get anywhere near a safe pathway with respect to energy security and climate change. But the next question for policy makers is: What actions should that be? Here the bad news emerges. The WEO does provide clues about how renewable energy could contribute to the reduction of CO2 emissions, but these clues are absent in the WEO’s main scenario (the “New Policies” scenario). The assumptions about renewable energies used in this scenario and the modelling are based on misconceptions.

Mis-interpreting actual developments

We constructed some graphs showing the cumulative installed capacity of both solar and wind power forecast by the WEO from 2006 to 2013. As shown in the graphs below, every year the WEO adjusted its assumptions upwards. In each year from 2006, the reference scenario in the WEO shows higher cumulative capacity than the year before.

Source: Ecofys

Source: Ecofys

What is more, in all the WEOs the growth is expected to slow down from about the year 2020, but for no obvious reason. Our findings confirm what Terje Osmundsen recently wrote in Energy Post about how solar power is portrayed in the WEO. In wind energy the WEO’s adjustments are quite large as well. Hence, it’s not a wild guess that — unless something fundamentally changes — the 2014 WEO reference scenario will again show an upward adjustment of the growth in renewables towards 2035.

The alternative

The WEO’s New Policies Scenario describes the mainstream developments in global energy. These developments put us on a track for a disastrous global warming of more than 3.5°C, according to the WEO. The globally agreed (but not yet operational) target is an upper limit of 2°C. Hence, the IEA also publishes an ‘alternative’ scenario, which shows what actions should be taken to stay within the 2°C limit. This so-called 450 scenario, named after the upper limit of the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere (450 ppm) that still provides a reasonable chance of staying under a 2°C average temperature increase, is regarded as possible but not very likely to happen. According to our retrospective, especially from 2010 onwards, the alternative, 450 scenarios have been much more representative than the reference scenarios when it comes to the actual development of wind energy (and to a lesser extent, of solar power). As can be seen in the graphs below, the projected growth lines quite accurately follow the actual developments.

Source: Ecofys

Source: Ecofys

Unlike the reference scenario, the 450 scenario shows an increased growth of the cumulative installed wind and solar power capacity, starting from 2020. Obviously nobody knows for sure, but such an upward bend in the graphs seems more what one would expect from energy sources that will have gone further down the learning curve and the cost curve. What we can say, then, is that the WEO in its New Policies scenario in effect treats renewable energy technologies as a ‘black swan’, whereas in reality their development is quite stable and consistent.

Lessons for policy makers

Presenting the New Policies scenarios — including its unrealistic assumptions on renewable energy — as the reference scenario inevitably affects policy makers who will base their measures and policy designs on the WEO. The IEA itself in its policy recommendations does advise policy makers to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies to create a level playing field for renewables. However, in its WEO the IEA seems reluctant to fully explore the realistic opportunities that present themselves in the 450 scenario. It insists on presenting the New Policies scenario as the central one. This makes it seem as if the ability of renewable energy to contribute to lower CO2 emissions is less than it actually is.


Another problem with the WEO’s main scenario is that it insufficiently takes into account the value of things like jobs, environmental damage, health effects, security of supply and household energy bills, all of which are quite important for policy makers. For instance, the negative impact of CO2 emissions on climate-related aspects is expressed in the price of CO2 assumed by the scenarios. The New Policies scenario assumes a price of € 20 per tonne by 2020 and € 40 by 2035. These prices are a lot lower than the actual costs of externalities. This choice directly impacts the relative economic position of renewables compared to fossil fuels in the scenarios. By contrast, the CO2 prices in the 450 scenario (increasing to € 95 per tonne in 2030 and € 125 by 2035) are much more representative of the real externalities. One may argue that including externalities would create an exotic economic basis for the scenario modelling. But to a limited extent, including externalities is actually already happening in real life. New fossil-fuelled and nuclear power plants already are more costly than older ones, mainly because they have to be compliant with higher environmental and safety standards. This can be regarded as a way to prevent part of the external costs mentioned above. Leaving out the full external costs stacks the odds against clean technology.

Realistic policies

Scenarios don’t create their realisation on their own. As the WEO confirms, scenarios can only come to real life with the support of policies and measures.  Policies are absolutely crucial for creating the level playing field for renewable energy sources, including externalities and harvesting the benefits of new energy systems. Nevertheless, modelling a 2°C pathway on realistic assumptions will be instrumental to designing and implementing the right policies. Moreover, if the World Energy Outlook would present a reference pathway that shows larger contributions from renewable energy on realistic grounds, policy makers have the IEA’s authority to rely on when proposing policies. It is time for the WEO to leave this beaten path of describing global mainstream thinking and to provide more realistic perspectives for policies that follow a 2°C pathway. Transposing some of the realism from the 450 scenario to the WEO’s main scenario would re-establish the WEO’s status as a realistic vision and would provide policy makers with a clear view on which sustainable pathways to follow.

World Energy Outlook Underestimates Renewables was originally published on CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 50,000 other subscribers: Google+ | Email | Facebook | RSS | Twitter.