Sunday, July 05, 2009

Working toward energy independence

If national energy independence is a realistic goal, it can only be achieved by developing and nurturing strong regional interdependencies that acknowledge and design for the synergistic complementarity of renewable energy sources. Who knows, success at the national level might be an incentive for the U.S. and other countries to take another look at the world-around elecgtric grid proposed by Bucky Fuller. (GW)

A global clean energy New Deal

By John Guerrerio
Energy Examiner
July 3, 2009

The opportunity to shape a global clean energy New Deal is taking shape. Countries across the globe have pumped billions into their respective economies to help recovery efforts; an international climate agreement structurally led by the U.S. can create a regulatory framework that paves the way for the necessary six-fold increase in investment needed to grow renewables to 40% share of the power generation.

Only the initial stimulus in the industry will come from government funds; if market conditions take over guided by an energy policy highlighting domestic renewable sources, America can both lead the global clean energy revolution and develop energy independence.

Transitioning toward a position where renewables are mass-marketed for utility-scale integration requires predictable and stable policy. 50% by 2050 would require that kind of investment and growth in order to bring down domestic emissions and bring up renewable energy's power generation share to half of all domestic energy consumed.

Climate change mitigation efforts and energy security improvements are born from the same policy framework. Drafting an national energy policy should be part of a larger plan of working toward energy independence; living off of energy created right here on our own soil.

Working toward energy independence requires policy that adds renewable sources of power to the ETS; this may serve as a catalyst for plug-in EVs and reduce our overall imports of petroleum. By expanding wind energy resources, we can then give ourselves the option of controlling emissions from coal. Replacing coal-fired power plants with wind farms and turning offshore drilling rigs into wind turbine platforms both show better potential for renewables to both keep up as the population expands, reduce international competition, lead an economic growth industry into the 21st century, and reduce overall carbon emissions. Our recent domestic efforts can simply slowball along or they can fast track and serve as a model for other countries to follow. The speed of that will depend upon how much instability, conflict, and resources truly remain in the world's oil markets.

Last year, toward the beginning of the financial tsunami, before it truly began swelling, the International Energy Agency put out a guide on principles for effective energy policies. At stake are numbers like 450 ppm and 40 billion metric tons of global CO2 emissions and 20 million barrels of oil per day and the percentage of renewable energy's share in global power generation. The numbers shift, but policy should guide an industry as integral as energy; policy that is aligned with sustainable global principles.

IEA is working toward a clean and secure energy future for America, but also believes societal action comes about from effective policy being put in place; a policy that fosters private investment over long-term investment windows. The correct policy timed with the right market directional winds can produce conditions that will aid in renewables being fast-tracked into the mainstream. Those winds have yet to blow.

A global climate treaty, or clean energy New Deal, will allow the global energy market to transition more easily to more sustainable methods. Right now, it seems that developing and industrial nations remain divided over certificates of responsisbility. In addition, BRIC countires, or Brazil-Russia-India-China, are non-OECD, or non-Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Key measurements of emission reduction usually separate the stabilization of emission into OECD emissions and non-OECD emissions. Other measurements esewhere show a significant increase in non-OECD emissions over the next two decades and should be a cause for concern, that means if clean energy is to have a significant impact on global emissions, it is necessary that China, India, Russia, and Brazil join any cooperational agreements where emissions are going to be reduced.

Drafting a global energy treaty aligned with sustainable principles will create a global energy partnership designed to improve technological efficiencies, GDP figures, and environmental quality. To try to expand the energy industry rather than struggling to continue for control in the shrinking fossil fuel arena.

Quoting a few more OECD and IEA figures again says that a 40% share of renewables would yield a reduction in emissions that will result in atmospheric concentrations of CO2 stabilizing at 450 ppm. It seems like somewhere between 450-550 ppm is where international bodies are headed in terms of agreement. What does an internatinal treaty of 450 ppm mean in the business community; a 40% share for renewables is what it will mean.

Under a 40% renewables share scenario, wind grows from 1-9%; hydrogen pops into the picture at 1%; solar and geothermal share 4%; biomass and waste grow from 1-5%; hyrdo-electric grows to 22%; nuclear to 18%; natural gas shrinks to to 18%; oil falls to 2%; and coal use drops to only 21% of global electricity generation. In this scenario, dams to create hydro-electric power are considered part of the 40% renewables. This happens by 2030; if it proves to work well, extended out to 2050.

This buildup of the renewable energy sector is mostly in the form of grid applications. As the electricity supply is increased and cleaned, room will be made for an EV rollout, complete with the newly fuel-efficient, muscle-car designs of the past.

Stabilizing emissions using regional resources can provide a policy path forward; one in which the whole world can embrace. Improving standards of living globally through sustainable energy development is key to stabilizing energy markets and producing less global conflict overall. Policy is aligning with public opinion and the direction of business, and that direction is toward clean energy. 2008 was a good year for renewable energy investments, in spite of the crisis; over $150 billion was invested in clean energy globaly. 2009 has slowed down tremendously with the intensified Recession and lack of available capital for lending, but $183 billion of the $787 billion stimulus is slotted for sustainable energy investments.

Conditions are ripe for a global clean energy New Deal to take shape. Domestic legislation is moving forward, and U.S. government grants and loans are available to finance clean energy initiatives. The financial crisis created conditions whereby countries around the world injected stimulus packages into their economies; many of these packages had clean energy components. This global injection together with an opportunity for an international climate treaty agreement is what might bring 2009 clean energy investment levels back up to levels where investors take over and turn over the profits necessary to finance the buildout of assets to 50% of the total global energy use. The United States can lead that charge.


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