20 October 2010

Big droughts coming? £1bn carbon tax imposed, geoengineering in NYC, solar cell costs, and other green news for business

Top Stories

"Bangladesh, India most at risk from climate change"reliability high.
Risk consulting firm Maplecroft has produced a report ranking countries by their exposure to risks from global warming. Bangladesh and India were found the most vulnerable, and the Nordic countries least. "The ranking combined exposure to extremes such as droughts, cyclones and mudslides, sensitivity to damage tied to poverty, population, internal conflicts and dependence on agriculture, and the capacity of a country to adapt." Article quotes Matthew Bunce at Maplecroft: "Understanding climate vulnerability will help companies make their investments more resilient to unexpected change." From Reuters. Press release here.

"A Cheaper Route to Solar Cells"reliability medium.
Matthew Wald tells the story of 1366 Technologies, a startup that received $4 million from the Department of Energy to develop its cheaper solar cell manufacturing technology and has now raised $20 million from customers and venture capitalists to commercialize. "The chairman of Hanwha, Ki-joon Hong, said in a statement that his company had 'every confidence that 1366’s innovations will fundamentally change solar manufacturing.' ... The president of 1366 Technologies, Frank van Mierlo, predicted that the development would make solar power cheaper than coal power" See New York Times Green blog. [This particular process improvement may or may not revolutionize solar cell manufacture. Many startups dreams don't come true. But it is an example of the flood of technological improvements coming out of entrepreneurial activities that will make renewable energy increasingly competitive with fossil energy. Today substantial subsidies or other government support is usually necessary to make investment in renewable generation preferable to coal. This is why China and India are still building coal plants. But the type of breakthrough described here suggests that it is only a matter of time before solar power is cheaper than coal even without subsidies or charging coal plants for their externalities.]

Companies, Industries, Markets and Supply Chains

"Siemens secures major deal to work on Masdar's green city"reliability high.
"Siemens has today signed a multimillion-euro contract with the high-profile Masdar project, which will see the engineering giant play a key role in the construction of Masdar City. The company said the agreement constituted its biggest clean tech research and development deal to date and would see the two organisations collaborate on the roll out of smart grid, advanced building technologies and carbon capture and storage" The deal could be worth around 100 million euros. "Siemens will provide automated building management technologies and help roll out smart grid systems". See BusinessGreen.

"UK moves ahead with eight new reactor sites"reliability medium.
The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change has issued a Nuclear Policy Statement identifying eight sites suitable for new nuclear generation facilities, and has approved two reactor designs, the Westinghouse 1,100 MW AP 1000 PWR and the Areva 1,600 MW European Pressurized Water Reactor. From Nuke Notes. The policy document is here.

"Green movement prying loose details about cleansers"reliability high.
"amid pressure from environmental, health and consumer groups, makers of household cleaning agents are beginning to reveal more about the chemicals in their products, in some cases hoping to head off requirements for greater disclosure." Comments from various stakeholders. See MSNBC.

"Coalition hits big business with stealth carbon tax"reliability high.
The UK "government today quietly imposed a £1bn-a-year carbon tax on around 4,000 of the largest businesses and public sector bodies in the UK as part of its spending review. ... a statement by the Department of Energy and Climate Change ... detailed its spending review settlement and confirmed the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) would be reformed so that the Treasury keeps revenue raised through the carbon pricing scheme" rather than returning it to participants as formerly. This will bring in £1bn by 2014/15 to the exchequer. "Under the CRC, companies and public sector bodies that use over 6,000MWh of electricity a year have to participate in the scheme and purchase carbon allowances in line with the amount of energy they use each year." From BusinessGreen.

Government and Regulation

"It's all white for New York's energy-saving CoolRoofs initiative"reliability high.
"New York's innovative plan to slash building energy use by painting the city's roofs white reached a major milestone late last week when the mayor, Michael Bloomberg, coated the one millionth square foot of rooftop with whitewash. ... 1,500 volunteers including employees from 17 companies had painted the roofs of 105 buildings." The program aims to save money on air conditioning and reduce associated carbon emissions. See BusinessGreen. [Besides saving energy, turning city roofs (and ideally city asphalt) white can actually make cities cooler by several degrees. Local geoengineering to reverse global warming?]

"Defence Review highlights rising energy and climate security risks"reliability high.
Britain's Strategic Defence and Security Review discusses the issues of global warming and associated costs and conflict as they will affect the needs of the UK armed forces in the future. "The review states that the government will give energy a higher priority in UK foreign policy and reprioritise diplomatic relations with key energy suppliers in order to help secure long-term energy supplies. But it also says that the government's low-carbon and energy-efficiency agenda will become a key component of its security strategy as part of efforts to reduce reliance on energy imports." From BusinessGreen. PDF of review document here.

Science and Economics

"Climate change: Drought may threaten much of globe within decades"reliability high.
Research using "an ensemble of 22 computer climate models and a comprehensive index of drought conditions, as well as analyses of previously published studies," and "the best current projections of greenhouse gas emissions" "finds most of the Western Hemisphere, along with large parts of Eurasia, Africa, and Australia, may be at threat of extreme drought this century." Study author Aiguo Dai says: "We are facing the possibility of widespread drought in the coming decades, but this has yet to be fully recognized by both the public and the climate change research community. If the projections in this study come even close to being realized, the consequences for society worldwide will be enormous." From UCAR. Access article here. [The abstract says: "Climate models project increased aridity in the 21st century over most of Africa, southern Europe and the Middle East, most of the Americas, Australia, and Southeast Asia. Regions like the United States have avoided prolonged droughts during the last 50 years due to natural climate variations, but might see persistent droughts in the next 20–50 years." This is scary, especially for Africa where droughts could severely affect economic growth and even lead to famines.]