Friday, October 31, 2008

End of Fossil Fuels by 2090

Global dependence on fossil fuels could be completely ended by 2090 provided trillions of dollars are invested on renewable energy, according to a European Renewable Energy Council report.

The study, which looks into the steps needed to shift away from energy from fossil fuels, claims a total of $14.7 trillion (£9.49 trillion) needs to be spent by 2030 to achieve the goal.According to the report, renewable energy markets had doubled between 2006 and 2007 to over $70 billion and could, by 2030, account for 30 per cent of energy supplies.

The report, which Greenpeace was also involved in, said: "Renewable energy could provide all global energy needs by 2090."According to Sven Teske, Greenpeace's leading author, the investment and transition to a fossil fuel-free economy could help counter the current financial downturn.

Last week, Deutsche Asset Management also urged governments to invest heavily in renewables.According to the institution, spending on improving nations' green infrastructure would offer a way out of recession, while meeting targets and ensuring future energy stability.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Importance of Algae as a Biofuel

Algae fix the sunlight and carbon dioxide into energy and that too very fast. Scientists want to utilize this quality for alternative fuels. And when it comes to greener alternatives to fossil fuel what could be greener than pond scum? Why algae are more suitable over other bio-fuels? Algae can grow anywhere, practically anywhere. They can grow in sea-water or salty water or adulterated water or even in sewage. They can bear extreme temperature. They can grow on waste-land. Another good thing about algae is they multiply very fast. They can double their weight many times in a single day. Algae produce oil as a byproduct of photosynthesis. They can produce fifteen times more oil per acre than other plants such as corn and switchgrass.

If we want to single out the biggest two advantages of algae as bio-fuels, the first one can be these plants grow well where carbon dioxide is in excess and another is these plants can grow in sewages.

“We have to prove these two things to show that we really are getting a free lunch,” said Lisa Colosi, a professor of civil and environmental engineering who is part of an interdisciplinary University of Virginia research team, recently funded by a new U.Va. Collaborative Sustainable Energy Seed Grant worth about $30,000.

If we let the algae grow naturally then the oil yield will be low, around one percent by the weight of the algae. The U.Va. team theorizes that if more carbon dioxide and organic material would be available to the algae, oil yield can be increased to as much as 40 percent by weight.

Keeping in mind the quality of algae that it grows well on industrial solids and where carbon dioxide is available in excess, it can be helpful in dealing with industrial solids. Cleaning industrial solids is very expensive otherwise. Algae can also be used to minimize the emissions of carbon dioxide of coal plants.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Highest Solar Cell Efficiency in UNSW Australia

The UNSW ARC Photovoltaic Centre of Excellence already held the world record of 24.7 per cent for silicon solar cell efficiency. Now a revision of the international standard by which solar cells are measured, has delivered the significant 25 per cent record to the team led by Professors Martin Green and Stuart Wenham and widened their lead on the rest of the world.

Centre Executive Research Director, Scientia Professor Martin Green, said the new world mark in converting incident sunlight into electricity was one of six new world records claimed by UNSW for its silicon solar technologies.

Professor Green said the jump in performance leading to the milestone resulted from new knowledge about the composition of sunlight. Since the weights of the colours in sunlight change during the day, solar cells are measured under a standard colour spectrum defined under typical operational meteorological conditions
"Improvements in understanding atmospheric effects upon the colour content of sunlight led to a revision of the standard spectrum in April. The new spectrum has a higher energy content both down the blue end of the spectrum and at the opposite red end with, dare I say it, relatively less green."

The recalibration of the international standard, done by the International Electrochemical Commission in April, gave the biggest boost to UNSW technology while the measured efficiency of others made lesser gains. UNSW's world-leading silicon cell is now six per cent more efficient than the next-best technology, Professor Green said. The new record also inches the UNSW team closer to the 29 per cent theoretical maximum efficiency possible for first-generation silicon photovoltaic cells.

Dr Anita Ho-Baillie, who heads the Centre's high efficiency cell research effort, said the UNSW technology benefited greatly from the new spectrum "because our cells push the boundaries of response into the extremities of the spectrum".

"Blue light is absorbed strongly, very close to the cell surface where we go to great pains to make sure it is not wasted. Just the opposite, the red light is only weakly absorbed and we have to use special design features to trap it into the cell," she said.
Professor Green said: "These light-trapping features make our cells act as if they were much thicker than they are. This already has had an important spin-off in allowing us to work with CSG Solar to develop commercial 'thin-film' silicon-on-glass solar cells that are over 100 times thinner than conventional silicon cells."

ARC Centre Director, Professor Stuart Wenham said the focus of the Centre is now improving mainstream production. "Our main efforts now are focussed on getting these efficiency improvements into commercial production," he said. "Production compatible versions of our high efficiency technology are being introduced into production as we speak."

The world-record holding cell was fabricated by former Centre researchers, Dr Jianhua Zhao and Dr Aihua Wang, who have since left the Centre to establish China Sunergy, one of the world's largest photovoltaic manufacturers. "China was the largest manufacturer of solar cells internationally in 2007 with 70 per cent of the output from companies with our former UNSW students either Chief Executive Officers or Chief Technical Officers", said Professor Green

Friday, October 24, 2008

Nobody escapes a recession

The “climate change industry” refers to a relatively new batch of firms, such as CDM developers, energy efficiency equipment providers and sustainability consultants, who are providing products and services linked to climate change. Nobody escapes a recession. To make the right business decisions we need to take on board the reality of what is happening in the global economy. In 2008 and 2009 developed economies will experience flat or negative growth.

Forecasts for the UK are for a 1% fall in GDP in 2009 and a 1% increase in 2010. The crisis in the banking sector will take two years to fix as banks deleverage and rebuild capital. Investors have had their fingers charred to the bone and will dodge high-risk ventures. Corporate profitability is declining and the number of bankruptices is on the increase. The worst affected sectors are property, financial services and consumer markets.The bad news for the low-carbon sector is that nobody escapes a recession.

Negatives for the sector will be driven by: - CFOs who block discretionary spend on corporate social responsibility, the purchase of voluntary offsets for “climate neutrality” programmes and capital expenditure – for energy efficiency equipment such as new Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems.- CEOs who postpone climate-change strategy development. For many CEOs, climate change is not a short-term risk and is heavily outweighed by immediate concerns over topline growth and rolling over debt financing. Detailed climate-change strategy reviews will be postponed, according to the practice leaders of management consulting firms. - Investors who flee high-risk propositions. Fear and risk aversion will deter large investments in niche, risky markets such as Clean Development Mechanism projects.

Analysis indicates that shrinking investor appetitite will hit marginal renewable energy opportunities, such as offshore wind.- Policymakers, expected to water down legislation. Negotiations on the EU’s Climate and Energy package – which are essential for the carbon credit development sector – now take place against the backdrop of recession. Environment ministers from countries like Poland and Italy have already won concessions to reduce the costs of climate-change legislation for their industries.Slower growth for 2009.

The ripple effects from the financial crisis will hit the climate-change sector. Firms with unproven business models, slim profit margins or the need for additional equity or debt funding are likely to shut down or get acquired. Despite the turmoil, Verdantix’s analysis suggests that positive drivers for the climate change sector in 2009 include:- Support by compliance requirements. During the boom years, politicians convinced voters of the need to combat climate change. The Kyoto Protocol, the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme, California’s AB 32 legislation and Australia’s Garnaut Review proposals will drive demand for carbon credit development, consulting advice on compliance and government lobbying. - Alignment with cost-saving opportunities.

Corporate climate-change strategies dovetail with energy-efficiency programs. The majority of new ventures in carbon markets, like CDM developers and cleantech, rely on already-committed equity financing. The sector will not have the debt plug pulled on its growth. But funding will be harder to find. CDM developers may turn to local sources of finance, such as the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. Roaring back to life in 2010Based on the most recent forecasts from government agencies, the earliest we expect GDP growth of developed economies to return to trend growth is in 2011. Verdantix analysis suggests that after slower growth in 2009, the climate-change sector will roar back to life in 2010 due to:- Reduced policy uncertainty. By mid-2010 executives and investors will have answers to today’s unresolved questions, such as: What will be the climate change policy of the new US president? When will the new US president engage in cap-and-trade legislation? What will the EU’s Climate and Energy package look like? What agreements will the UNFCCC Copenhagen negotiations in December 2009 bring?- Proven benefits of climate-change strategy.

The competition today between Siemens and GE to sell “environmental products” such as hybrid locomotives and plug-in vehicles will deliver proven benefits for smaller peers to imitate by 2010 – five years after GE started its ecomagination programme.- Financial bite from climate-change regulations. Many policies follow the example set by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme: start the regime with a low cost learning phase spanning two to three years then impose increasing costs that force organisations to begin their transition to a low-carbon model. The EU ETS is already starting to bite power generators in 2008.

With every year that goes by, the short-term financial impact of climate-change policy targets increases. This spurs spending on a wide range of climate-change products and services, from clean-tech equipment to technology services and management consulting. - Investors seeking a new investment theme. After struggling to raise new funds in 2008 and 2009, survivors in the clean-tech sector will be well positioned, with a few customers and strong financial management to seek initial public offerings, raise more equity capital or debt finance.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

U.K's Department of Energy and Climate Change

The UK government has announced the creation of a Department of Energy and Climate Change. The move, which has for the first time forged an arm of government explicitly uniting climate and energy, has been welcomed by the renewables industry and the environmental movement. The new government arm, which is to be headed by Ed Miliband, will assume responsibility for areas which had previously been covered across two departments - the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Department of Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) - in a move which is hoped will provide more direction and focus to the pressing issues of both security of energy supply and climate change.

"The industry believes that forming a department which tackles climate change and energy supply at the same time, is the right way forward if the UK is to deliver on the 2020 renewable energy targets. This is an example of joined up thinking we have been calling for, which should make a difference both in terms of reducing UK’s carbon emissions, and ensuring a sustainable and affordable energy future," Adam Bruce, the British Wind Energy Association’s (BWEA) chairman said.

This sentiment was echoed by the Renewable Energy Association. Director general of the organization Philip Wolfe pointed out that the new minister "has his work cut out in setting new policies to meet the demanding targets for energy being adopted Europe-wide."

Wolfe added, "In particular we look forward to measures for renewable heat, which can be included in the renewable energy tariff being considered in the current Energy Bill. He also needs to overcome obstacles delaying renewable technologies like wind, bioenergy and marine renewables, and to adopt a more robust approach to renewable transport fuels and decentralized energy technologies like solar energy and heat pumps."

Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said, "For the last ten years this government has dithered on climate change, offering us inspiring rhetoric but little in the way of real action." However he added, "Bringing energy and climate together at last reflects the urgency of the threat we face from climate change."

Anthony Hobley, head of Climate Change and Carbon Finance, at law firm Norton Rose LLP observed, "The creation of this powerful body, and the appointment of Ed Miliband to head it, signal to us that climate change, clean energy & energy security are indeed at the top of the government's political agenda. Does this augur a clearer, more unified UK strategy on the associated issues of carbon trading, biofuels, renewables and carbon capture and storage? Our clients who invest in these markets will draw solace in these credit-starved days from improved regulatory certainty"

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