Friday, December 24, 2010

From Copenhagen to Cancun


The December 11 closure of the 16th Conference of the Parties--the COP16 global climate summit--in Cancun in Mexico was portrayed by most participants and mainstream journalists as a victory, a "step forward." U.S. State Department lead negotiator Todd Stern expressed his opinion; "Ideas that were first of all skeletal last year, and not approved, are now approved and elaborated."

Yes.....the Cancun agreements were 'approved' to great celebration from the international community.

The positive reaction is based on reaching an international consensus (though Bolivia dissented) and establishing instruments to manage the climate crisis. Cancun’s defenders argue that the last-hours agreements include acknowledgements that emissions cuts must keep world temperature increases below 2°C, with consideration to be given to lowering the target to 1.5°C.

Negotiators also endorsed greater transparency about emissions, a Green Climate Fund led by the World Bank, introduction of forest-related investments, transfers of technology for renewable energy, capacity building and a strategy for reaching legally binding protocols in future. According to UN climate official Christiana Figueres, formerly a leading carbon trader, "Cancun has done its job. Nations have shown they can work together under a common roof, to reach consensus on a common cause."

Bolivian opposition

Bolivia's President Evo Morales complained, "It's easy for people in an air-conditioned room to continue with the policies of destruction of Mother Earth. We need instead to put ourselves in the shoes of families in Bolivia and worldwide who lack water and food, and suffer misery and hunger. People here in CancĂșn have no idea what it is like to be a victim of climate change."
For Bolivia's UN ambassador Pablo Solon, Cancun "does not represent a step forward, it is a step backwards," because the nonbinding commitments made to reduce emissions by around 15 percent by 2020 simply cannot stabilize temperature at the "level which is sustainable for human life and the life of the planet."

Even greater anger was expressed by civil society activists, including by Meena Raman of the Malaysia-based Third World Network: "The mitigation paradigm has changed from one which is legally binding--the Kyoto Protocol, with an aggregate target which is system-based, science-based--to one which is voluntary, a pledge-and-review system."

But look soberly at what was needed to reverse current warming and what was actually delivered. Negotiators in Cancun’s luxury Moon Palace hotel complex failed by any reasonable measure.

More protests

As El Salvadoran Friends of the Earth leader Ricardo Navarro lamented, "What is being discussed at the Moon does not reflect what happens on Earth”

Most specialists agree that even if the un-ambitious Copenhagen and Cancun promises are kept, the result will be a cataclysmic 4-5°C rise in world temperature over this century, and if they are not, 7°C is likely. Even with a rise of 2°C, scientists generally agree that small islands will sink, Andean and Himalayan glaciers will melt, coastal areas--such as much of Bangladesh and many port cities--will drown, and Africa will dry out, or in some places flood, so much that nine of 10 peasants will not survive.

The politicians and officials have been warned of this often enough by climate scientists, but are beholden to powerful business interests that have lined up to either promote climate denialism, or to generate national-versus-national negotiating blocs destined to fail in their race to gain most emission rights. As a result, in spite of a band-aid set of agreements, the distance between negotiators and the masses of people and the planet grew larger, not smaller, over the last two weeks.

An illusory deal

A report by the Climate Vulnerable Forum, in December 2010 noted that already 350,000 people die from natural disasters related to climate change and that this figure is likely to rise to one million people every year if we don't radically change course. Bolivia was not an obstacle to progress, it was rather the only nation daring enough to tell the truth. Rather than less Bolivias, we need more willing to stand up and say that the agreement was 'naked' and unacceptable. Perhaps if more nations – especially major emerging economies like India and Brazil - had said they would not accept an illusory deal, it could have shocked the world into moving beyond cautious approaches and acting radically for humanity and the planet.

By contrast, the Cancun agreement effectively kills off the Kyoto Protocol and replaces it with a pledge system of voluntary commitments. Not only does this lead to countries only offering what they plan to do anyway, ignoring what science demands; there is absolutely no possibility of legal penalties if a country fails to fulfil its commitments. It is an ineffective and highly dangerous way of tackling one of the biggest crises humanity has faced.

..And finally what Cancun text says

Document effectively kills of the only binding agreement, Kyoto Protocol, in favour of a completely inadequate bottom-up voluntary approach.

Increases loopholes and flexibilities that allow developed countries to avoid action, via an expansion of offsets and continued existence of ‘surplus allowances’ of carbon after 2012 by countries like Ukraine and Russia which effectively cancel out any other reductions.

Finance Commitments weakened: commitment to “provide new and additional financial resources” to developing countries have been diluted to talking more vaguely about “mobilising [resources] jointly”, with expectation that this will mainly be provided by carbon markets.

No discussion of Intellectual Property rights, repeatedly raised by many countries, as current rules obstruct transfer of key climate-related technologies to developing countries.

Constant assumption in favour of market mechanisms to resolve climate change even though this perspective is not shared by a number of countries, particularly in Latin America.
Green light given for the controversial REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) programme which often ends up perversely rewarding those responsible for deforestation, while dispossessing indigenous and forest dwellers of their land.

Systematic exclusion of proposals that came from the historic World Peoples' Conference on Climate Change including proposals for a Climate Justice Tribunal, full recognition of indigenous rights, and rights for nature.

Bolivia's indefatigable negotiator, Pablo Solon, put it most cogently in the concluding plenary, when he said that the only way to assess whether the agreement had any 'clothes' was to see if it included firm commitments to reduce emissions and whether it was enough to prevent catastrophic climate change.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Power Generating Mushrooms of South India


“It is just like a plantation of mushrooms generating energy everywhere!! Amazing to see the ability of local entrepreneurs to repair and maintain the wind turbines of different capacities in Tamilnadu State of India”

Those were the words from Mr. Matthew Matimbwi, the Renewable Energy Engineer from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He was making his programme evaluation remarks during our third phase of the International Training on Wind Power Development and Use in India conducted by the LIFE Academy, Sweden. Earlier we were brought to the Muppandal Wind Farm site in Kanyakumari District of Tamilnadu State for study visits; thanks to Bo Gillgren and Tommy Mansson from LIFE Academy for giving us the opportunity to explore as a team of professionals from different parts of the world.

Mathew’s view was very much right; It is just like a huge plantation of Wind Turbine Mushrooms generating tremendous amount of energy. “Muppandal Wind Farm” in Kanyakumari District of Tamilnadu is the largest Wind Farms in Asia. According to Dr. Joshua Earnest, the installation of Muppandal is next only to the cluster of Wind Turbines installed at the Altamont pass in California. Dr. Joshua, who was our chief faculty during the training, is currently the Professor & Head of the Department of Electrical & Electronics Engineering, National Institute of Technical Teachers’ Training and Research, Bhopal, India.

Muppandal Wind Country

The book titled “Wind Power Plants and Project Development”, jointly authored by Dr. Joshua Earnest and Tore Wizelinius, describes Muppandal Wind Farm as the “Muppandal Wind Country”. Excerpts from the book:

“Muppandal is the key places which go down into the annals of wind power history not only India, but also the world. This is one of the windiest parts of India. The steady flow of wind to these Wind Power Plants is made possible because the Muppandal Wind Farm is situated on a mountain pass in Western Ghats, through which wind is canalised throughout the year. The average wind velocity in this area is about 12 m/s, which is extremely good for wind power generation. The first Wind Farm with 10 Wind Turbine of 55 kW each was installed at Mullakkadu in 1986 and the first private sector Wind Farm was set up in 1990 with two wind turbines of 250 kW each at Muppandal. And more and more wind power have been installed during the years. This is next only to the cluster of Wind Power Plants installed at California in the U.S.A. Today Muppandal is a permanent large exhibition ground spanning several square kilometres, attracting not only the wind farm developers, but also tourists, researchers and everyone interested in seeing different types of wind turbines at a single location"
Present status of Wind Generation in Tamilnadu
According to the Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency (TEDA), the nodal agency for the promoting renewable energy sector, the State has 5,055 MW of wind generation capacity now with private investors accounting for about 5,038 MW. About 17 MW is with the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board and TEDA.

During the current year, Government estimates indicate that over 645 MW of wind turbines will be added.

In addition, the State is a hub of wind turbine manufacturers with most of the leading global players setting up manufacturing facilities.

They are Suzlon, Vestas, Gamesa, Enercon, RRB Energy, Shriram Leitner, Regen Power … and a bunch of local players many of them based in the engineering hub of Coimbatore which churn out small aero generators of kilowatt capacity.

Together there is a wind turbine manufacturing capability covering a range from 25 KW to 2 MW, say the officials. At current levels of capacity, the industry has actually fully exploited the levels of wind power capacity that had been initially estimated. The potential assessed was then 5,374 MW, they say. But over the years developments in technology, larger size and more efficient turbines have contributed to increasing the potential in this sector which is now grown multi-fold.

Apart from the Government support through the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, the supportive approach of the State Government and the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board in offering an attractive tariff of Rs 3.39 a unit, and facilities for banking and wheeling and scaling up evacuation infrastructure have helped catalyse investments in this sector. The TNEB is in the process of setting up five 400 kv substations and three 230 KV substations that would address the bottlenecks in evacuation of wind power, says officials.

Background of the Wind Power Development in Tamilnadu

Wind has considerable potential as a global clean energy source being both widely available, though diffuse, and producing no pollution during power generation, Tamil Nadu is endowed with three lengthy mountain ranges on the Western side with potential of 1650 MW in palghat pass in Coimbatore District, 1300 MW in Shengottai pass in Tirunelveli District and 2100 MW in Arelvaymozhi pass in Kanniyakumari District and 450 MW in other areas totalling 5500 MW. We must see that the total achievement in India is 12009 MW.

There are 41 Wind potential sites in 8 Districts in the State, declared by MNRE, as suitable for Wind Power projects based on the Wind assessment studies carried out by TEDA with the funding assistance of MNRE and the State Government. Wind farms have so far been set up in 26 sites of the above, almost entirely by the private sector, except for 19 MW of Demonstration Wind farms in 8 locations set up during 1986 to 1993, jointly by TEDA and TNEB, but now run and maintained by TNEB.

A package of incentives which includes fiscal concessions, custom duty, excise duty exemption and 10 year tax holiday are available for Wind Power projects from Govt. of India. Intra State open access regulations have been notified and preferential tariff orders issued for Wind Power Projects in Tamil Nadu by the Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission (TNERC). As per the revised tariff orders issued in May 2006, the rate is Rs.2.75 per unit for the projects for which agreements had already been signed and Rs.2.90 per unit where the agreements are to be signed. The wheeling and banking charges remain unchanged at 5% each.
This amazing success story is a very good case study for all entreprenuers in the world who would like to invest in wind power. It is the result of the hard work of thousand of engineers, technicians, policy makers, project managers and above all the political will of the Government and its people.

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