There are no shortage of plans coming out lately that lay out the path towards a green energy future: T. Boone Pickens, Google, Al Gore and others have weighed in on the issue. Now Greenpeace is calling for an Energy (R)evolution.
Put together in collaboration with the European Renewable Energy Council , the report outlines a way in which carbon emissions will peak by 2015 and decline thereafter, with emissions being 50% below 1990 levels by 2050, thereby keeping global temperature rise below 2°C. These are the steps that would need to be taken:The text in bold comes from Energy [R]evoltion: A Sustainable World Energy Outlook; non-bolded text are my comments.
1. Phase out all subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear energy
The phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies is sure to sit well with anyone with even a tinge of green in their thinking. Nuclear energy though has more supporters, but Greenpeace explains their nuclear energy position like this:
Although nuclear power produces little carbon dioxide, there are multiple threats to people and the environment from its operations. These include the risks and environmental damage from uranium mining, processing and transport, the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation, the unsolved problem of nuclear waste and the potential hazard of serious accident. The solution to our future energy needs lies instead in greater use of renewable energy sources for both heat and power.
2. Internalize the external (social and environmental) costs of energy production through ‘cap and trade’ emissions trading
Though we may quibble about whether cap and trade or a carbon tax would be the better thing to do—and I’ll side with Jeffrey Sachs in saying that a carbon tax is probably the better route, though the two options aren’t mutually exclusive—this is something that should be applied to far more than simply energy production. The environmental externalities of all economic activity need to be internalized if we are to get any sort of handle on the conjoined problems of energy use increasing, global warming, population growth and natural resource depletion.
3. Mandate strict efficiency standards for all energy consuming appliances, buildings and vehicles
Are the only people not advocating higher fuel efficiency standards car manufacturers themselves?
4. Establish legally binding targets for renewable energy and combined heat and power generation
How these would be enforced should be carefully considered—if penalties are levied that decrease the ability of a utility to invest in renewable energy, when they’ve already failed to meet targets that might be counterproductive—but this is crucial.
5. Reform the electricity markets by guaranteeing priority access to the grid for renewable power generation
Very important, but also important is ensuring that the transmission capacity exists to move electricity from areas where it is most easily generated to where it is most needed.
6. Provide defined and stable returns for investors, for example by feed-in tariff programs
I’ll go out on a limb and say that we should have a national feed-in tariff program in the United States. Forget piecemeal net metering, feed-in tariff and other programs. It’s been shown on numerous occasions that feed-in tariffs are less expensive to administer and provide greater levels of market stability than do other renewable energy promotion schemes. In Germany its been shown that an effective feed-in tariff program spurs renewable energy deployment, with the costs being minimal on the consumer (in the range of $3 more per month for an average family).
7. Implement better labeling and disclosure mechanisms to provide more environmental product information
While most of the time we think of product labeling and consumer goods, it could also be applied to energy use. How about your electric bill containing a chart that shows exactly what source was used to generate your electricity and what sort of carbon emissions that created. Something easy to read, graphic. Cigarettes have warning labels, perhaps your electricity bill should as well.
8. Increase research and development budgets for renewable energy and energy efficiency
In times of economic hardship this may be easier said than done, but it must be done nonetheless. The costs of not doing so are too high. Remember that Nicolas Stern said back in 2006 that failing to act on climate change could cause economic hardship not seen since the Great Depression, with reductions in GDP in the range of 5-20%. You think the current round of financial turmoil is bad? Just wait until unchecked climate change and peak oil come at us.
The bulk of the report goes to detail what we should be doing and why, contains case studies and at 212 pages is frankly too long to distill down into one post. Until I get a chance to really mine the document, you can get a head start by downloading Energy [R]evoltution.
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