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In the headlines: 14 stories you may have missed

20 August 2012
In the headlines: 14 stories you may have missed

Here's a global snapshot of some of the biggest clean technology, economy and policy headlines, from the week commencing August 20, 2012.


Australia's opposition Liberal party climate spokesman Greg Hunt on Thursday gave his "in principle" backing to signing up for a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, making it easier for the under-fire government to sign the U.N. climate treaty. Hunt told The Age newspaper that the opposition coalition's intention is to join a new Kyoto period, although a final decision would depend on the exact terms. "What the world really needs is to bring China and India and Indonesia on board, to bring Russia and Brazil on board. I think it will be easier to strike a 2016 agreement to commence in 2020, if there is a Kyoto 2," Hunt said, according to The Age. Reuters, August 16.

A taskforce comprising trade unions and manufacturers has cited the carbon price as adding to the pressures on the struggling industry sector in a report to government containing more than 40 recommendations, sources say. The report by the manufacturing taskforce, a tripartite body established last year by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, is believed to recommend a raft of measures ranging from creating a sovereign wealth fund, buying more Australian-made cars and giving tax breaks, to bolstering the export potential of the local food industry. Ms Gillard established the taskforce to explore ways to help the manufacturing sector, which has been suffering from the pressures of the high dollar, high labour costs and other pressures of the mining boom. The Age, August 16.


China connected 50.26 gigawatts of wind-generated capacity to the nation’s largest electricity grid as of this year, the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing a statement from China State Grid Corp. Growth in the on-grid wind power capacity was up 87 percent annually over the last six years, Xinhua reported, citing the larger of China’s two transmission operators. Grid-linked capacity will rise to 100 gigawatts by 2015 and 200 gigawatts by 2020, according to the report. Bloomberg, August 16. Read our story, China enters a new clean energy growth era as wind power soars.

China's plan to rapidly expand large coal mines and power plants in its arid northern and western provinces threatens to drain precious water supply and could trigger a severe water crisis, a report by Greenpeace said on Tuesday. China intends to boost coal production in provinces including Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, Shaanxi and Ningxia, with output in those areas expected to reach 2.2bn tonnes, or 56% of the country's forecast production of 3.9bn tonnes, by 2015. As part of the country's major overhaul of its power generation strategy, Beijing also plans to build 16 large coal-fired power stations in those provinces by 2015. Total installed capacity for the plants is expected to exceed 600GW. The Guardian, August 15.


Irish wind-farm operators will need to spend another €5bn or so in capital investment and construct an additional 3-3.5 gigawatts of onshore wind power if Ireland is to meet its 2020 EU climate change targets, according to a new report. Ireland has a current target of sourcing 40% of its total annual energy and electricity needs from renewable sources, such as wind and solar, by 2020. Recent data from national electricity grid operator, Eirgrid said that renewable sources accounted for 17% of total energy provision on the island of Ireland last year; up by around 3% on the previous year. However, a new in-depth study by Davy Stockbrokers suggests that significant further investment in onshore wind-farm infrastructure is needed for that percentage to grow to the desired 40% mark within the next eight years. Irish Examiner, August 17.


Emerging economies in Asia, including India and the Philippines are among the top ten countries which face the greatest financial risk from natural disasters, a new study has claimed. An analysis of 197 countries by a British risk consultancy Maplecroft ranked India fifth in the Natural Hazards Relative Economic Exposure Index, adding that it is at risk as huge areas in the country are undergoing sustained drought, which is having a significant impact on agricultural outputs. The Economic Times, August 15.

An influential advisory panel slashed its estimate on India's economic growth for this fiscal year as a weak industry and global uncertainties hurt domestic growth, and urged the government to stick to the fiscal-deficit target that would allow more space to the central bank to ease monetary policy. The Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council cut its forecast on economic expansion to 6.7% from its February projection of 7.6%, which was the same as the government's estimate for the current fiscal year through next March. The sharp cut reflects the worrying slowdown in Asia's third-largest economy as a tight monetary policy battered local industrial activity while a slowdown in the euro zone and the U.S. damped demand for Indian exports. Asia's third-largest economy grew 6.5% in the last fiscal year, the weakest pace in nearly a decade. Wall Street Journal, August 17.

North America

The US wind energy industry is now providing enough capacity to power 13 million homes, equivalent to all of Nevada, Colorado, Wisconsin, Virginia, Alabama, and Connecticut combined. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) used the annual National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas to confirm that the sector had passed the 50GW installed capacity milestone after yet another quarter of rapid growth. The trade body said the 50GW of capacity was equivalent to the generating power of 44 coal-fired power stations or 11 nuclear power plants, resulting in emission reductions that would equate to taking 14 million cars off the road. According to AWEA, over 2.8GW of capacity has now been added during the year to date, while total US wind energy capacity has doubled since 2008. The Guardian, August 13. Read our story, US wind industry passes 50GW milestone.

Mitt Romney’s successor in Massachusetts is quietly taking steps to stimulate massive investment in wind farms across New England. Late last month, Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick proposed the country's first regional bidding process for renewable installations, called the regional Request for Proposals (RFP). The other five New England states agreed to sign on to the plan. The program is intended to make wind power decisively cheaper and could become a model for other U.S. regions. Starting in late 2013, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont will together solicit proposals from developers of utility-scale wind and other clean power projects. By doing so, the states will attract a larger pool of projects than they would on their own, producing more competitive prices. Inside Climate News, August 14.


Munich Re, the world's largest reinsurer, has acquired three wind parks in Britain as part of a €2.5bn (£2bn) investment in renewable energies. The three wind parks - in Wales and the regions around Manchester and Lincoln - represent a total capacity of 102 Megawatts and an investment of up to €300m, Munich Re said in a statement. The reinsurer has already invested €600m in renewable sources of energy in Europe since 2011, AFP reports. The business daily Handelsblatt reported in its Monday edition that Munich Re and fellow insurance giant Allianz were in talks with the German government about investing in offshore wind parks in the North Sea. Neither company would confirm or deny the information. Daily Telegraph, August 13.

The UK Government has released three in-depth reports as part of a wide-ranging programme designed to identify where innovation is required to make key emerging clean technologies commercially viable. The latest Technology Innovation Needs Assessments (TINAs) analyse marine energy, electricity network and storage, and carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies, and conclude that significant levels of innovation are still required if the technologies are to be rolled out at scale. BusinessGreen, 16 August.

Electric vehicles

Ford Motor Co is accelerating development of its hybrid and electric vehicles by bringing the design and production of key components in-house. The No.2 U.S. automaker said it will spend $135 million to design parts for its next wave of electrified vehicles and double its battery testing capability by next year. This summer, Ford began building its own hybrid transmission. More than 1,000 Ford engineers are devoted to advanced vehicle development and Ford plans to hire more. These efforts allow Ford to complete projects more swiftly and cut overall development costs, executives said. Improving fuel economy is a cornerstone of Ford's vehicle strategy. Ford expects hybrids, plug-in hybrids and EVs will account for as much as 25 percent of its global sales by 2020. Reuters, August 16.


Baltimore expects to reap an annual savings of $1.9 million on its electric bill and $275,000 in maintenance costs as converts streetlights to LEDs. The first phase of the three-year project is about 80 percent completed, with 8,000 new lights in place, said Ted Atwood, director of Baltimore's Department of General Services. Switching the 10,000 city-owned streetlights was the first step. Next up are the lights owned by Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. The article reports mixed reactions about the new neighborhood lighting. The Baltimore Sun, August 16.

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