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In the headlines: clean power from city waste in India and California reduces its emissions

21 January 2013
In the headlines: clean power from city waste in India and California reduces its emissions

Here's a global snapshot of some of the biggest clean technology, economy and policy headlines, from the week commencing January 21, 2013.

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Developers and financiers will invest $1.9 trillion building clean-energy power plants worldwide from 2012 through 2018 as demand for electricity increases, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts. Development costs for solar and wind farms and other types of renewable-energy plants will increase to $327 billion in 2018 from about $200 billion last year, according to a report posted on Pew’s website. Those figures may increase even more if governments establish national energy policies that include commitments for renewable power, Phyllis Cuttino, director of the Pew Clean Energy Program in Washington, said in a telephone interview. Bloomberg, January 17.

Soot created by the incomplete burning of fossil fuels and organic matter is the second most important man-made substance behind global warming and reducing its emission into the atmosphere could buy valuable time in tackling climate change, a major study has found. New estimates of how much soot, or “black carbon” as it is known by scientists, is released into the atmosphere show that it causes about twice as much warming as previously believed. Cutting emissions could help to cool the planet, scientists said. The Independent, January 15.


Australia could be self-sufficient in renewable energy in 10 years by converting to solar and wind energy if the country had the right social and political leadership, according to the Energy Research Institute of the University of Melbourne. In a paper published before the current catastrophic heat wave, the researchers conclude that existing proven technologies could be deployed on a large scale to show an example to the world and to wean Australia off its addiction to fossil fuels. The report, the Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan, says that if there were the political will Australia's enormous renewable potential could be harnessed and within a decade both make the country carbon-neutral and create thousands of new jobs. The Daily Climate, January 16.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) chairman Rajendra Pachauri has told media the Australia heatwave is part of a warming trend around the world and says more heatwaves are likely. “We already are getting more frequent and more intense heatwaves, and we are also going to get extreme precipitation events.” The IPCC, which is currently meeting in Hobart, warned on Tuesday that heatwaves in Australia could become six times more frequent within 30 years. 3News, January 18.


China will slash the rate of its greenhouse gas growth by 2030 but its emissions will still rise, according to the latest BP Energy Outlook report. BP predicts that as China continues to restructure its economy it will put the brakes on its growth in coal demand with the 9% rate seen in 2000-2010 0.4% in 2020-2030. This will be driven by a combination of energy efficiency improvements and the reduction of coal-intensive heavy industry in the country., January 17.

China is the leading nation in terms of global investment in protecting natural watersheds, an assessment has found. The report's authors said water insecurity was probably "the single biggest risk to the country's continued economic growth". Globally, US$8.17bn (£5.07bn) was spent in 2011 on projects to protect areas that provided drinking water and supplies, the assessment reported. The review was produced by US-based NGO Forest Trends' Ecosystems Marketplace. The assessment, State of Watershed Payments 2012, looked at initiatives that funded individuals or local communities to preserve or revive natural features, such as wetlands, streams and forests that can store and filter freshwater supplies. BBC News, January 17.


City waste is an emerging source of clean power in India. Next month a company called Ramky Enviro Engineers plans to conduct a $200 million IPO and will use the funds to build a power plant that uses municipal waste as fuel. The growing amount of waste in India can be a valuable resource. India has a population of 1.2 billion and an increasing amount of those people are living in cities. India’s cities now generate 55 million tons of solid waste and 38 billion liters of sewage per year, according to consulting firm Energy Alternatives India. Gigaom, January 16.

North America

A majority of Americans believe businesses are better suited than the government to cope with climate change, according to a survey by communications group Havas Worldwide. The study “Communities and Citizenship: Redesigned for a New World” found US consumers expect businesses to take on duties that were once the tasks of government. This is partly an issue of perceived competence, said the study, which found the majority of Americans surveyed (58 percent of Democrats and 69 percent of Republicans) think that, in general, businesses are better run than governments. Environmental Leader, January 17.

California’s greenhouse gas emissions dropped for the third straight year with power plants, cement facilities, oil refineries, general combustion sources and other facilities emitting 111 million tons of CO2e in 2011, according to numbers released by the California Air Resources Board. Emissions from electricity generation — which until 2011 had been California’s single biggest GHG source — saw the most significant reductions in 2011, falling 22 percent compared to 2010 levels, from 44.6 million tons of CO2e to 34.9 million tons of CO2e. Environmental Leader, January 15.


The UK is underestimating the amount of electricity that could be generated from tidal sources, new research says. The analysis says that estuary barrages and tidal streams could provide more than 20% of the nation's demand for electricity. Despite high costs, experts say tidal power is more reliable than wind. The predictable nature of tides makes them an ideal renewable energy source, the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A reports. But finding effective ways of utilising their latent power have proved elusive. BBC News, January 14.

UK scientists are hoping to harness the process plants use to turn sunlight into energy to produce a new highly efficient and renewable source of zero-carbon fuel. A team of researchers working at the Universities of East Anglia (UEA), Cambridge, and Leeds has confirmed it has been awarded £800,000 from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) in a move designed to accelerate its research into the highly promising technology. The project aims to artificially replicate photosynthesis and use the energy produced to generate hydrogen gas, which can then be used to power vehicles or generate electricity. BusinessGreen, January 21.

Electric Vehicles

Toyota’s 2013 Prius line dominates this year’s Greenest list, an automotive ranking by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. The Toyota Prius C, a compact version of the Prius with a 53 mpg city and 46 mpg highway efficiency, received the highest green score with 58 points. The Honda Fit electric car was ranked in the No. 2 spot. The original Prius, Prius plug-in hybrid and the Honda Civic hybrid rounded out the vehicles with the five highest green scores. Environmental Leader, January 17.

LED Lighting

According to Japan-based Toshiba Lightech, Japan's LED lighting market is expected to account for around 40% of the global LED lighting market from 2012-2013 with penetration rate expected to exceed the global penetration rate. In addition, Toshiba Lightech estimates the CAGR of the global LED lighting market from 2010-2020 to reach 31% due to rapid decreases in price and market growth in Europe, the US, and China. DigiTimes, January 17.

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