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In the headlines: UN Secretary-General urges leaders to attend Climate Summit and California’s grid sets new solar energy records

17 March 2014
In the headlines: UN Secretary-General urges leaders to attend Climate Summit and California’s grid sets new solar energy records

Clean Revolution news stories you may have missed:


Shell warns global climate deal will affect profits
Oil and gas giant Royal Dutch Shell says tougher climate regulations are likely to affect the company’s profitability in the future. Its financial report for 2013 warns shareholders the company need to explore “economically viable” and “publicly acceptable” ways to reduce its carbon emissions, or face a downturn in business. “Continued attention to climate change, including activities by non-governmental and political organisations, is likely to lead to additional regulations designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” the report says. Earlier this year Shell revealed annual profits fell to $16.75bn (£10.05bn), from $27bn in 2012. Capital expenditure for 2014 is set to be $9 billion lower than 2013. Responding to Climate Change, March 13

The climate-change agenda heats up
For many people around the world this year, the weather has become anything but a topic for small talk. Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, America’s record-breaking freeze, California’s year-long drought, and flooding in Europe have put the long-term dangers of climate change back on the political agenda. In response, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has sent an urgent letter to government, business, civil society, and finance leaders, urging them to attend a special Climate Summit in New York in September. The event will be the first time that world leaders have met to discuss global warming since the UN’s fateful Copenhagen climate-change summit in 2009. Amid high expectations – and subsequent recriminations – that meeting failed to achieve a comprehensive, legally-binding agreement to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. So, at September’s summit, leaders will be asked to re-boot the diplomatic process. The goal is a new agreement in 2015 to prevent average global temperatures from rising by two degrees Celsius, the level that the international community has deemed “dangerous” to human society. Eco Business, March 12

Asia – Pacific

Economists back carbon pricing as effective tool against climate change
Three of Australia's senior economists have backed carbon pricing as the most effective way to reduce carbon emissions. One, former Reserve Bank governor Bernie Fraser, also said the Abbott government was working in the short-term interests of business and not the long-term interests of the public in its policies on climate change. Mr Fraser, in an address to the National Press Club, expressed surprise at the ''brazenness and scale'' of the campaign waged by the government and big business against the carbon and mining taxes. The speech follows comments this week by former Treasury secretary Ken Henry and economist Ross Garnaut attacking the economic credentials of the government's direct action policy. The Sunday Morning Herald, March 14

Coping with climate change: Pakistanis taking individual actions, new study reveals
Pakistanis are second only to the Chinese among seven Asian countries that have taken ample action at community and individual levels to respond to climate change, according to a new comprehensive study on climate change perceptions and responses in Asia. In Pakistan’s case, according to the study, these community and individual efforts to combat climate threats are taking place despite lack of government support, low levels of confidence in government interventions, and lack of information on climate change. Around two-thirds of Pakistani respondents for BBC Media Action’s “Climate Asia” report indicated they have made some changes in livelihood or lifestyle that could be directly attributed to climate-related issues. The Express Tribune, March 13


Chinese Cadres Told Going Green Rivals GDP to Rise in Party.
Chinese cadres at the first legislative meeting with Xi Jinping as President are grappling with new performance metrics that will determine how they get ahead in the Communist Party. For decades, the solution for local officials was to promote economic growth rates that exceeded national targets, and to bring in revenue as land was sold to developers. Now, aspiring leaders are being judged on an array of issues including how they tackle the environment and improve people’s lives. Eastern Shandong province is adding air quality to the criteria used to evaluate party cadres this year, and northwestern Gansu province is revising its assessment system to reduce the focus on economic expansion. The changes under Xi are designed to ensure social stability isn’t threatened by surging criticism of smog-choked cities that are a byproduct of China’s ascent to become the world’s second-largest economy. Bloomberg, March 13

China needs tough measures to fight pollution: Premier
China needs both tough measures and tough regulations to fight pollution, Premier Li Keqiang said Thursday.Li made the remarks at a press conference shortly after the conclusion of this year's parliamentary session. Polluters, which harm both nature and human health, will be severely punished, said Li, when responding to a question about smog that frequently blanketed Beijing and some other major cities since winter. Watchdogs which turn a blind eye to polluting activities and fail to perform their duties will be held accountable, Li added. To declare a war on smog doesn't mean we are declaring a war on nature. Rather, we are going to declare a war on our own inefficient and unsustainable model of growth and way of life," he said., March 13


Recent European Solar Announcements Are Good News for the Solar Industry
To say that the European solar manufacturing industry has suffered some setbacks over the past few years would be an understatement. A glut of Chinese-made panels flooded the market in 2010, driving solar module prices to record lows and driving dozens of European and North American solar PV manufacturers out of business. A trade war between the U.S. and China and then the EU and China ensued with SolarWorld, a leading European crystalline PV module manufacturer, spearheading the cause. Despite all of its efforts, however, last year SolarWorld AG announced that it was having financial difficulties and would be restructuring its operations. Today, however, the outlook for that same European solar manufacturer is much brighter. Last month SolarWorld AG, announced that it was on solid financial footing after completing a financial restructuring. SolarWorld said that it expects to see higher sales this year and a return to operating profit in 2015. The company also announced that it is targeting a sales goal of EU €1 Billion by 2016., March 12

Emissions Pioneer Losing Clout as EU Ban Looms: Carbon & Climate.
Thirteen years after the United Nations set up the first carbon emissions market, the global trading system’s influence is waning as it gives way to local and regional plans to combat climate change. Fewer markets are accepting UN Certified Emissions Reductions, credits created from investment in carbon-reduction programs, as nations from China to California adopt their own standards. In Europe’s $54 billion market, where lawmakers are tackling a record glut, utilities and manufacturers from EON SE to ThyssenKrupp AG may reach the limit on the CERs they can use by March 2015, data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance show. The slide in demand for UN credits is hurting the worldwide effort agreed at Kyoto in 1997 to keep increases in temperatures, blamed for floods, droughts and rising sea levels, to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial times. There’s no global alternative to the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism that’s plowed $315 billion into projects from Brazilian wind parks to Cambodian hydropower. Bloomberg, March 11


Election Frontrunner Signals Solar Revolution for India Power Market
Narendra Modi hasn’t said much about how he’d govern India if he wins the general election in May. One thing is clear: he’s signalling a clean energy revolution to end blackouts and revive economic growth. The election frontrunner pioneered India’s first incentives for large-scale solar power in 2009 in sun-baked Gujarat province a year before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh backed the technology. Modi also shook up utilities, giving his state uninterrupted electricity supplies, a rarity in India. India for years has sought to modernize its ramshackle utilities and end power shortages that cripple industry. Swooping in by helicopter to open India’s biggest photovoltaic plant, Modi called for more environment-friendly ways to power the economy. The solar program in his home state lured investment from Essar Group controlled by the billionaire brothers Shashikant and Ravikant Ruia, and SunEdison Inc., backed by New York-based BlackRock Inc., March 13

EDF plants solor flag in India
French developer EDF Energies Nouvelles is commissioning the 30MW Khilchipur solar project in India. The facility in Madhya Pradesh is the developer’s first PV installation in the country and five further PV projects totalling 120MW are under development in Rajasthan. EDF won the quintet in a call for tenders by the Indian government and the schemes are all due to be commissioned during 2015. Work is being led by ACME Solar Energy Private Limited, in which EDF Energies Nouvelles has a 25% interest. RE News, March 13

North America

Can Kemper become the first US power plant to use 'clean coal'?
A $5bn facility to capture carbon and pump it underground could provide a lifeline for the dirtiest of fossil fuels, but many remain unconvinced. The massive block of steel towers and pipes rises out of the morning fog like a sci-fi fantasy. But this coal-fired power plant could help save the climate, or at least that's the hope of the Obama administration. The plant in east-central Mississippi was repeatedly invoked by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to justify sweeping new climate change rules. When it comes online later this year, Kemper will be the first power plant in the US capable of capturing and storing carbon dioxide emissions. The EPA says the Kemper County Energy Facility offers a real-life example that it is possible to go on burning the dirtiest of fossil fuels and still make the cuts in carbon dioxide emissions needed to avoid a climate catastrophe. But with staggering costs – $5bn (£3bn) and rising – and pushback from industry and environmental groups who say carbon capture is an unproven technology, now even the company that built Kemper is having second thoughts about the future of "clean coal". The Guardian, March 12

California’s Grid Sets Two New Solar Energy Records in Two Days
America’s solar energy leader is at it once again – California set two new records for solar power supply across the state grid over the span of two days last week. Solar energy provided a record 3.9 gigawatts (GW) of electricity on March 7th, then bested that mark with 4.1GW on March 8th, according to the California ISO – enough to power about 3 million homes or 18% of overall power demand. These numbers mean California has more than doubled the amount of solar energy flowing onto the grid in less than a year, when it set a then-record 2GW in June 2013. Clean Technica, March 13


Budget 2014 - Stand by your Mechanism George
RenewableUK's Maria McCaffery warns any freeze of the carbon price floor would hit clean energy investment. When the Chancellor George Osborne makes his Budget speech next week, the renewable energy sector will be listening carefully for a number of announcements which will determine our direction of travel in the years ahead. In particular, RenewableUK has been calling for the Government to stand by its own mechanism and not to freeze the Carbon Price Floor (CPF) in the years ahead. The CPF, announced by Mr Osborne in his 2011 Budget and introduced in April 2013, was supposed to stimulate investment in renewables, by setting a tax on fossil fuels used to generate electricity. The level of the CPF had been due to increase gradually over the years, upping the pressure on high-carbon users to switch to cleaner sources of energy. It was a straightforward example of our tax system rewarding good behaviour. Business Green, March 12

Tycoon Vincent Bolloré to back London electric car hire scheme.
A point-to-point electric car-sharing scheme has been promised for London by the billionaire tycoon behind the Paris prototype, with thousands of new vehicle-charging points to be added in London this year. The scheme, planned to start in March 2015, would allow drivers to book electric cars using smartcards and phones for short journeys between parking points in the city, based on the French Autolib' model. Vincent Bolloré, whose Bolloré group has won the contract from Transport for London (TfL) to upgrade and extend the electric charging network, said: "We believe it could be equally successful in London, offering people a convenient and low-cost form of environmentally friendly transport." The Guardian, March 12


7 lessons for successful cleantech investing
The “Blood and Gore” fund (because it was founded by Al Gore and David Blood), also known as Generation Investment Management, has been on a roll lately. The firm, founded in 2004 with $10 billion under management, funds both startups and public companies in sustainability, and has seen big exits from some of its startup bets in recent years, including smart thermostat maker Nest (sold to Google for $3.2 billion), and solar installer SolarCity (went public in late 2012). At the Cleantech Group’s forum in San Francisco on Thursday, Generation Partner Colin le Duc laid out seven guidelines that Generation has adhered to when it comes to backing cleantech startups, but also public companies., March 14

Cree adds bigger, brighter 100-watt replacements to its LED lineup
Twelve months after getting into the consumer LED game with their highly popular 60-watt replacement and just a few months after the release of a 75-watt replacement, the team at Cree is expanding its line of LEDs yet again, this time with a 100-watt replacement. The new bulb claims a light output of 1,600 lumens at an energy cost of just 18 watts, and will sell at Home Depot for $19.97. In addition, Cree is announcing price cuts on almost every bulb that it sells, including the 60-watt TW Series LED, which will now retail for $15.97, down from $19.97. CNET, March 12

9 technologies that promise to clean up the planet
Technology is often touted as the savior that will rescue us from our misbegotten ways, redeem us and put us on the track to utopia. Then there are the dystopian views, where the future is dominated by technology that either rules over us or saps us so completely of our humanity that we might as well be a bunch of gadgets ourselves. Whatever your view, there's no denying that technology has both made life better for billions of people and produced unfortunate side effects. In his book "The Infinite Resource," for example, technologist Ramez Naam argues that the green revolution was beneficial even though it created problems that still plague us today. "As is often the case," he writes, "the solutions to one problem have created new problems. But, had we not boosted yields through the green revolution, we either would have had billions starving or would have been forced to chop down the world's remaining forests to feed the world. Either of those would be a worse result than the side effects we face now." There are countless environmental challenges today — most a byproduct of something else — and it seems as if we're always looking for the next big thing to solve them. But what if we took a break from finding the next thing and focused on doing the last big thing better? Might we already have what we need to solve our greatest environmental challenges? Green Biz, March 13

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