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transatlantic climate bridge conference

Tuesday 27 July, 2010

I attended this event Transatlantic Climate Bridge Conference on Renewable Energy & Emission Trading organized by the German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest.  The presentations are posted here & here’s what they said in addition to what was contained on the Powerpoint.

Dr. Martin Schoepe, Head of Division, International und European Affairs of Renewable Energy German Federal Ministry for the Environment, said the European Union has decreased its greenhouse gases 30% since 1990. In 2009, Germany generated almost 10% of its energy by renewables, mostly biomass. Hydro-electric power has topped out in Germany & will grow to no more than 4% of all power generation. Germany has benefited from higher turnover, employment (300,000 jobs), exports, & investment while lowering greenhouse gases & oil imports.

Howard Learner of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, God forbid, spoke without Powerpoint, so here’s a summary of his talk. Only 30 U.S. States have renewable energy standards. He’s seeking to reach 20-25% renewable energy generation by 2025. Federal standards are critical & he recognizes public support drives political action. Costs for renewable energy are dropping. Solar power costs ½ of what it did 5 years ago & will fall by ½ in another 5 years. Illinois passed a bill assuring we will generate 600 megawatts of renewable power by 2015. Chicago is becoming a hub of renewable energy headquarters with 11 locating in the area. The U.S. feed-in tariff is complicated. Wind power installations are decelerating while solar installations are ramping up. Electric vehicles will become more important-the placement/location of power sources will be key.

Thomas Cushing said the Chicago Climate Exchange, now owned by the Intercontinental Exchange in Europe, also has offices in Montreal & China, & serves 11% of the Fortune 100, 25% of U.S. power companies, & 17% of Dow Jones companies.

Michael Mehling of the Ecologic Institute admitted Europe’s is not a market-based system & works only by command & control. He surmised our system should include not only the utility sector, but industry as well.

Sylvia Pilarsky-Grosch of the German Wind Energy Association & Jonathan Feipel of the state of Illinois pretty much read their presentations, so check those out to see what they had to say.

Q&A

  • Schoepe explained about Germany’s feed-in tariff. Its rationale is tariffs are based on costs & costs are falling every year, so the tariffs are revised after in-depth analysis every 3-4 years, 9-16%/year.
  • The U.S. Has 70-80% public acceptance of renewable energies. The problem is coal is still so much cheaper.
  • In the near future & @ all times, increasing energy efficiency helps as much as seeking out alternative renewable energy sources. CFL’s, passive house standards, audits, & energy star appliances all help.
  • Cap & trade programs better reflect costs, & are more flexible & market-oriented than implementing a carbon tax. Carbon taxes are easier to implement & are more transparent.
  • Europe shows that it’s possible to go without nuclear power. Illinois illustrates that fossil fuels are inevitable in the short term.
  • Headlines about China’s energy accumulation are dangerous & don’t reflect reality. Even the central government doesn’t have good data.
  • The economic crisis has made more supplies of carbon available, so prices have fallen.
  • Electric vehicles make sense in urban areas where charging stations will be plentiful, but not as much sense in rural communities.
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