US and China to cut power plant emissions

» By | Published 04 Jun 2014 |

The US is arguably still the most powerful country in the world, but it has always dragged its feet on climate action.

So when the US Environmental Protection Agency announces carbon emissions cuts of 30% in the power sector by 2030 (compared to 2005 levels), the news deserves the term “historic”.

It is the first time any other US president has regulated carbon pollution from power plants. President Obama had previously tried to push climate regulation through Congress but it had been rejected, so this time he used his executive powers to bypass Congress altogether.

This is not just about disappearing polar bears and melting ice caps,” Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy said. “This is about protecting our health and protecting our homes. This is about protecting local economies and this is about protecting jobs.”

The 30% national target will be divided into individual targets for each state, and the new rules will come into force by 2020 at the latest.

It’s been a good week for the climate so far: the day after the US announcement China – which has the highest greenhouse gas emissions in the world – also made an historic announcement, saying that it would cap its total emissions by the end of this decade. The exact figure has not yet been specified.

It remains to be seen what impact these decisions will have on the UN climate negotiations which kick off this week in Bonn: EWEA will be attending the negotiations and following them closely.


Millions of workers call for climate action

» By | Published 30 May 2014 |

Last week more than 50 unions representing millions of jobs worldwide joined the Unions4Climate action network calling for a global agreement on climate change in Paris at the UN climate summit next year.

“Threats to jobs and livelihoods include the threat of climate change. For unions it is simple. There are no jobs on a dead planet,” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation.

The launch of the network coincides with alarming news from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) that greenhouse gases reached unprecedentedly high levels of concentration in the northern hemisphere in April. CO2 concentration levels surpassed 400 parts per million during the whole of the month.

“We watched governments fail the planet and their people in Copenhagen [at the UN climate summit in 2009] and the same corporate interests want to see failure in Paris,” Burrow added. Unions4climate action wants to see ambitious climate commitments from governments, saying a strong agreement would ensure green jobs. In Germany up to 400,000 new renewable energy jobs have been created in just two years, the ITUC said.

Burrow’s view chimes strongly with that of the European Wind Energy Association – wind power is already reducing carbon emissions and, as a mature energy technology, has the potential to make massive carbon cuts in the power sector as well as creating thousands of sustainable jobs.

The EWEA Annual Event 2015 is set to take place in Paris just before the UN climate summit. In addition to job creation, the event is set to be a platform for the industry to show the world’s decision makers its contribution to climate action, among the technology’s other benefits – each wind-produced kilowatt hour of electricity avoids a kWh of electricity created by power stations burning coal, gas and oil – an average of 696gCO2/kWh.

By 2020 wind power could avoid the emission of 316 million tonnes of CO2 – the equivalent to around three quarters of today’s EU car fleet’s emissions.

EWEA 2015 runs from 17 – 20 November 2015.


“Boost energy independence with higher renewables targets”, associations tell Barroso

» By | Published 16 May 2014 |

Increasing renewable energy can relieve Europe’s reliance on fossil fuel imports at volatile prices and protect it from geo-political instability like the ongoing Ukraine crisis. That is according to open letters sent to European Commission President Barroso and European Council President Van Rompuy from ten renewable energy associations including EWEA this week.

The associations point out that the EU’s dependence on energy imports cost €545 billion in 2012. Wind energy avoided €9.6 billion in fuel import costs in the same year, with all renewable energy avoiding fuel import costs of €30 billion in the EU in 2010.

The European Commission’s own figures show the impact of a more ambitious renewables target in 2030: a 30% target would avoid €260 billion more in fuel import costs and reduce gas imports three times further than the Commission’s proposed 27% target.

The ten associations call on Barroso and Van Rompuy to “remove the remaining barriers in Europe’s energy system” to fully exploit the potential of renewables and to “push more ambitious political objectives on renewable energy, so as to put Europe on track to reach a sustainable and affordable energy supply.”

The European Commission is currently working on an energy independence strategy, with the first output expected in June. As part of that work, it is organising a conference on energy security on 21 May in Brussels.

Europe’s imports 54% of its energy and each European spends over €2 per day on fossil fuel imports. That is why this year’s Global Wind Day on 15 June will also focus on energy independence – mid-June represents the moment in the year when Europe has used up its own energy and must switch to energy imports. Find out more




Price of cutting power sector emissions hits $44 trillion

» By | Published 13 May 2014 |

By Sarah Azau

Coal-fired-plantThose in favour of less fossil fuels and more renewable energy have long pointed out that delaying the shift to green power is pushing the price tag up. But the latest research from the International Energy Agency (IEA) shows this is already happening and dramatically so: the cost of decarbonising the power sector has shot up 22% – to a massive $44 trillion – in the past two years, it says.

The higher price tag is due to coal use rising faster than renewable energy use, according to the IEA.

“A radical change of course at the global level is long overdue,” IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven was quoted as saying. “Growing use of coal globally is overshadowing progress in renewable energy deployment, and the emissions intensity of the electricity system has not changed in 20 years despite some progress in some regions.”

A recent report from the UN’s international panel on climate change (IPCC) said switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy and energy efficiency measures is “affordable”: it would knock only 0.06% off expected annual economic growth rates of 1.3%-3%, without quantifying the enormous health benefits of the lower CO2 and pollution levels.

The costs given by the IEA represent what needs to be done to ensure the average temperature rise since the industrial revolution is limited to a 2 degrees Celsius rise – the recommended maximum to avoid devastating climate change impacts.

The next UN negotiations on a climate change agreement will take place in Bonn from 4-15 June. An EWEA specialist will attend to represent EWEA’s position in favour of a strong global deal working towards the replacement of fossil fuels by zero-emissions wind energy and other renewables worldwide.


80% of Brits support renewable energy

» By | Published 12 May 2014 |

By Zoë Casey

If you are a follower of the press and politics in the UK you might be forgiven for thinking that the country is against wind energy – but a new survey proves exactly the opposite. The survey – carried out by the UK government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in March 2014 – showed that 70% of respondents supported onshore wind energy, with 12% against it. Offshore wind energy received even greater levels of support – with 77% in favour and just 7% against.

For renewable energy sources in general, 80% of the public said they support the use of renewable energy to provide the UK’s electricity, fuel and heat. Moreover, six in ten people said they would be happy to have a large scale renewable energy development in their area. To compare, 29% of the public support the extraction of shale gas.

Meanwhile, the British are becoming more and more aware of the energy security and climate change risk facing the country. According to the DECC survey, “energy security and climate change are now ranked joint fourth in a list of the biggest challenges facing the UK today, up from eighth and ninth places respectively in March 2012.

Some elements of the UK’s political spectrum appear not to be aware of the high level of public support – many Conservatives have hinted that they will introduce a cap on the number of new wind farms if they are elected in the general election next year, despite onshore being the most affordable renewable energy technology.

“The debate in the UK has become overly negative,” said Thomas Becker, CEO of EWEA, in an interview with the BBC. “You could be having British wind turbines providing electricity for Britain and other parts of the EU. And you wouldn’t be so dependent on Mr Putin and the Middle East,” he was quoted as saying.

EWEA supports an EU-wide target of 30% renewable energy in the overall energy supply by 2030 as a strong means to increase energy security in Europe. The 30% target would build on the current legally-binding target of 20% renewable energy by 2020. EWEA statistics show that an ambitious 30% target would mean more green growth and jobs (investments of €25.3 billion and 795,000 jobs by 2030 in the wind sector), and lower dependency on fossil fuel imports and better energy security (€51 billion of avoided fuel costs in 2030).