With the focus on Copenhagen and climate change, my coverage of the smart grid has taken a back seat. The two, however, are far from mutually exclusive. Rather, the smart grid is now being billed as a key solution to fighting climate change, on par with scaling renewable energy and creating an international carbon trading mechanism.
At the climate talks in Copenhagen, the American solar industry stepped into center ring with SEIA's report on the effects faster deployment of solar energy could have on climate change. Seizing the Solar Solution: Combating Climate Change through Accelerated Deployment (PDF) makes the case for obtaining 15 percent of our total energy needs from solar by 2020. 12 percent from electric-producing solar (both photovoltaics and concentrated solar, which uses solar thermal technology), and three percent from solar hot water energy offsets. Doing so, says SEIA, could reduce carbon emissions by 10 percent while affording nearly 900,000 new jobs. (The report is a joint publication with the solar industry associations of many other countries, and there are sections as well for Canada, the Sunbelt countries, the EU, China, India, Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand.)
Speaking yesterday at the Copenhagen climate conference, Department of Energy head Stephen Chu announced a $350 million plan to promote and deploy clean energy technologies in developing countries. Dubbed the Renewables and Efficiency Deployment Initiative (REDI), the plan is the product of the Major Economies Forum (MEF), a grouping of industrialized countries that represent more than 85 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. will contribute $85 million to the plan over five years.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer, who oversaw the 2007 climate negotiations in Bali, set a serious and ambitious tone at a pre-conference press briefing for the Copenhagen climate negotiations. Calling on all nations to adpot a “strong and long-term response to climate change,” de Boer outlined three levels in which governments must cooperate over the next two weeks. He called on nations to pursue
As we hinted at a few weeks ago, India has finally announced a national solar energy plan initially intended for public declaration on November 14. Officially known as the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission, the “Solar India” plan adopts a three-phased approach with a preliminary goal of installing 200 MW of solar energy capacity by 2012. By the year 2022, Solar India hopes to have 20,000 MW of solar thermal and photovoltaic energy up and running. According to the plan,
The future of the renewable energy industry is directly tied to the upcoming climate change negotiations at Copenhagen. If binding emission targets from big emitters are achieved, producers and installers of solar and wind technologies are looking to see a big growth in business. Although a binding international treaty appears unlikely, the heaviest emitters from both the industrialized and developing worlds (the U.S. and China, respectively) recently placed their opening bids.
President Obama is slated to speak in Copenhagen on December 9th. Many hope that his address to representatives from around the world will set a positive tone for the negotiations. For the first time in over a decade, an American administration will be proposing emission caps. According to the New York Times, the President will pledge the United States to an emissions cut "in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050."
There is no getting around it. Leadership from China and the U.S., the world’s two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs), is imperative if any sort of successful international agreement is to come out of the Copenhagen climate change negotiations. Set to begin in about two weeks, we’ll see if the two giants will step up to the plate and foster a productive process and effective outcome.