Powering Forward, by Bill Ritter, JR.

PoweringForwardAs “Powering Forward: What Every American Should Know about the Energy Revolution” becomes available for sale today, I am grateful to Bill Ritter, his team at the “Center for the New Energy Economy” (CNEE) at Colorado State University and to Fulcrum Books for providing a copy of the book for this review.

Bill Ritter Jr. knows a thing or two about the energy revolution and the sun that is setting on the fossil fuel industry. As Governor of Colorado, he turned the State into a leader in clean energy and then launched the “Center for the New Energy Economy” (CNEE) to help other states accelerate their transition to a clean-energy future.

Having hosted Gov. Ritter at the Geneva “Green and Inclusive Economy” Conference ahead of the Paris climate summit, I was familiar with his work as governor and at the CNEE including the need to address climate change, the cost of clean versus fossil energy and green jobs. All are well covered, as one would expect in such a book. But “Powering Forward” is different in that it goes much further to address the role of science and education, the need for well informed citizens for a functioning democracy and how biased and misleading media coverage has helped the climate denial industry. But his most important contribution is to shed some light on the government intervention versus the free-market myth and his attempt to turn a divisive energy debate into a consensual and bi-partisan quest for a better future.

The Myth of the Invisible Hand

For many, government intervention amounts to “corporate welfare” and invariably drives up costs for consumers. It may therefore come as a surprise that fossil fuels have been subsidized since 1916 and that American energy utilities have been run as quasi monopolies with no competition. While most will agree that governments should not pick winners or losers, thinking that energy markets are “free” is a misinformed illusion. The reality is that government still largely favours fossil fuels with obsolete policies from the carbon age that are slowing down innovation, artificially restricting consumer choice and undermining American energy security.

The Tea Party Turns Green in Georgia

A good example comes from Georgia where the Sierra Club and the local Tea Party took on the monopolistic energy structure. It did not sit well with them that people could not choose where they get their electricity from and they forced a change in law to allow customers the ability to generate their own electricity and sell it back to the grid.

Consensual and Bi-Partisan

Business as usual is no longer an option. We are at the crossroad and must now decide if we will become the victims of our future or its architects. By working together and reconciling our differences we can turn scarcity into abundance and crisis into opportunity. This is the key contribution of Powering Forward.

Powering Forward Energy Facts: 

– Scientists understood the link between CO2 and the greenhouse effect in the late 1800s

– Lyndon Johnson is the first US president to raise the climate alert in 1965

– In 2006, Colorado College warned there would be no more skiing in the state by 2050

– On windy days 60% of the electricity in Colorado comes from wind

– At $25 per megawatt hour, wind power is over 20% cheaper then natural gas

Centralized power wastes up to 2/3 of the primary energy put into the system

Americans prefer energy conservation to energy production

– 87% of Americans think the US government should act about climate change

– The US Department of Defense sees climate change as a threat multiplier

– The IMF estimates fossil fuel subsidies at nearly $2 trillion including external costs. Most of the income is received by the wealthiest according to the IEA

US fossil subsidies amount to $2,180 for each man, woman and child annually

– The true cost of coal-fired power amounts to some $0.27/kWh

6 of the top 10 solar manufacturers are Chinese

9 of the top 10 wind manufacturers are non-US

Warren Buffet is buying solar power for $0.038/kWh (the avg. price paid by US households is close to $0.12/kWh)

– Arizona’s energy utility installs free solar panels and pays its customers $30/ month for 20 years to feed power into the grid

Renewables in the Post-COP21 Agenda

Transformation of the global energy system forms the backbone of climate action. Without significant movement towards decarbonisation, the chances of keeping global temperature rise below two degrees celsius are low if not impossible. For Energy Day at the UN climate change talks in Paris, IRENA brought together scientists, policy-makers, business leaders and civil society to explore the future of renewable energy.

Arthouros Zervos, Chair of REN21, confirms the upscale in renewable energy deployment around the world and most importantly in developing countries. This is not surprising given the rapid drop in the cost of solar and wind power. According to the latest study by Lazard, a leading financial advisory firm, the cost of solar and wind power have dropped by 82% and 61% in 6 years:

Fossil Fuel Subsidies

One obstacle remains the massive fossil fuel subsidies of some $500 billion (IEA). These figures increase to $5.3 trillion or 6.5% of global GDP if externalities like pollution are included (IMF WP/15/105). In some countries, energy prices are kept artificially low by policies that can cost up to 40% of total government spending. This is why Kuwaitis get to pay $0.22 per liter of gasoline (Feb. 29 2016) and that electricity costs as little as 1 cent per kilowatt-hour in Saudi Arabia.

Private sector and civil society leadership 

ikea-solar-panelFor Peter Agnefjäll, CEO of IKEA, it has become clear that we must grow within the limits of the planet. This positive impact on planet and people is behind IKEA’s decision to invest in renewables with the objective of becoming totally energy independent globally by 2020.

Civil society can help propel this transformation with initiatives for entire sectors of the economy. For Jules Kortenhorst from the Rocky Mountain Institute and the Carbon War Room,  is working on scaling up to reduce costs and accelerate the uptake of renewables  like sustainable jet fuels for the aviation industry, improving the efficiency of maritime shipping and also in buildings, thanks to IT solutions and big data.

Tapping onto geothermal  

Iceland provides a powerful business case for geothermal energy to heat and cool buildings in cities. For President of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, such solutions have proven profitable without subsidies and provide a cost-effective path towards lower emissions. In 2010, 24 countries generated electricity thanks to geothermal power while some 70 use it for heating.

COP21 a turning point

AdnanZ-AminAdnan Z Amin, Director-General of IRENA, recognises that ParisClimat2015 represents a decisive moment for renewables. From now on, the connection between clean energy, the de-carbonization agenda and the safe climate imperative are inseparable.

Cooperation between civil society, the private sector and policy makers is key to accelerate this transition.

Other resources: UNECE Sustainable Energy

Solutions COP21: Business and climate change

Of the largest 150 economic entities in the world 59% are not countries but corporations.  And when it comes to climate change, the private sector is largely responsible for the problem but also suffers its consequences – most importantly, business can play a central role in addressing the climate crisis by rapidly scaling up solutions for both mitigation and adaptation.

Solutions COP21

COP21_GrandPalais_NuitInnovation_4Dec15Over the last 18 months, “Solutions COP21”, led by the Comité 21, the Club France Développement Durable, Hopscotch Groupe and Alliantis communications, developed a platform to showcase business solutions to the public with existing products, services, processes and innovations (and more on the way) to fight climate change and its impacts.

During the COP, the Grand Palais in Paris became the showroom for leading corporations, entrepreneurs and local authorities to put on display their solutions. It also became a center for discussion and exchange on the role of private enterprise can play and how collaboration with other sectors can be improved.

Climate policy and enterprise risk management

IMG_20151204_155056That global warming is real and having serious impacts is no longer debated. Increasingly,  responding to this reality is becoming part public policy according to Anne Ged, Director General of the Agence Parisienne du Climat, adding that Paris has been working on its adaptation strategy since 2012. It is also increasingly part of the risk management processes at all levels. The French ministry of sustainable development assessed that a one-meter sea level rise would flood over 15,000 km of local roads across the Republic. Similarly in the private sector, Stefano Bonelli, senior consultant at the Environmental Resources Management consultancy (ERM), says that climate related risk management for corporations is one of their fastest growing business segments.

The urgent realities of climate change

For SNCF’s Director of sustainable Development, Christian Dubost, climate change  is already impacting its activities with extreme temperatures during heat waves deforming rails and igniting bushfires that result in delays and extra costs. He warns that by 2050, the  2003 heatwave will be the norm – a reality the SNCF is already preparing for now. Facing this future requires a better understanding of the challenges and improved cooperation between sectors. This is part of EPE’s (Entreprise pour L’Environnement) mandate, explains its Delegate General, Claire Tutenuit. We need platforms to share knowledge, experience and foster cross-sector cooperation, she adds. Such partnerships have allowed Veolia to recycle up to 98% of the water for industries in Durban, South Africa, benefiting industry and the environment explained Hélène Lebedeff, Director of Sustainable Development.

Partnering with nature

Leveraging ecosystem services by working collaboratively with nature can provide important co-benefits according to Philippe Thiévent, Director of CDC Biodiversité, explaining that we are only beginning to discover the value of wetlands as hotspots of biodiversity and their benefits in terms of water filtration, aquifer recharge and exceptional flood mitigation capacity. Harnessing such co-benefits can play an important role in mitigation and adaptation strategies and be very interesting from a social, environmental  but also from a business perspective.

Clearly an important consideration for business to become a force for good when it comes to climate action.

This article is based on the conference “Comment les entreprises s’adaptent aux dérèglements climatiques” organized on December 4, 2015, as part of SolutionsCOP21 at Le Grand Palais, Paris – Espace de conférence, by EPE (Entreprise pour L’Environnement). http://www.epe-asso.org

Participants: Agence Parisienne du Climat, Anne Ged, directrice générale, CDC Biodiversité, Philippe Thiévent, Directeur de CDC Biodiversité, ERM, Stefano Bonelli, consultant senior, Green Cross International, Adam Koniuszewski, Executive Director, SNCF, Christian Dubost, Directeur de l’environnement et du développement durable, Veolia, Hélène Lebedeff, Directrice adjointe du développement durable. The event was moderated by Claire Tutenuit, Entreprise pour l’Environnement. 

COP21 – The birth of humanity

IMG_0188Here are some thoughts from Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber, journalist, writer and Vice Chairperson of the Human Rights Watch board, on the historical climate agreement announced on December 12 at Le Bourget in Paris. I was honored to join Jean-Louis and Corinne Lepage to speak at the Conference on Youth (COY) that preceded the climate talks to present the Declaration of Rights of Humankind and its importance to youth and future generations. FRENCH VERSION

COP21 – The birth of humanity

The memory of the media will keep this joyful scene at Le Bourget when the announcement of the agreement at the COP21 was made. Since then, objections, criticism and analysis of its shortcomings abound. They were inevitable and many are warranted.

But the most important when it comes to the future of humanity could not be rational. The collective emotion, even fleeting, gave the world images of what has inspired us to come together. In this digital era, we will see these images again and again, so as no to forget that what unites us is ultimately more powerful then what divides us.

To meet this challenge, a snap of fingers will not be sufficient. It will take decades of effort by activists, governments, scientists, associations, artists and others. But most of all, it will be for each new generation to discover the world in which it lives.

This moment of unanimity gave existence to humanity, beyond nations, beliefs or interests. We felt for a few minutes how this little flame, nascent, fragile, still wavering, was for us and our children so infinitely precious.

The emotion of this final between negotiators exhausted and radiant is already listed heritage. 

Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber

 

 

COP21 – La naissance de l’humanité

IMG_0188

Voici quelques réflexions de Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber, journaliste, écrivain et membre du conseil d’administration de Human Rights Watch, sur l’accord sur le climat annoncé le 12 Décembre au Bourget à Paris. Avec Jean-Louis et Corinne Lepage nous avons présenté la Déclaration des droits de l’Humanité durant la Conférence sur la Jeunesse (Conference on Youth – COY) qui a précédé les négociations sur le climat. ENGLISH VERSION

COP21 – La naissance de l’humanité

La mémoire des médias gardera cette scène de liesse au Bourget dès l’annonce de l’accord climatique à la COP21. Depuis les objections, critiques et analyses de ses insuffisances ne manquent pas. Elles étaient inévitables et beaucoup sont fondées.

Mais le plus important quand il s’agit de l’avenir de l’humanité ne pouvait pas être que rationnel. L’émotion collective, même fugace a offert au monde, les images de ce qui nous rend tous solidaires. Grâce au numérique, nous les reverrons encore et encore, pour que personne ne puisse oublier que ce qui nous lie est plus impératif que ce qui nous divise.

Pour transformer cet essai, il ne suffira pas, comme au rugby d’un coup de pied magique. Il faudra, des décennies durant, les efforts des militants, des gouvernants, des savants, des associations, des artistes. Mais, plus que tout de chaque nouvelle génération découvrant le monde dans lequel elle va devoir vivre.

Ce moment d’unanimité a donné existence à l’humanité, au-delà des nations, des croyances, des intérêts. On a senti, pendant quelques minutes combien cette petite flamme naissante, fragile, encore vacillante, nous était pour nous et nos enfants si infiniment précieuse.

L’émotion de ce final entre négociateurs épuisés et rayonnants s’est déjà inscrite patrimoine de l’humanité.

Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber

Smartphones explode power bills!

I was intrigued yesterday morning when I heard the Virgin Radio (France) host saying that mobile owners pay €70 a month to power their smartphones, ipods, tablets and laptops. It turns out this number relates to the annual cost but the point is no less alarming. The average household spends around €1,400/year on energy of which some €900 relate to electricity. According to the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME), 14% of this electricity relates to recharging phones and other devices – a very high figure which exceeds even the share of lighting that comes to 12%.

Smartphone

The agency warns that most of this power is wasted when the phone is left to charge overnight, even when it is turned off. The residual power that is wasted when devices are plugged in represents a pure waste equivalent to two nuclear power plants operating permanently at full capacity and a cost of €2 billion.

Imagine what could be achieved if such funds were invested into speeding the transition to a clean energy future.

Some smart ideas:

  • Most phones can be charged in two hours – leaving them to charge overnight is costly and wasteful.
  • Get an external battery to provide more autonomy when needed.
  • Go for a solar or wind powered charger!
  • Charge your phone as you ride – Check out CITYCYCLE.COM at LINK for great Christmas ideas for your favorite cyclist!soporte-finn-de-bike-city-guide1

COP21: more than expected, short of what’s needed

After over 20 years of climate talks, 195 countries reached a “universal, fair, dynamic and binding agreement” to “save the planet” by keeping global average temperature rise well below 2 degrees. The mood was euphoric and some delegates were in tears after the three sleepless nights that concluded ParisClimat2015. Having followed the preparations of this global forum, I was impressed by the efforts of the city of Paris, the French authorities and particularly by the personal engagement of the French President for an ambitious and historic outcome.

1.5 degrees target

IMG_0271

1.5 degrees target

I am proud that Canada, after a decade of obstruction and denial under the Harper administration, has come out in favor of a 1.5 degree objective under the leadership of newly-elected Justin Trudeau. Staying “well below 2 degrees” is now the stated target of the world community and Canada is back as a constructive force on the world scene. This leadership will be needed to if we are to turn this lofty objective into something meaningful in terms of climate action.

“Aspirational” Objective

The 1.5 degree goal reflects calls of small island states, climate scientists and civil society but the new ambitions do not yet translate into commensurate actions that would even have a remote chance of meeting the original so-called “safe” target of 2 degrees, let alone 1.5 – which would require much faster reductions in green-house-gases and methods of taking back some of the carbon that has already been emitted.

Growing science and reality gap 

Scientists have been warning that there is a time lag between the moment when carbon is released and the resulting temperature increase. This means that on top of the 0.9 degrees of warming that we are already experiencing, there is an extra 0.6 degrees that is already pre-programmed for the future – Dr. Thomas Frölicher, researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology has produced some interesting work in this area. For these reasons, in time we will reach the 1.5 degree target and beyond as we continue to burn carbon.

On track for 3 degrees and more

Commitments by member states for COP21 put us on the 3 degree or more path. Well above the 1.5 degree goal. It is therefore urgent to transform this new target into meaningful policy, to change business models and make sure that we all change our behaviors – something that is far from achieved and which implies much deeper emission cuts then was is currently planned.

Timing is critical

Delegates and politicians still think that climate change is a slow, gradual and linear process. This is not supported by science. In fact, the process is not-linear and there is now a real risk of hitting tipping points that could accelerate climate disruptions with catastrophic consequences. This is why the 2020 entry into force and the 5-year reviews that would start in 2025 are disappointing.

Common but differentiated responsibilities

All countries will have to participate in the carbon reductions but rich countries must help to finance this transition in the developing world by contributing a minimum of $100 billion per year starting in 2020 – a figure that will be revised upwards in 2025. The good news is that new powerhouses like China and South Korea will contribute to this effort. It is also encouraging that countries like India will adopt a low-carbon path for their development, something that was far from achieved just a few days ago.

IMG_0275

Wind Energy Tree at COP21 in Paris

The end of the fossil fuel era

One message from the COP is  that the good days of the fossil fuel era are behind us. Fossil fuel subsidies should be phased-out and we will move towards a price on carbon to speed up the transition to a clean energy economy.

Just the beginning

As Chinese President Xi Jinping said at the opening of COP21 on November 30th, this agreement is just the beginning of a process, echoing warnings from British Climate Ambassador, Sir David King, that carbon reduction targets must be reviewed regularly to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon future. From where we stand today and despite decades of work, it sure seems that we are still at ground zero.