Category Archives: Renewable Energy

EU on the RIO+20 summit

The first Earth Summit took place twenty years ago in Rio. The global community created this summit because they wanted a more equitable and sustainable model for the course of human development. These days, sustainable progress has been made and the world has changed a lot. The RIO+20 summit will have different challenges than last year. They need to think about the changing global landscape, the international economic crisis, rising population levels, global resources and the still unacceptable level of poverty in the world. So there is a great responsibility on the community of state to make new strategies on this RIO+2O summit  and search for more inclusiveness and sustainability.

The irresponsible behavior of the financial sector, lax regulatory oversight and deep-seated imbalances were the causes of today’s economic crisis. These deep-seated imbalances need to be corrected if we want a more sustainable growth for the world. And  it’s not just the global economic imbalances but also the imbalances in the ecological footprints. And although, in the 20th century, the quality of life rose very much, this came at the price of unsustainable use of scarce global resources like fuel, metals, minerals, timber, water and ecosystems.

A Challenge in the world of today is to work together, especially when you realize that by 2050, the world population will have reached 9 billion. If we don’t work together and think about how to best use our precious resources, we will need two planets to sustain us. It’s up to the RIO Summit to take the discussions about stable economies and increased growth, discussed at the G20 Summit in Mexico, and include an inclusive and sustainable path to reach these goals.

The EU really wants a concrete Rio agenda so they can discuss all their goals and targets for key areas that underpin a green economy. They want to talk about water, the oceans, land, ecosystems, forests, sustainable energy and resource efficiency. And the goals they have are all linked to sustainable growth, poverty, social development, food security and nutrition. But the EU won’t be able to make their case at Rio if they don’t get the support, engagement and mobilization of both the public and private sector. So it’s up to RIO+20 to strengthen engagement of the private and civil sector, because these are the real engines behind our economies in sustainable development.

The  Millennium Development Goals make that the EU remains committed to achieve their goals. And they are also ready to engage in a discussion on Sustainable Development Goals suggested by some G77 countries. An example of their commitment to global sustainability is the EU Sustainable Energy for All Summit that was organized, in coordination with the UN, in Brussels on April 16 of this year. A new EU Energizing Development initiative was announced. This initiative should provide sustainable energy services to 500 million people by 2030. And the European Commission is currently also establishing a technical assistance facility to provide governments with the expertise to engage in reforms and to develop their own National Energy Access Strategies. The EU wants to mobilize at least 400 million euros over the next two years to go into these two strategies.

Because we are in an economical crisis, we need to find innovative ways of developing financial assistance. A valuable resource to fund development could be a global Financial Transaction Tax. This could also ensure that it’s not just the financial sector that needs to pay a contribution to the economy. So the revenue generated by a European Financial Transaction tax should be put into the future EU budget to help ensure that the EU continues to be one of the world’s biggest providers of development assistance.

Renewable energy wasted because of inefficient current converters

The Department of Energy and Climate Change showed some figures that describe the UK produced 26,000 GWh of electricity in 2010 through renewable energy sources. These sources include wind, biomass, solar and wave generation.

But figures of IQE and XP Power, two British technology companies, show that a lot of this renewable energy produced in the UK is wasted because of inefficient current converters. About 7,600 gigawatt hours of electricity is wasted when converting AC/DC power to the direct current that’s required for electronic devices. The figures show that this is almost a third of the produced ‘renewable’ electricity from all sources in the UK.

In April, David Cameron, Prime Minister, told a group of 23 international energy ministers that the government wants to commit to a ‘green future’ for Britain. This means that they don’t want to rely on fossil fuels. They also want to shut down all but one nuclear power plants by 2023 in the UK and a third of the coal generation fleet must be closed by 2015 because of new EU carbon restrictions.

By 2020, the UK should generate 15 per cent of its energy consumption from renewable energy sources. That’s one of the targets described in the 2009 Renewable Energy Directive set. But Drew Nelson, chief executive of IQE, the compound semiconductor maker, said that the government needs to concentrate its energy policies more on power conservation and less on the costly new electricity generation projects.

He said that the UK’s lack of energy efficiency has a massive impact of the national power strategy. The new forms of energy generation are so expensive but a lot of the energy goes to waste. So it’s better to focus on energy efficiency and power conservation.

So IQE is going to take advantage of the push towards energy efficiency. They have ultra-thin epitaxy wafers that are used in the manufacture of semiconductors, present in power converters and low-energy light-emitting diodes. LEDs use 85 per cent less energy than incandescent bulbs because they produce almost no heat.

And beside the loss of energy because of inefficient converters, 17,000 GWh of power was also wasted in 2009 in the EU because of electrical devices left on standby. That’s the same as 6.8m tones of carbon dioxide. And it’s forecasted that this will grow to 31,000 GWh by 2020.

Northeast Group report – smart grids in the Middle East and North African region

Smart grid regulatory frameworks are still in the early stages of development, however, progress is being made and governments are beginning to invest in the technologies necessary to make their grids smarter. This is because they realise that they must incentivise energy conservation. Smart grid technologies will be a feature of infrastructure investments over the next decades in the Gulf, led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, states a report by Northeast Group.

Northeast Group has projected that the Middle East and North African region could save between $300 million and $1 billion per year if they start using smart grids in an efficient way. Smart grids grant the region the opportunity to incorporate renewable energy sources, cope with the rising demand and reduce energy losses on the network.

The MENA countries are already investing in renewable energy sources. A perfect example is Saudi Arabia’s recent announcement that they are willing to spend $109 billion to develop 41 GW of solar capacity over the next 20 years. Smart grids can help these countries to connect the renewable energy sources more easily to the grid.

The report by Northeast Group also predicts the smart metering market to rise to 16.1 million units by 2022. The Gulf will see the majority of near-term activity, with 86% of homes having smart meters by 2022. Currently, the UAE leads the smart meter market in the MENA region with Abu Dhabi already undertaking smart grid strategies and Masdar city being praised as a ‘pioneer’ for smart and other environmentally sustainable technologies.

Danish presidency dialogue on smart cities and renewable energy

Connie Hedegaard, European climate action commissioner, said that solutions to the economic crisis and green growth have to go hand in hand. She  spoke on Thursday at a Danish presidency dialogue on smart cities and green growth. The event aimed to discuss the potential of integrating private and public sectors, combining ICT, renewable energies and resources, while keeping in mind some of the barriers that prevent this from happening.

With holding this EU council presidency and Denmark already leading the way on renewable technologies, Europe gets a lot of opportunities to take big steps in changing the way energy is produced. Europe could reduce dependence on non-sustainable sources which could also mean reducing costs since Europe’s fuel import increases year-on-year.

Solutions for renewable energy should become part of the growth strategy of cities. We already have sustainable and renewable technologies but we need to use these better to meet the increasing demands for energy. Hedegaard thinks governments and political leaders need to be aware and appreciate that renewable energy can also lead to economic benefits since there is a growing demand for energy within cities. There is a potential to create jobs within ICT, health, green solutions and other industries.

Hedegaard also expressed that there is a need for European targets to guarantee that the EU and member states prove long term commitment to renewable energy. EU targets can properly focus attention on the energy problems.

Another statement came from Graham Watson, chair of Climate Parliament. He spoke of the many advantages of smart grids, which are self-monitoring digitalized electricity grids that can distribute electricity according to demand, cost, supply and many other conditions. These smart girds create a much more efficient system. He said that there is no excuse for cities not to become a smart city and he spoke of the importance of informing customers and citizens about the benefits of such systems.