Correcting Faulty Math on Renewable Energy

July, 2011
The Great Energy Challenge
Renewable energy:  Scientists, governments, and significant elements of the business community now are in agreement that it is the basis around which we can build a low-carbon, sustainable, global energy economy. And yet, misinformation is being propagated by interests favoring the status quo.

A June 7 op-ed,  The Gas is Greener, by Robert Bryce in The New York Times is a sad example. Using rhetorical arguments and faulty calculations, Bryce argues that technologies such as wind and solar are somehow more environmentally destructive than natural gas and nuclear energy. This opinion is at odds with the findings of the several hundred analysts who developed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources released last month. It is also at odds with the community of nations who reviewed and endorsed the report and its finding that 17 to 77 percent of global energy needs could come from renewable energy by 2050.

So, what is the truth? Can we build this new energy economy?

Green Jobs for Africa - Making our future sustainable

June, 2011
Development in a Changing Climate Blog
At a meeting of the Clean Investment Funds Partnership Forum in Cape Town there was a telling comment in a session I chaired on climate change science when a participant from the Ministry of Energy in Ethiopia got up and said, “I am glad we are talking about the tools that are available for community planning for low-carbon development, but everyone in the rural areas of East Africa sees that the climate is changing.  My mother tells me every season the rains and temperatures are different then when she was young.”

So what to do?

Putting more energy in and money towards the manufacturing of innovative green technologies is key: exploiting the wind or sun without solar panels and turbines is like trying to catch fish without a net or rod.  Africa is poised to manufacture the ‘nets’ for clean energy.

The Scientist - Physicist Dan Kammen

June, 2011
Outside Magazine
The Outside Magazine discusses sustainability issues of the energy system with Prof. Dan Kammen:

Is there any viable solution for energy today, what with tsunamis hitting nuclear plants, offshore rigs spewing oil, natural-gas wells leaking fracking fluids, and wind turbines killing birds? To unravel the confusion, we turned to physicist Dan Kammen. As the founding director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley and lead author of numerous Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, 49-year-old Kammen has long been one of the clearest thinkers on renewable energy. Now, as the man in charge of clean energy at the World Bank, he’s taking on the globe.

HIGHTOWER ALLEN: As The New York Times put it, you’re the World Bank’s “clean-energy czar.” What does that mean?
KAMMEN: Well, I hope I don’t end up the way some czars of old have. Their track record in Washington, D.C., hasn’t been great. Czars have either a lot of power or no power, ­depending on who you ask. The World Bank’s lending for renewables is, depending on what metric you use, 50 to 65 percent of its entire portfolio of energy lending. So it’s a big deal by itself.

When it comes to our energy future, what’s the greatest myth you have to contend with?

Behaviour change, not technology, is key to cutting vehicle emissions

June, 2011
Environmental Research Web
When it comes to reducing emission from light-duty vehicles (LDV), researchers in the US have shown that technology alone is not the solution.

In a paper published in Environmental Research Letters (ERL), Jalel Sager and colleagues from the University of California show that to meet greenhouse-gas emission and climate-reduction goals for the year 2050, the way in which we use LDVs has to change.

Co-author Daniel Kammen told environmentalresearchweb: "Reducing LDV emissions is often thought of as a technological challenge, with efforts going into the development of more efficient cars or fuels that produce fewer greenhouse gases per unit energy. However, by decomposing transport-sector emissions into technological and behavioural drivers, we show that even significant technological advances will be insufficient to meet climate goals, unless the growth in LDV use slows or reverses."

To quantify the carbon dioxide mitigation challenge for the transport sector, the researchers surveyed 2007 LDV usage and fuel economy in an economically diverse set of countries. They found that the large differences in per capita LDV greenhouse-gas emissions (range: ˜100–4000 kg of carbon dioxide equivalent per year) are principally explained by differing national per_capita LDV use (range: 300–13,000 vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT) per year), rather than to fleet average fuel-efficiency and carbon-intensity factors, which reflect the broadly similar car technology worldwide.

UC Berkeley study concludes demand reduction policies on light-duty vehicles essential to meeting GHG reduction targets by 2050

June, 2011
Green Car Congress
The Green Car Congress is covering RAEL's recent research:

A team from the University of California, Berkeley concludes that reducing demand for light-duty vehicle (LDV) travel will likely be essential to meeting the international greenhouse gas emission and climate targets for the year 2050. Their open access paper is published in the IOP journal Environmental Research Letters.

Average per capita light-duty vehicle (LDV) transport CO2 emissions (kg CO2 person-1 yr-1) for a global sample of countries (2007) with a wide range of per capita incomes. Per capita transport CO2 emissions are decomposed into the product of two terms: per capita LDV use (horizontal axis, veh-km person-1 yr-1) and propulsion carbon intensity (vertical axis, g CO2 veh-km-1). Full explanation at Sager et al.