Search Results for 'energy'

Congratulations and best of luck to Jacob Straus — energy access Fulbright Semi-​​Finalist

Jacob Straus, class of UCB 2016 with an ERG Minor, has been selected as a semifinalist for a Fulbright research grant. If awarded the grant, he will travel to India to perform a survey of rural communities targeted by energy access initiatives, including national grid connection, community solar microgrids and small-scale hydro. Jacob graduated with degrees in Environmental Policy and Comparative Literature. He worked to implement efficiency codes for the City of Berkeley as an AmeriCorps Fellow in 2016-17 before being hired by the city as an Energy Efficiency Specialist. He grew up in the Hudson Valley of New York and lives in Oakland. Strauss-Jacob  

Webinar: The Future of Renewable Energy

The Inaugural Webinar from the International Renewable Energy Academy at York University presents Professor Dan Kammen, Internationally renowned and award winning scholar from The University of California at Berkeley, on the Innovation curve, current status, and future prospects for renewable energy worldwide. The webinar, to be held the morning of January 30th, will start with a half-hour presentation by Professor Kammen on innovation in the renewable energy sector and solar energy in particular. The webinar will then pose the question “Given the current state of renewable energy, and the successes and setbacks of the past year, what needs to happen now?” The conversation will be guided by Professors Jose Etcheverry and Fred Schwartz, from the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University. To register, please go to: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/innovation-in-the-renewable-energy-sector-where-do-we-go-from-here-tickets-42156788088

South Sudan’s Renewable Energy Potential: A Building Block for Peace

In the context of the civil war with no end in sight in South Sudan, this report outlines how a donor-led shift from the current total reliance on diesel to renewable energy can deliver short-term humanitarian cost savings while creating a longer- term building block for peace in the form of a clean energy infrastructure. The report is supported by the Africa program at the United States Institute of Peace.

EU must not burn the world’s forests for ‘renewable’ energy

A flaw in Europe’s clean energy plan allows fuel from felled trees to qualify as renewable energy when in fact this would accelerate climate change and devastate forests   The European Union is moving to enact a directive to double Europe’s current renewable energy by 2030. This is admirable, but a critical flaw in the present version would accelerate climate change, allowing countries, power plants and factories to claim that cutting down trees and burning them for energy fully qualifies as renewable energy. Even a small part of Europe’s energy requires a large quantity of trees and to avoid profound harm to the climate and forests worldwide the European council and parliament must fix this flaw. European producers of wood products have for decades generated electricity and heat as beneficial by-products, using wood wastes and limited forest residues. Most of this material would decompose and release carbon dioxide in a few years anyway, so using them to displace fossil fuels can reduce the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere in a few years too.   Unfortunately, the directive moving through parliament would go beyond wastes and residues and credit countries and companies for cutting down additional trees simply to burn them for energy. To do so has fundamentally different consequences because the carbon released into the air would otherwise stay locked up in forests. The reasoning seems to be that so long as forests re-grow, they will eventually reabsorb the carbon released. Yet even then, the net effect – as many studies have shown – will typically be to increase global warming for decades to centuries, even when wood replaces coal, oil or natural gas.   The reasons begin with the inherent inefficiencies in harvesting wood. Typically, around one third or more of each tree is contained in roots and small branches that are properly left in the forest to protect soils, and most of which decompose, emitting carbon. The wood that is burned releases even more carbon than coal per unit of energy generated, and burns at a lower temperature, producing less electricity – turning wood into compressed pellets increases efficiency but uses energy and creates large additional emissions. A power plant burning wood chips will typically emit one and a half times the carbon dioxide of a plant burning coal and at least three times the carbon dioxide emitted by a power plant burning natural gas.   Although regrowing trees absorb carbon, trees grow slowly, and for some years a regrowing forest absorbs less carbon than if the forest were left unharvested. Eventually, the new forest grows faster and the carbon it absorbs, plus the reduction in fossil fuels, can pay back the “carbon debt”, but that takes decades to centuries, depending on the forest type and use. We conservatively estimate that using deliberately harvested wood instead of fossil fuels will release at least twice as much carbon dioxide to the air by 2050 per kilowatt hour. Doing so turns a potential reduction in emissions from solar or wind into a large increase. Time matters. Placing an additional carbon load in the atmosphere for decades means permanent damage due to more rapid melting of permafrost and glaciers, and more packing of heat and acidity into the world’s oceans. At a critical moment when countries need to be “buying time” against climate change, this approach amounts to selling the world’s limited time to combat climate change under mistaken claims of improvement.   The effect on the world’s forests, carbon and biodiversity is likely to be large because even though Europe is a large producer of wood, its harvest could only supply about 6% of its primary energy. For more than a decade, the increased use of biomass has been supplying roughly half of Europe’s increase in renewable energy. To supply even one third of the additional renewable energy likely required by 2030, Europe would need to burn an amount of wood greater than its total harvest today. This would turn a likely 6% decrease in energy emissions by 2050 under the directive through solar and wind into at least a 6% increase. Europe’s own demand for wood would degrade forests around the world, but if other countries follow Europe’s example, the impacts would be even more dangerous. Instead of encouraging Indonesia and Brazil to preserve their tropical forests – Europe’s present position – the message of this directive is “cut your forests so long as someone burns them for energy”. Once countries are invested in such efforts, fixing the error may become impossible. To supply just an additional 3% of global energy with wood, the world needs to double its commercial wood harvests at great costs to carbon and wildlife.   Neither a requirement that forests be managed sustainably nor any other “safeguards” in the various working drafts would stop this. For example, the directive would ban wood if harvests undermined “the long-term productivity capacity of the forest”. Although that sounds good, preserving the capacity of trees to grow back still leaves more carbon in the air for at least decades. Restricting wood harvests to countries with net growing forests – another idea – would still take carbon that forests would otherwise add to their storage and instead put it in the air without meaningful global limits.   The solution is to restrict eligible forest biomass to its traditional sources of residues and waste. Legislators will likely be able to vote on such an amendment in the parliament’s plenary. By 1850, the use of wood for bioenergy helped drive the near deforestation of western Europe even at a time when Europeans consumed relatively little energy. Although coal helped to save the forests of Europe, the solution is not to go back to burning forests. As scientists, we collectively have played key roles in the IPCC, in advising European governments, and in forest and climate research. We encourage European legislators and other policymakers to amend the present directive because the fate of much of the world’s forests is literally at stake.   Prof John Beddington, Oxford Martin School, former chief scientist to the UK government; Prof Steven Berry, Yale University; Prof Ken Caldeira*, Stanford University and Carnegie Institution for Science; Wolfgang Cramer*, research director (CNRS), Mediterranean Institute of marine and terrestrial biodiversity and ecology; Felix Creutzig*, chair Sustainability Economics of Human Settlement at Berlin Technical University and leader at the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change; Prof Dan Kammen*, University of California at Berkeley, director Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory; Prof Eric Lambin, Université catholique de Louvain and Stanford University; Prof Simon Levin, Princeton University, recipient US National Medal of Science; Prof Wolfgang Lucht*, Humboldt University and co-chair of Potsdam Institute for Climate Research; Prof Georgina Mace FRS*, University College London; Prof William Moomaw*, Tufts University; Prof Peter Raven, director emeritus Missouri Botanical Society, recipient US National Medal of Science; Tim Searchinger, research scholar, Princeton University and senior fellow, World Resources Institute; Prof Nils Christian Stenseth, University of Oslo, past president of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters; Prof Jean Pascal van Ypersele, Université Catholique de Louvain, former IPCC vice-chair (2008-2015).   Those marked * have been lead authors on IPCC reports.   For more on Professor Kammen and the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory's work on biomass, click here and search 'biomass'

In The Guardian: EU must not burn the world’s forests for ‘renewable’ energy

December 14, 2017 - The Guardian

A flaw in Europe’s clean energy plan allows fuel from felled trees to qualify as renewable energy when in fact this would accelerate climate change and devastate forests The European Union is moving to enact a directive to double Europe’s current renewable energy by 2030. This is admirable, but a critical flaw in the present version would accelerate climate change, allowing countries, power plants and factories to claim that cutting down trees and burning them for energy fully qualifies as renewable energy. Even a small part of Europe’s energy requires a large quantity of trees and to avoid profound harm to the climate and forests worldwide the European council and parliament must fix this flaw. European producers of wood products have for decades generated electricity and heat as beneficial by-products, using wood wastes and limited forest residues. Most of this material would decompose and release carbon dioxide in a few years anyway, so using them to displace fossil fuels can reduce the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere in a few years too. Unfortunately, the directive moving through parliament would go beyond wastes and residues and credit countries and companies for cutting down additional trees simply to burn them for energy. To do so has fundamentally different consequences because the carbon released into the air would otherwise stay locked up in forests. The reasoning seems to be that so long as forests re-grow, they will eventually reabsorb the carbon released. Yet even then, the net effect – as many studies have shown – will typically be to increase global warming for decades to centuries, even when wood replaces coal, oil or natural gas. The reasons begin with the inherent inefficiencies in harvesting wood. Typically, around one third or more of each tree is contained in roots and small branches that are properly left in the forest to protect soils, and most of which decompose, emitting carbon. The wood that is burned releases even more carbon than coal per unit of energy generated, and burns at a lower temperature, producing less electricity – turning wood into compressed pellets increases efficiency but uses energy and creates large additional emissions. A power plant burning wood chips will typically emit one and a half times the carbon dioxide of a plant burning coal and at least three times the carbon dioxide emitted by a power plant burning natural gas. Although regrowing trees absorb carbon, trees grow slowly, and for some years a regrowing forest absorbs less carbon than if the forest were left unharvested. Eventually, the new forest grows faster and the carbon it absorbs, plus the reduction in fossil fuels, can pay back the “carbon debt”, but that takes decades to centuries, depending on the forest type and use. We conservatively estimate that using deliberately harvested wood instead of fossil fuels will release at least twice as much carbon dioxide to the air by 2050 per kilowatt hour. Doing so turns a potential reduction in emissions from solar or wind into a large increase. Time matters. Placing an additional carbon load in the atmosphere for decades means permanent damage due to more rapid melting of permafrost and glaciers, and more packing of heat and acidity into the world’s oceans. At a critical moment when countries need to be “buying time” against climate change, this approach amounts to selling the world’s limited time to combat climate change under mistaken claims of improvement. The effect on the world’s forests, carbon and biodiversity is likely to be large because even though Europe is a large producer of wood, its harvest could only supply about 6% of its primary energy. For more than a decade, the increased use of biomass has been supplying roughly half of Europe’s increase in renewable energy. To supply even one third of the additional renewable energy likely required by 2030, Europe would need to burn an amount of wood greater than its total harvest today. This would turn a likely 6% decrease in energy emissions by 2050 under the directive through solar and wind into at least a 6% increase. Europe’s own demand for wood would degrade forests around the world, but if other countries follow Europe’s example, the impacts would be even more dangerous. Instead of encouraging Indonesia and Brazil to preserve their tropical forests – Europe’s present position – the message of this directive is “cut your forests so long as someone burns them for energy”. Once countries are invested in such efforts, fixing the error may become impossible. To supply just an additional 3% of global energy with wood, the world needs to double its commercial wood harvests at great costs to carbon and wildlife. Neither a requirement that forests be managed sustainably nor any other “safeguards” in the various working drafts would stop this. For example, the directive would ban wood if harvests undermined “the long-term productivity capacity of the forest”. Although that sounds good, preserving the capacity of trees to grow back still leaves more carbon in the air for at least decades. Restricting wood harvests to countries with net growing forests – another idea – would still take carbon that forests would otherwise add to their storage and instead put it in the air without meaningful global limits. The solution is to restrict eligible forest biomass to its traditional sources of residues and waste. Legislators will likely be able to vote on such an amendment in the parliament’s plenary. By 1850, the use of wood for bioenergy helped drive the near deforestation of western Europe even at a time when Europeans consumed relatively little energy. Although coal helped to save the forests of Europe, the solution is not to go back to burning forests. As scientists, we collectively have played key roles in the IPCC, in advising European governments, and in forest and climate research. We encourage European legislators and other policymakers to amend the present directive because the fate of much of the world’s forests is literally at stake. Prof John Beddington, Oxford Martin School, former chief scientist to the UK government; Prof Steven Berry, Yale University; Prof Ken Caldeira*, Stanford University and Carnegie Institution for Science; Wolfgang Cramer*, research director (CNRS), Mediterranean Institute of marine and terrestrial biodiversity and ecology; Felix Creutzig*, chair Sustainability Economics of Human Settlement atBerlin Technical University and leader at the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change; Prof Dan Kammen*, University of California at Berkeley, director Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory; Prof Eric Lambin Université catholique de Louvain and Stanford University; Prof Simon Levin, Princeton University, recipient US National Medal of Science; Prof Wolfgang Lucht*, Humboldt University and co-chair of Potsdam Institute for Climate Research; Prof Georgina Mace FRS*, University College London; Prof William Moomaw*, Tufts University; Prof Peter Raven, director emeritus Missouri Botanical Society, recipient US National Medal of Science; Tim Searchinger, research scholar, Princeton University and senior fellow, World Resources Institute; Prof Nils Christian Stenseth, University of Oslo, past president of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters; Prof Jean Pascal van Ypersele, Université Catholique de Louvain, former IPCC vice-chair (2008-2015).   Those marked * have been lead authors on IPCC reports.   For more on Professor Kammen and the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory's work on biomass, click here and search 'biomass'   _____________________________________________________   If you would like to sign on to this open letter o amend a Renewable Energy Directive under debate so that the directive does not encourage the burning of wood harvested just for that purpose.    The letter closely tracks the following editorial recently published in the Guardian by several prominent scientists and economists. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/dec/14/eu-must-not-burn-the-worlds-forests-for-renewable-energy  
Europe is currently considering a renewable energy directive that would raise the requirements to use renewable energy from a level of roughly 17% of final energy demand today to a level of 27-35% by 2030.   While this target is laudable, the directive counts as fully qualifying renewable energy the use of wood harvested for that purpose, and not merely residues and waste. The previous renewable energy directive has already led European power plants, factoring and heating installations to shift to wood, importing much of that in the form of wood pellets from the U.S. and Canada. Many academic papers have calculated that any wood harvested for burning, even if trees are allowed to regrow, would result in increases in greenhouse gas emissions for decades to centuries even compared to the use of fossil fuels.
The major consequences of the new directive result from the sheer scope of the potential wood requirements. Although biomass has been supplying around half of Europe's growth in renewable energy (from 11% in 2007 to  around 17% today), if wood biomass supplied even one third of the future required growth by 2030, the directive would require an amount of wood greater than all annual European wood harvest, which also roughly equals all annual U.S. and Canadian wood harvests combined.
The directive will be voted on probably the third week in January in the European Parliament, and there will be an amendment to restrict forest biomass to residues and wastes. There have been previous letters by 100 or more scientists on this issue to European leaders, and we are hoping for more this time. If you are a scientists and would like to sign on, please also consider encouraging other scientists you know as well.
If you would like to sign on, please send an email either to Greg Davies or Zuzana Burialova at Princeton University at gd3@princeton.edu or z.burivalova@princeton.edu, who will be keeping track.
The final sign-on date will be January 5, 2018.
THE TEXT OF THE LETTER:
  SCIENTIST EU FOREST BIOMASS SIGN-ON LETTER   To Members of the European Parliament, As the European Parliament commendably moves to expand the renewable energy directive, we strongly urge members of Parliament to amend the present directive to avoid expansive harm to the world’s forests and the acceleration of climate change. The flaw in the directive lies in provisions that would let countries, power plants and factories claim credit toward renewable energy targets for deliberately cutting down trees to burn them for energy. The solution should be to restrict the forest biomass eligible under the directive to residues and wastes. For decades, European producers of paper and timber products have generated electricity and heat as beneficial by-products using wood wastes and limited forest residues. Since most of these waste materials would decompose and release carbon dioxide within a few years, using them to displace fossil fuels can reduce net carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere in a few years as well. By contrast, cutting down trees for bioenergy releases carbon that would otherwise stay locked up in forests, and diverting wood otherwise used for wood products will cause more cutting elsewhere to replace them. Even if forests are allowed to regrow, using wood deliberately harvested for burning will increase carbon in the atmosphere and warming for decades to centuries – as many studies have shown – even when wood replaces coal, oil or natural gas. The reasons are fundamental and occur regardless of whether forest management is “sustainable.” Burning wood is inefficient and therefore emits far more carbon than burning fossil fuels for each kilowatt hour of electricity produced. Harvesting wood also properly leaves some biomass behind to protect soils, such as roots and small branches, which decompose and emit carbon. The result is a large “carbon debt.” Re-growing trees and displacement of fossil fuels may eventually pay off this “carbon debt’ but only over long periods. Overall, allowing the harvest and burning of wood under the directive will transform large reductions otherwise achieved through solar and wind into large increases in carbon in the atmosphere by 2050. Time matters. Placing an additional carbon load in the atmosphere for decades means permanent damages due to more rapid melting of permafrost and glaciers, and more packing of heat and acidity into the world’s oceans. At a critical moment when countries need to be “buying time” against climate change, this approach amounts to “selling” the world’s limited time to combat climate change. The adverse implications not just for carbon but for global forests and biodiversity are also large. More than 100% of Europe’s annual harvest of wood would be needed to supply just one third of the expanded renewable energy directive. Because demand for wood and paper will remain, the result will be increased degradation of forests around the world. The example Europe would set for other countries would be even more dangerous. Europe has been properly encouraging countries such as Indonesia and Brazil to protect their forests, but the message of this directive is “cut your forests so long as someone burns them for energy.” Once countries invest in such efforts, fixing the error may become impossible. If the world moves to supply just an additional 3% of global energy with wood, it must double its commercial cuttings of the world’s forests. By 1850, the use of wood for bioenergy helped drive the near deforestation of western Europe even when Europeans consumed far less energy than they do today. Although coal helped to save the forests of Europe, the solution to replacing coal is not to go back to burning forests, but instead to replace fossil fuels with low carbon sources, such as solar and wind. We urge European legislators to amend the present directive to restrict eligible forest biomass to appropriately defined residues and wastes because the fate of much of the world’s forests and the climate are literally at stake. Initial signers: John Beddington, Professor, Oxford Martin School, former Chief Scientist to the government of the United Kingdom Steven Berry, Professor, Yale University, former Chairman, Department of Economics, fellow American Academy of Arts and Sciences, winner of the Frisch Medal of the Econometric Society. Ken Caldeira – Professor, Stanford University and Carnegie Institution for Science, Coordinating lead author or lead author of multiple IPCC reports. Wolfgang Cramer, Research Director, CNRS, Mediterranean Institute of marine and terrestrial Biodiversity and Ecology, Aix-en-Provence, member Académie d'Agriculture de France France, Coordinating lead author and lead author of multiple IPCC reports, Felix Creutzig, Chair Sustainability Economics of Human Settlement at Technische Universität Berlin, Leader, leader Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change, Lead author of IPCC V Assessment Report and coordinator of appendix on bioenergy. Phil Duffy, President, Woods Hole Research Center, former Senior Advisor White Office of Science and Technology Policy, Contributing author of multiple IPCC reports Dan Kammen – Professor University of California at Berkeley, Director Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, Coordinating lead author or lead author of multiple IPCC reports. Eric Lambin – Professor Université catholique de Louvain and Stanford University, member European and U.S. Academies of Science, 2014 laureate of Volvo Environment Prize Simon Levin – Professor Princeton University, Recipient, U.S. National Medal of Science, member U.S. National Academy of Sciences Wolfgang Lucht – Professor Humboldt University and Co-Chair of Potsdam Institute for Climate Research, lead author of multiple IPCC reports Georgina Mace FRS, Professor, University College London, Lead author IPCC report and Winner International Cosmos Prize William Moomaw – Emeritus Professor, Tufts University, Coordinating lead author or lead author of multiple IPCC reports Peter Raven – Director Emeritus Missouri Botanical Society, Recipient U.S. National Medal of Science and former President of American Association for Advancement of Science Tim Searchinger - Research Scholar, Princeton University and Senior Fellow, World Resources Institute Nils Chr. Stenseth, Professor of Ecology and Evolution, University of Oslo, Past president of The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, member Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters, The National Academy of Science (Washington), French Academy of Sciences, and Academia Europaea Jean Pascal van Ypersele, Professor, Université catholique de Louvain, Former IPCC Vice-chair (2008-2015), member of the Royal Academy of Belgium, lead author or review editor of multiple IPCC reports
 

Defeating energy poverty: A call to invest in scalable, solutions to energy access for the poor

Overview: Energy poverty, is arguably the most pervasive and crippling threat society faces today. Lack of access impacts several billion people, with immediate health, educational, economic, and social damages.  Furthermore, how this problem is addressed will result in the largest accelerant of global pollution, or the largest opportunity to pivot away from fossil-fuels onto the needed clean energy path.  In a clear example of the power of systems thinking, energy poverty and climate change together present a dual crisis of energy injustice along gender, ethnic, and socioeconomic grounds, which has been exacerbated if not caused outright by a failure of the wealthy to see how tightly coupled is our collective global fate if addressing climate change fairly and inclusively does not become an immediate, actionable, priority.   While debate exists on the optimal path or paths to wean our economy from fossil fuels, there is no question that technically we have today a sufficient knowledge and technological foundation to launch and to even complete the decarbonisation (IPCC, 2011). Critically needed is an equally powerful social narrative to accelerate the clean energy transition.  Laudato Si’ provides a compelling formulation of the injustice that is both greed and pollution, but an ongoing outreach and partnership effort is needed to truly leverage its powerful message.   In this essay we present examples across scales of the evolving knowledge base needed to build universal clean energy access.  This leads to a formulation of an action agenda to defeat energy poverty and energy injustice.

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