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COVID-​​19: SF air pollution is 38% lower than normal, but will it last?

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For the orig­i­nal in The San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cleclick here.

Shel­ter­ing in place has plenty of down­sides, espe­cially eco­nom­i­cally, but there is one thing you can feel good about if you’ve taken to work­ing from home. It’s likely dras­ti­cally reduc­ing Bay Area air pollution.

SF air pol­lu­tion is 38% lower than it was at this time in 2019, accord­ing to the EPA. This is likely largely due to decreased trans­porta­tion, which accounts for up to 30% of the typ­i­cal U.S. household’s emis­sions, whether dri­ving or tak­ing pub­lic transportation.

Dur­ing recent quar­an­tine mea­sures in China, there was also a direct impact on pol­lu­tion lev­els. NASA and the Euro­pean Space Agency (ESA) pol­lu­tion mon­i­tor­ing satel­lites detected sig­nif­i­cant decreases in nitro­gen diox­ide (NO2) over China when com­par­ing Jan. 1–20, 2020 (before quar­an­tine) and Feb. 10–25 (dur­ing quar­an­tine). Nitro­gen diox­ide is emit­ted by motor vehi­cles, power plants and indus­trial facilities.

Accord­ing to NASA sci­en­tists, the reduc­tion in NO2 pol­lu­tion was first

appar­ent near Wuhan, but even­tu­ally spread across the coun­try. “This is the first time I have seen such a dra­matic drop-​​off over such a wide area for a spe­cific event,” said Fei Liu, an air qual­ity researcher at NASA’s God­dard Space Flight Cen­ter in the NASA post.

The drop in nitro­gen diox­ide did coin­cide with Lunar New Year cel­e­bra­tions, where gen­er­ally busi­nesses and fac­to­ries close to cel­e­brate. Air pol­lu­tion usu­ally decreases dur­ing this period and then increases once the cel­e­bra­tion is over, but this year the coun­try didn’t see an increase.

While the U.S. may see sim­i­lar reduc­tions in emis­sions as peo­ple are dri­ving and fly­ing less, it likely won’t have a last­ing effect, warned Daniel Kam­men, an energy pro­fes­sor at U.C. Berkeley.

We’ve seen this after 9/​11 and dur­ing the Bei­jing Olympics,” Kam­men said. “Emis­sions went down tem­porar­ily but then they roared back after­ward as fac­to­ries reopened and every­one made up for lost pro­duc­tion. Look­ing at this emis­sion drop is exceed­ingly deceptive.”

Kam­men, who was for­merly a sci­ence advi­sor to the Trump admin­is­tra­tion (he resigned over the president’s 2017 response to the Char­lottesville demon­stra­tions) and also served as an adviser to the Obama admin­is­tra­tion, also noted that look­ing at just our own emis­sions doesn’t tell the whole story. For exam­ple, much of the emis­sions com­ing from China are because of U.S. goods being made there. He said he hopes peo­ple under­stand the full impact of an individual’s car­bon foot­print and that while he cau­tions get­ting overly opti­mistic about the decrease in pol­lu­tion, what we learn dur­ing the cri­sis could have a larger impact on the work­ing world.

We could be able to take some lessons from this on how to be climate-​​smart,” Kam­men said. “If we learn from this cri­sis that we could shift a lot of our IT activ­i­ties, our con­fer­ences, etc. to use Zoom and Slack and the like then that’s a good les­son. These are ways we can decar­bonize our economy.”

While the envi­ron­men­tal impacts may not be sus­tained, they have had short-​​term gains. Mar­shall Burke, an assis­tant pro­fes­sor at Stanford’s Depart­ment of Earth Sys­tem Sci­ence, wrote that while the harms the virus will cause will likely far exceed any health ben­e­fits from reduced air pol­lu­tion, it may have saved the lives of between 50,000 and 75,000 peo­ple. “The reduc­tions in air pol­lu­tion in China caused by this eco­nomic dis­rup­tion likely saved twenty times more lives in China than have cur­rently been lost due to infec­tion with the virus in that coun­try,” Burke wrote on G-​​Feed, a site run by a group of sci­en­tists research­ing the rela­tion­ship between soci­ety and the environment.

While there are health ben­e­fits of the air pol­lu­tion changes, Kam­men cau­tioned about the long-​​term impacts to the econ­omy that we can’t yet know that could also impact the envi­ron­ment. “There is no ques­tion that we’re see­ing big car­bon impacts due to coro­n­avirus,” he said. “We won’t be able to say the reduc­tion is a good thing because the eco­nomic impacts are going to be so large.”

U.C. Berke­ley researcher and pro­fes­sor Den­nis D. Bal­doc­chi also said it’s likely too early to under­stand any of the effects coro­n­avirus will have long term, but he agreed that we could learn from this new way to work. “Often with the envi­ron­ment, there are win­ners and losers. You try to do one good thing and one thing pops up that’s unin­ten­tional,” he said. “But this could show that we can func­tion dif­fer­ently in the future and still be socially interactive.”

Bal­doc­chi also acknowl­edged the unknown impact of the increased waste right now, like every­thing from plas­tic hand san­i­tizer bot­tles to more take­out con­tain­ers to med­ical equipment.

It’s too early to say what the impacts are right now, but if we revisit in March 2021 and com­pare it to this year it will be very inter­est­ing,” he said.

Costa Is Now Serving Food From A Sci-​​Fi Desert Farm

For the orig­i­nal piece in Forbes, click here.

Jan­u­ary 17, 2020

by: Emanuela Bar­bi­roglio

Costa Cruises and AIDA Cruises ships call­ing at Aqaba, Jor­dan, are offer­ing their guests climate-​​friendly veg­eta­bles from an inno­v­a­tive farm out­side the city. The new part­ner­ship brings together the Costa Group and the Nor­we­gian non-​​profit Sahara For­est Project Foundation.

The ini­tia­tive will deliver veg­eta­bles to a total of 14 incom­ing ships dur­ing the sea­son from March to October.

With 28 ships and over 85,000 berths among the dif­fer­ent brands, the lead­ing cruise com­pany in Europe and China wants to cre­ate a trend through this project.

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We believe that through this project we offer the chance to repli­cate the same approach in places and com­mu­ni­ties where the appli­ca­tion of these cutting-​​edge tech­nolo­gies will rep­re­sent a step for­ward into their life,” Davide Tri­acca, sec­re­tary gen­eral of the Costa Crociere Foun­da­tion, told Forbes​.com.

We also see the tremen­dous poten­tial of mak­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of guests on board Costa and Aida ships aware of key top­ics. Lastly, on a global scale the impact will be mul­ti­plied as usu­ally other play­ers in the cruise indus­try fol­low Costa’s lead­er­ship example.”

Accord­ing to Costa, it ‘s not easy to scout inno­v­a­tive and sus­tain­able projects that can be applic­a­ble in a real­is­tic time-​​frame and that can pro­vide a con­crete value to the peo­ple and the environment.

We acknowl­edge that inno­va­tion is not (only) an intro­spec­tive process and that’s why the Foun­da­tion is always open to effec­tive, sound project pro­pos­als from non-​​profit orga­ni­za­tions and start-​​ups in var­i­ous fields,” Tri­acca added. “We don’t have any geo­graph­i­cal bound­ary as we will sup­port projects that can bring ben­e­fits to the com­mu­ni­ties and the environment.”

Pro­fes­sor Dan Kam­men, direc­tor of the Renew­able and Appro­pri­ate Energy Lab­o­ra­tory (RAEL) at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Berke­ley, wel­comed the part­ner­ship recently pre­sented at COP.

The Sahara For­est Project planet in Jor­dan is an excep­tion­ally promis­ing exam­ple of true out-​​of-​​the-​​box think­ing about the clean-​​energy-​​food-​​water pos­si­bil­i­ties,” Kam­men told Forbes​.com.

By lever­ag­ing low-​​cost renew­ables, this effort demon­strates that the ben­e­fits of clean energy can lever­age dra­matic shirts to a sus­tain­able future where added food and water access is brought to life.”

Accord­ing to FAO, the global demand for food, water and energy is expected to increase by about 40 to 50% by 2030. “Dou­bling food pro­duc­tion by 2030 will not come from putting more fer­tile land into pro­duc­tion but mainly from sus­tain­ably inten­si­fy­ing pro­duc­tion – that is, get­ting more from agri­cul­tural lands already in use – and from using mar­ginal lands, such as dry­lands,” said FAO nat­ural resources offi­cer Alessan­dro Flammini.

Due to the war in Syria, how­ever, there has been issues and delays to the roll-​​out and upscal­ing. Key logis­tic routes to mar­kets have been closed and some stake­hold­ers had to change their agendas.

Another chal­lenge has been estab­lish­ing a salt­wa­ter pipeline from the Red Sea to the farm’s site, but the com­pany is cur­rently work­ing with Jor­dan­ian offi­cials to make some devel­op­ment in this sense.

As we under­stand it, there has been imple­men­ta­tion chal­lenges and delays, but we should all hope that they over­come those,” the direc­tor of Norway’s Inter­na­tional Cli­mate and For­est Ini­tia­tive (NICFI) Per Fredrik Pharo com­mented. “The Sahara For­est Project showed great promise. Clearly, its cir­cu­lar nature and abil­ity to uti­lize non-​​fertile lands for food pro­duc­tion and employ­ment could be a breakthrough.”

Inau­gu­rated under the patron­age of King Abdul­lah II of Jor­dan and Prince Haakon of Nor­way in 2017, the Sahara For­est Project uses salt­wa­ter and sun­light to har­vest prod­ucts. It aims at green­ing desert areas and cre­at­ing local jobs through pro­duc­tion of food, fresh­wa­ter and clean energy.

The ongo­ing long-​​term agree­ment for sup­ply of veg­eta­bles to Costa and AIDA ships can pave the way for an expan­sion of our project in Jor­dan, while rais­ing inter­na­tional aware­ness for the need to scale-​​up inno­v­a­tive solu­tions to com­bat global warm­ing and cre­ate local jobs in desert areas,” said Mr. Stake, man­ag­ing direc­tor of the Sahara For­est Project.

It is urgent to prove that it is pos­si­ble to shift away from cur­rent agri­cul­tural prac­tices tra­di­tion­ally using 80% of scarce fresh­wa­ter resources and con­tribut­ing with 25% of CO2 emis­sions in many dry coun­tries and scale up con­cepts that are good for the envi­ron­ment, social devel­op­ment and business.”

Bernie Sanders’ $16 Trillion Climate Plan Is Nothing Short of a Revolution

For the orig­i­nal, click here.

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On Thurs­day, Bernie Sanders released his long-​​awaited pres­i­den­tial cli­mate plan. And folks, Bernie is gonna Bernie.

You can hear his voice in every­thing as it spits hot fire about pros­e­cut­ing the fos­sil fuel indus­try, uplift­ing work­ers, and cre­at­ing a whole swath of new pub­lic works pro­grams and infra­struc­ture. It also calls for 100 per­cent renew­able energy for trans­porta­tion and elec­tric­ity sec­tors by 2030 while eschew­ing nuclear power and demil­i­ta­riz­ing the world, set­ting a goal that’s some­where between wildly ambi­tious and out of reach. In that regard, it per­fectly cap­tures the icon­o­clas­tic nature of the Ver­mont sen­a­tor him­self. But whether it can be imple­mented is a big ques­tion mark.

For­mer pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Jay Inslee, who exited the 2020 race on Wednes­day, made waves when he announced a $9 tril­lion plan to com­bat cli­mate change, a large por­tion of which would be lever­aged invest­ments from the pri­vate sec­tor. Sanders’ plan goes much, much fur­ther. It guar­an­tees a $16.3 tril­lion invest­ment through 2030 to rad­i­cally reshape Amer­i­can life and address the cli­mate crisis.

The plan itself doesn’t focus on where the money will come from, though the cam­paign did say it would come in part from new taxes on the rich, rais­ing rev­enue from the plan itself, reduced social safety net costs, and a few other sources. Instead, it focuses on who gets the money. The plan com­mits tril­lions of dol­lars to grants for low– and middle-​​income fam­i­lies to do every­thing from home weath­er­iza­tion to buy­ing a new elec­tric vehi­cle, and it would cre­ate a whole new host of pub­licly owned energy and inter­net infra­struc­ture. It also uses lan­guage like “we will spend,” “we plan to pro­vide,” and “give.” I’m not going all bUt HoW wIlL wE pAy FoR iT, given that we need a liv­able planet, but the lan­guage and the recip­i­ents them­selves are the mes­sage: This is a god­damn revolution.

Among the out­lays, Sanders would com­mit $2.37 tril­lion to renew­able energy and stor­age, which the plan says would be enough of an invest­ment to meet the country’s energy needs. Any renew­able energy the gov­ern­ment gen­er­ates would be pub­licly owned, and a Sanders admin­is­tra­tion would pri­or­i­tize sell­ing it to pub­licly owned util­i­ties and coop­er­a­tives at cur­rent rates to keep costs down. The cam­paign esti­mates that alone would raise $6.4 tril­lion of the $16.3 tril­lion needed to fund the tran­si­tion. The plan high­lights this under a bul­let point about need­ing to “end greed in our energy system.”

To that end, the plan also says Sanders would instruct the Depart­ment of Jus­tice (DOJ) to go after fos­sil fuel com­pa­nies for both civil and crim­i­nal penal­ties. So far, cases wind­ing through the state court sys­tems have largely failed to hold Big Oil account­able for lying to every­one from the pub­lic to share­hold­ers. There may be a fed­eral prece­dent, though.

Michael Ger­rard, the direc­tor of the Sabin Cen­ter for Cli­mate Change Law, told Earther that Sanders “is try­ing to repli­cate and go beyond what hap­pened in 2006, when after a lengthy trial DOJ obtained the civil con­vic­tion of eleven major tobacco com­pa­nies under the Rack­e­teer Influ­enced Cor­rupt Orga­ni­za­tion (RICO).” The result of that case changed how Big Tobacco could adver­tise and forced them to issue cor­rec­tive state­ments about the adverse effects of smok­ing, though no fines were levied. I would ven­ture to guess a Sanders’ DOJ would hope for a stronger outcome.

Patricia Hidalgo-​​Gonzalez named a 2019–2020 Siebel Scholar in Energy Science!

Patri­cia Hidalgo-​​Gonzalez was today named a  2019–2020 Siebel Scholar in Energy Science!

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Join­ing a com­mu­nity of grad­u­ate stu­dent Siebel Schol­ars, Paty is now part of The Siebel Energy Insti­tute, global con­sor­tium for inno­v­a­tive and col­lab­o­ra­tive energy research.
The Insti­tute funds coop­er­a­tive and inno­v­a­tive research grants in data ana­lyt­ics, includ­ing sta­tis­ti­cal analy­sis and machine learn­ing, to accel­er­ate advance­ments in the safety, secu­rity, reli­a­bil­ity, effi­ciency, and envi­ron­men­tal integrity of mod­ern energy systems.

Paty’s work is on power sys­tems the­ory, includ­ing both ana­lytic work and the devel­op­ment of the SWITCH mod­el­ing tools, and prac­tice, with research foci in the US, Chile, and China, and on basic power sys­tem reli­a­bil­ity, and deep decar­boniza­tion of the sector.


ERG student compiles data on climate change — right outside the President’s window! [Japan’s cherry blossoms signal warmest climate in more than 1,000 years]

From the April 4 Wash­ing­ton Post: and devel­oped by  ERG PhD stu­dent Zeke Hausfather:

For more than 1,000 years, emper­ors, aris­to­crats, gov­er­nors and monks have chron­i­cled the flow­er­ing of Japan’s famed cherry trees in the city of Kyoto. But bloom dates have shifted rad­i­cally ear­lier in recent decades, a sure sign that the region’s cli­mate is warm­ing and warm­ing fast.

Yasuyuki Aono, a pro­fes­sor of envi­ron­men­tal sci­ences at Osaka Pre­fec­ture Uni­ver­sity, has assem­bled a data set that com­piles blossom-​​flowering dates in Kyoto all the way back to 800 A.D. It shows a sud­den and remark­able change in the past 150 to 200 years.

From roughly 800 to 1850, the blos­som flow­er­ing time was fairly sta­ble. While the bloom dates bounced around quite a bit from year to year dur­ing April, the long-​​term aver­age hov­ered between April 10 and April 17 (the 100th to 107th day of the year).


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(Invert plot to see the Hockey Stick!)

Make Carbon Pricing a Business Requirement

Check out the video: https://​www​.green​biz​.com/​v​i​d​e​o​/​c​a​r​b​o​n​-​a​c​c​o​u​n​t​i​n​g​-​b​u​s​i​n​e​s​s​-​r​e​q​u​i​r​e​m​ent

Dan Kam­men, pro­fes­sor of energy at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley and a cli­mate adviser to the Obama admin­is­tra­tion, dis­cusses the the poten­tial of a car­bon tax at the recent Clean Energy Min­is­te­r­ial (CEM7) con­fer­ence in San Francisco.

“If we really want to bend the curve to make the tran­si­tion, we need every­one to speak the same lan­guage — not always to agree, but to talk about things in the same way,” said Kam­men. “You just can’t get envi­ron­men­tal­ists and busi­ness lead­ers and elected offi­cials to do that unless we’re valu­ing and pric­ing out the impacts. Car­bon tax will get us there.”

Kam­men con­tends that the U.S. gov­ern­ment could get the car­bon tax ball rolling by mak­ing car­bon account­ing a “busi­ness require­ment” for all fed­eral contracts.

To watch the video: click here.

Here’s Why There’s a Searing Ethiopian Drought Without an Epic Ethiopian Famine

Inter­est­ing piece by Andy Revkin on famines: Amartya Sen was right!

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I hope you’ll read “Is the Era of Great Famine Over,” an Op-​​Ed arti­cle by Alex de Waal, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the World Peace Foun­da­tion at Tufts Uni­ver­sity, which has a pro­gram track­ing famine trends.

Fil­ing from Ethiopia, which is in the midst of a potent drought but — for a change — not a calami­tous famine, de Waal made these core points: 

How did Ethiopia go from being the world’s sym­bol of mass famines to fend­ing off star­va­tion? Thanks partly to some good for­tune, but mostly to peace, greater trans­parency and pru­dent plan­ning. Ethiopia’s suc­cess in avert­ing another dis­as­ter is con­fir­ma­tion that famine is elec­tive because, at its core, it is an arti­fact and a tool of polit­i­cal repression.

It’s worth stress­ing that last line:

[F]amine is elec­tive because, at its core, it is an arti­fact and a tool of polit­i­cal repression.

Please read the entire arti­cle and con­sider the trend against what has been learned by schol­ars like Joshua Gold­stein and Steven Pinker about death rates from war and vio­lence; declines in deep poverty as shown by Max Roser; and child mor­tal­ity rates from the World Health Organization.

There’s a valu­able deeper dive on global famine trends on the Tufts website.


The World Peace Foundation at Tufts University has found that governance and democracy are prime factors in cutting famine losses. A “great famine” is defined as one killing at least 100,000 people. Learn more at <a href="http://j.mp/faminetrends">j.mp/faminetrends</a>.

The World Peace Foun­da­tion at Tufts Uni­ver­sity has found that gov­er­nance and democ­racy are prime fac­tors in cut­ting famine losses. A “great famine” is defined as one killing at least 100,000 peo­ple. Learn more at j.mp/faminetrends.Credit World Peace Foundation

Over all, human prospects con­tinue to improve.

Set­backs are nearly always the result of rup­tures in gov­er­nance or unchecked extrem­ism and vio­lence. Click back to Nick Kristof’s sear­ing com­men­tary from South Sudan last year for another exam­ple. Here was his con­clu­sion, even as he wit­nessed peo­ple col­laps­ing on the street:

You might think that what’s needed to end a famine is food. Actu­ally, what’s essen­tial above all is an inter­na­tional push of inten­sive diplo­macy and tar­geted sanc­tions to reach a com­pro­mise peace deal and end the civil war.

While the gen­eral pic­ture is bright­en­ing, trend is not des­tiny, and, of course, the non-​​human world is not doing nearly as well.

But with sus­tained cit­i­zen engage­ment, increased mon­i­tor­ing and trans­parency, more “mun­dane sci­ence” (in the best sense, as con­veyed by Dan Kam­men and Michael Dove) and pres­sure on despots and other bad actors, chances of up-​​side sur­prises remain high.

Post­script | Don’t miss the slide show on the polit­i­cal roots of a host of great famines that accom­pa­nies the de Waal article.

Industry Insight: Hydropower: Building Sustainability into the East African Power Pool

In Africa, hydropower is one of the largest renew­able power con­trib­u­tors to energy gen­er­a­tion, how­ever with cli­mate change wreak­ing havoc across the con­ti­nent, water is becom­ing a scarce com­mod­ity in cer­tain areas.

Dr Daniel M. Kam­men, found­ing direc­tor of the Renew­able and Appro­pri­ate Energy Lab­o­ra­tory (RAEL), and Inter­na­tional Rivers’ Lori Pot­tinger dis­cuss hydropower at length, iden­ti­fy­ing the cli­mate risks and the addi­tion of alter­na­tive renew­able tech­nolo­gies in the East Africa region.

The African energy sec­tor is gen­er­ally speak­ing, under­funded, under-​​capacitated and in some places embat­tled. An esti­mated 70% of Africans have no access to grid-​​based electricity.

Black­outs and energy short­falls are the norm in many places. Given this dif­fi­cult land­scape, tak­ing advan­tage of oppor­tu­ni­ties to increase reli­a­bil­ity, develop local sus­tain­able resources, and sup­port both on– and off-​​grid users is a pow­er­ful oppor­tu­nity not to be missed.

The East African Power Pool (EAPP), which serves 10 coun­tries, is at a crit­i­cal junction.

It has the poten­tial to play a key role in dri­ving energy invest­ments in the region for years to come but its heavy focus on costly large dams – and the lack of analy­sis on the risks that cli­mate change brings to those invest­ments – puts the region at high risk.

The plen­ti­ful renew­able energy resources avail­able to the region in the form of solar, wind, bio­mass and geot­her­mal energy mean that it doesn’t have to be this way.

Hydropower faces cli­mate risks

As cur­rently con­fig­ured, the EAPP will rely heav­ily on some of Africa’s largest most con­tro­ver­sial hydropower dams, includ­ing Ethiopia’s Gibe III Dam on the Omo River, and Grand Ethiopian Renais­sance Dam on the Blue Nile.

Cur­rently, about a quar­ter of elec­tric­ity gen­er­ated in EAPP coun­tries comes from hydropower (higher than the global aver­age but accept­able). Guture invest­ments will cre­ate a much greater depen­dence on hydropower at a time of chang­ing river flows and other cli­mate disruptions.

The EAPP has iden­ti­fied hydropower projects that will almost dou­ble the EAPP’s cur­rent installed capac­ity, which means that an esti­mated 60% of the grid’s power will come from Ethiopian hydropower gen­er­a­tion alone.

Risk analy­sis

Not enough infor­ma­tion exists about the risks involved in hydropower dams in East Africa to jus­tify such heavy growth in hydropower.

The EAPP Mas­ter Plan does not include an analy­sis of the effects of cli­mate change on the regional power strat­egy. It makes no attempt to address the impacts of pos­si­ble droughts on the region’s economy.

The EAPP would be wise to shift its pri­or­i­ties to include a much greater pro­por­tion of renew­able energy sources like solar, geot­her­mal and wind, and to take greater account of cli­mate risks to large hydropower projects.

Bridg­ing the energy divide

Decen­tralised renew­able energy sources are also more appro­pri­ate for bridg­ing East Africa’s large energy divide.

Mini-​​grids and com­mu­nity energy pro­grammes can greatly build local energy access and eco­nomic oppor­tu­nity, which can be the ‘seeds’ of grow­ing regional grids.

The clean, non-​​hydro energy poten­tial of the East African region is vast and devel­op­ing it can lead to strong eco­nomic, social and envi­ron­men­tally ben­e­fi­cial development.

A renew­ables based energy sec­tor can meet the rapidly grow­ing energy needs of the region, mak­ing addi­tional progress in increas­ing energy access, in a way that achieves envi­ron­men­tal sustainability.

Inno­v­a­tive solutions

With so many peo­ple liv­ing off-​​grid in the region, a bal­anced focus on grid-​​connectivity and on pay-​​as-​​you go and other off-​​grid and mini-​​grid clean energy solu­tions is a key step that gov­ern­ments in the region can enable, and that the inter­na­tional aid and busi­ness com­mu­ni­ties can support.

Our recent work on the ‘information-​​energy’ nexus[1] and the strong per­for­mance of pri­vate providers of off-​​grid solar-​​based energy ser­vices (such as M-​​KOPA and Sun­ny­Money) indi­cates that diver­si­fied strate­gies have the poten­tial to build capac­ity to serve all in the east African region.

It has been esti­mated that the region’s solar resource alone is suf­fi­cient to pro­vide the needed energy resources for each nation within the EAPP.

Avail­able non-​​hydro renew­able elec­tric­ity sources account for roughly 80% of the iden­ti­fied hydropower projects in the EAPP Mas­ter Plan.

Leapfrog­ging hydro to a broad base of renew­ables would be far less risky in a chang­ing climate.

Lead­ing by example

A good exam­ple of an energy sec­tor that is already plan­ning for cli­mate risks to hydropower is Kenya. The east African coun­try has increased its per­cent­age of climate-​​safe geot­her­mal elec­tric­ity while reduc­ing its depen­dence on hydropower.

Kenya is on pace to expand its geot­her­mal pro­duc­tion from just over 500MW to over 3,000MW in just a few years.

Geot­her­mal is today the least-​​costly form of on-​​grid gen­er­a­tion in Kenya, with costs as low at 8.5 cents/​kWh, one third of the fos­sil fuel costs.

The geot­her­mal story in Kenya is not unique. Wind could rival geot­her­mal as a growth indus­try. New dis­cov­er­ies (such as the incred­i­bly rich wind resource at Lake Turkana).

Chal­lenges do remain, with the off-​​grid pop­u­la­tion and expan­sion of energy pro­grammes for the poor being key issues (but where efforts from the grow­ing pri­vate sec­tor pay-​​as-​​you-​​go pro­grammes of M-​​KOPA, Sun­ny­Money and oth­ers are mak­ing progress).

At the indus­trial level, how­ever, the expan­sion of clean, on-​​grid energy can also bring about new indus­trial potential.

Even while tak­ing the pru­dent step to dra­mat­i­cally reduce the planned use of hydropower, Kenya is plan­ning a new indus­trial cor­ri­dor built around clean geot­her­mal, wind, and solar energy.

What is tak­ing place in Kenya can and should hap­pen else­where in the region.

About the authors:

This edi­to­r­ial piece is based on the find­ings of “A Clean Energy Vision for East Africa: Plan­ning for Sus­tain­abil­ity, Reduc­ing Cli­mate Risks and Increas­ing Energy Access” (2015) by Daniel Kammen.

Dan Kammen

Dr Daniel M. Kam­men is the Class of 1935 Dis­tin­guished Pro­fes­sor of Energy at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley, with par­al­lel appoint­ments in the Energy and Resources Group, the Gold­man School of Pub­lic Pol­icy, and the Depart­ment of Nuclear Engineering.

He was appointed by then Sec­re­tary of State Hilary Clin­ton in April 2010 as the first energy fel­low of the new Envi­ron­ment and Cli­mate Part­ner­ship for the Amer­i­cas (ECPA) initiative.

Lori Pottinger

Lori Pot­tinger, works on the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Africa Pro­gramme at Inter­na­tional Rivers. Pot­tinger has worked on Africa’s rivers since the 1990’s. “A healthy river is such a remark­able thing, it gives so much to so many peo­ple; we’re work­ing across the con­ti­nent to keep Africa’s rivers healthy and flow­ing. If I wasn’t work­ing on rivers, I’d be doing what I can to save the world’s oceans and coral reefs.”

[1] Alstone, P., Ger­shen­son, D. and Kam­men, D. M. (2015) “Decen­tral­ized energy sys­tems for clean elec­tric­ity access“, Nature Cli­mate Change5, 305 – 314.  DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE2512

Forbes Article: Lower Carbon = Higher Profit


Lower Car­bon = Higher Profit

Car­bon emis­sions sig­nal inef­fi­ciency in a sys­tem, an energy expert said in Chicago this week, so reduc­ing emis­sions usu­ally means increas­ing savings.

In house­hold after house­hold and small busi­nesses and schools, we’ve con­sis­tently found that car­bon– or water-​​saving oper­a­tions are good for the bot­tom line,” Daniel Kam­men, a pro­fes­sor of energy at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Berke­ley, told about 150 peo­ple at the Uni­ver­sity of Chicago’s Ori­en­tal Insti­tute on Monday.

Kam­men is backed up, in part, by a study he pub­lished in 2011 in the Jour­nal of Envi­ron­men­tal Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy. Kam­men and co-​​author Chris Jones found that a 20 per­cent reduc­tion in car­bon emis­sions resulted in $2,100 per year in poten­tial finan­cial sav­ings for a household.

What we found, no sur­prise, is that actions that save you on car­bon almost always save you on money,” Kam­men said. “Because after all those emis­sions are a waste.”

The sav­ings hinge on a num­ber of actions that reduce waste: change diet, telecom­mute, take tran­sit, eco-​​drive, main­tain vehi­cles, ride bike, turn up ther­mo­stat, turn down ther­mo­stat, reduce fly­ing, trade in vehi­cles, use com­pact flu­o­res­cent bulbs, line-​​dry clothes, use Energy–Star refrig­er­a­tor.

Aver­age finan­cial sav­ings are fre­quently greater than $100 per met­ric ton of CO2e con­served for this set of actions,” the authors write. Some of these actions require an upfront investment—$4,800 for the aver­age Amer­i­can household—which the authors say will pay back in 2.6 years and then con­tinue to pay off.

The great­est sav­ings come from changes in diet—$850 per year on average—which entail giv­ing up carbon-​​intensive meat and dairy prod­ucts and “non-​​essential food items.” The authors urge a reduc­tion in overeat­ing, from 2,500 calo­ries per day to 2,200, and con­tend that dietary change will not only reduce car­bon and save money but com­bat health prob­lems asso­ci­ated with obesity.

The authors mod­eled these changes for about 2,000 types of house­holds in 78 dif­fer­ent regions of the U.S.

Dietary change pro­duced the most dra­matic effect across all regions, but other changes showed more variability.

For exam­ple, they com­pare a two-​​person house­hold earn­ing $90,000 in the San Fran­cisco Bay Area (House­hold A) to a five-​​person house­hold earn­ing $50,000 in St. Louis, MO (House­hold B):

The Car­bon foot­print of house­hold A is dom­i­nated by emis­sions from motor vehi­cles and air travel. Emis­sions from house­hold energy are about half of the U.S. aver­age due largely to the rel­a­tively clean fuel mix of California’s elec­tric­ity grid and mod­er­ate San Fran­cisco Bay Area cli­mate. The house­hold has essen­tially no emis­sions from cool­ing. Emis­sions from goods and ser­vices out­strip emis­sions from food due to the household’s rel­a­tively high income and low num­ber of house­hold mem­bers. The total 20% foot­print reduc­tion poten­tial mod­eled cor­re­sponds to about $2100/​yr in poten­tial finan­cial sav­ings. As could be expected, trans­porta­tion dom­i­nates total car­bon foot­print reduc­tion poten­tial (8 out of 10 tCO2e/​yr total).

The car­bon foot­print of house­hold B is dom­i­nated by emis­sions from elec­tric­ity. This is largely a prod­uct of high emis­sions per kWh of elec­tric­ity in St. Louis and larger than aver­age heat­ing and cool­ing demands. Emis­sions from food also out­strip direct and indi­rect emis­sions from motor vehi­cles, due to the large house­hold size. This mod­est income fam­ily has lower than aver­age emis­sions from goods and ser­vices. The house­hold can save $1400 per year and reduce its car­bon foot­print by almost 3 tCO2e/​yr by reduc­ing overeat­ing and waste from food and reduc­ing the amount of meat, dairy, and nonessen­tial food items con­sumed. Fur­ther sav­ings of $500 per year and 3 tCO2e/​yr can be obtained by increas­ing the family’s aver­age fuel effi­ciency from 20 mpg to 25 mpg, reduc­ing total vehi­cle miles trav­eled and prac­tic­ing fuel-​​saving dri­ving and vehi­cle main­te­nance habits. The house­hold has vir­tu­ally no emis­sions from air travel. Car­bon foot­print sav­ings of 2 tCO2e can be achieved by adjust­ing the ther­mo­stat, replac­ing light bulbs, and line-​​drying clothes; how­ever, finan­cial sav­ings are less than $200/​yr due to rel­a­tively low energy prices in the state of Missouri.

The dif­fer­ences lead the authors to sug­gest that pol­i­cy­mak­ers tai­lor poli­cies and incen­tives to dif­fer­ent objec­tives in dif­fer­ent regions instead of try­ing to craft a blan­ket pol­icy for all.

Kam­men spoke Mon­day in Chicago at a forum spon­sored by the Uni­ver­sity of Chicago Cen­ter for Inter­na­tional Stud­ies and other cam­pus groups. He told me in a sub­se­quent email that Berkeley’s Renew­able and Appro­pri­ate Energy Lab­o­ra­tory, which he founded, has also mod­eled car­bon sav­ings for busi­ness and indus­try, with sim­i­lar results.

Some com­pa­nies have caught on to the finan­cial value of sustainability—Kammen men­tioned Pepsi and Walmart—but most have not because “the data isn’t widely out there yet.”

Jones and Kam­men used the data to build cal­cu­la­tors that enable indi­vid­u­als and busi­ness own­ers to com­pare their car­bon foot­print to their neigh­bors and com­peti­tors. When faced with com­par­isons, Kam­men said, peo­ple will often reduce car­bon emis­sions voluntarily.

For exam­ple, the first brewer to use their cal­cu­la­tor was Sierra Nevada Brew­ing Com­pany, which has long empha­sized sustainability.

The next brewer said, ‘This data has to be wrong, no one can be this green.’ So we pro­vided a lit­tle more infor­ma­tion, they fig­ured out which brewer it was, and a num­ber of oth­ers decided to catch up. They only did it because a peer com­peti­tor had done it,” Kam­men said.

This process of egging each other on is an area of behav­ioral eco­nom­ics for which all of these energy teams have been scour­ing the land­scape for behav­ioral econ­o­mists who want to play.”

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