Rhein on Energy and Climate

In North America and Northern Europe roughly more than one third of CO2 emissions are due to heating, which is correlated to average temperatures from October to April.

The latest estimates of the German aggregate energy consumption and CO2 emissions in 2011 confirm this rule of thumb.

The total German energy consumption is expected to fall by an impressive five per cent over 2010, the CO2 emissions to decline by three per cent. These reductions result essentially from high temperatures prevailing in most of 2011; assuming “normal” temperatures the CO2 emissions would have gone up by one per cent.

In a medium-term perspective, the German record of energy saving is much less impressive than German energy and environmental officials make us believe:

a reduction of the total energy consumption by 10 per cent during the last 20 years, since 1990, and just five per cent during the last five years, when European climate policy has started to grip, is nothing to be proud of for a country with slow economic growth and a huge energy efficiency potential inherited in Eastern Germany.

Despite the elaborate and expensive promotion programme for wind and solar power the German share of renewable energy does not yet exceed 20 per cent for electricity and 10 per cent for all energy combined.

One should draw three conclusions from this brief analysis:

  • Always look at the fine print of any data on energy consumption and CO2 emissions:
  • Continue to insulate buildings despite lower winter temperatures. Heating remains the single biggest item of energy consumption and CO2 emissions.
  • Accelerate the pace towards higher energy efficiency and more renewable energies, in both developed and emerging countries. Humanity cannot afford to progress at the EU`s snail pace during the last 20 years.
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  1. We have continued to monitor your thoughts and reasoning over the years Sir, and indeed they are in the main very well respected. However the distrust that arises in the collective public’s mind is one which you and others have – we think – been totally over-looked.

    Here you quote an example that in the FRG (Federal Republic of Germany) the advent of global warming would be sufficient to promote a reduction in tCO2eq (total equivalent carbon dioxide) emissions but do not explain whether this is having any effect in the total. To many in the general public’s understanding this means that they should not do anything for the system is one of inherent self-balancing (or regulating!) We do not think that this is what you had intended.

    From where we sit in this discussion there are assumptions being made and those that have now been recorded as being cast-iron proof that the issue of still pursuing the ultimate goal of reducing the use of energy and fuels (and we make the clear distinction between these intentionally) to a more sustainable level concomitant with the needs to reduce the man-made influence on climate change is a real desire. The EU has repeatedly made its position statement known here but in terms of the 7000 Million population of the world it is but 462 Million (say) or 6.6% of the total with a gluttonous use of these that is wholly disproportionate to its size. However with the rise of the super-nations the PRC India and Brazil this issue will move to a wider array and a gradual levelling out. Unfortunately for the EU this will mean that he who has the largest purse will be the winner.

    Imagine Sir the effects of both the PRC and India developing a major consumer-driven economy that has the private car as its leader. We have already seen statements in this press portal of the effects that this would have on the demand for oil, and we have already seen this repeated by Mr Vosier from Shell (September 2011.) If we as a collective of nations in the EU do not understand that this is a major concern then read the previous papers presented here in EurActiv letter about this and the attendant article by Shell. For if this is the way forwards then the prospect of Peak Oil and its sister event Peak Energy will be forever getting closer. And with that rise in demand of such primary sources of needed energy and fuels we can already see that these countries are beginning to have a greater say in the acquisition of their renewable energy and renewable fuel alternatives. It will not have passed you by that the PRC has recently edicted a 10% biofuels mandate for immediate implementation with a 20% impress for 20120 and a perceived 50% impress for 2035! How does this compare to the EU? In doing this the PRC has stipulated that it should not use Food Crops for this – if made in China – but avidly goes overseas and buys up massive quantities from countries that produce same from food crops! Double-speak is rife here! But of course if you are a desperate nation seeking international currencies RMB or Yen (now that they are tradable) or €uro or Rials or – the soon to be defunct US dollar – then it is in your interests to cosy up to the PRC or India to reap the rewards. And obviously by supplying the PRC or India with renewables you will assist them in deferring their collective tCO2eq emissions.

    On the home front though the issue becomes one of less tolerance. The FRG like others in the EU will be faced with a declining source of raw energy and fuels pre-packaged as the fossil fuels mainly as oil and natural gas and coal and these will continue to rise in price as a result of the drive of the Asian and South American Super-Economies. Inevitably thus the use of these commodities will be reduced….supply and demand issues prevail. In the parallel issue you also report sir that Global Warming in the Northern Reaches of the World will also result in the demand of these being lessened because – presumably – as the climate warms heating uses are also reduced. (Of course there are others that also affect this issue such as a change in demand to more-efficient products that use energy more wisely, and the public is also made aware that this is good for them because – yes – it affects their financial well-being. Supply and demand again tempered by costs.

    In the meantime those countries that have now rapidly developed their economies to make renewable energy and renewable fuels have gained ground and whilst the previous “oil is king” scenario declines and the renewable issues become centre-stage and climb those that have developed them – financed by the PRC and India – become the new Kings of Energy and Fuel provision. And as before he who pays the most gains the most!

    In your various deliberations over the past years and in the parallel deliberations of others and in the various edicts of the EU (Energy Road Maps, Fuel Road Maps etc etc etc) and the need to address energy and fuel efficiency the whole issue is being lost hidden under the Climate Change scene and Global Warming scene. We agree that the issues of providing a real series of Renewable Energies and Fuels in the EU is a real necessity. But this necessity is not for 20 years time but for this decade…all 8 years left!

    We can do it and we need to be motivated to do it. Pontificating on how to and whether energy efficiency will assist is peripheral. We need to take this on at the source.

    The EU has one of the largest budgets for expenditure in the World but unfortunately it is being directed – as always – to support self-centred farming and major business interests. Why subsidies oil? We still do! Why subsidise the big Energy Producers with masses of money directed to the Renewable Energy and Carbon Sequestration and Storage systems when most of this money ends up in the share-holders’ pockets? It cannot be write to offer grants to the private energy companies to build facilities to correct their inefficiencies of controlling emissions or to build huge biomass burning (incineration) power plants and then giving these same companies huge tariff incentives on top when the ultimate payer is the consumer – you and me! This is doubly subsidising the power companies first in the capital expenditure and then in producing renewable energy. No wonder companies in this sector can sell on these facilities within months of having their projects financed to make €Billions of profit for there is no claw back. Added to this is the double benefit of these facilities in clawing back enhanced tariffs for even if they were to generate 100 MW of energy from the process and they used 30 MW of that same energy to meet the internal needs of that energy plant the benefits are for the Gross Power Produced at the Power Plant and not the Residual Power exported from the Power Plant to the Grid. Sir, don’t you also think that this is odd? We do and most of my colleagues think it is so as well! Sir, enough of that from me here on those issues, for we doubt whether any one in the EU will take note of this.

    So what about the article and a way forward that can be understood by the Public?

    In essence you have been good enough to write down your thoughts and we have responded: take note of these.

    Now here are some suggestions which have been reported on in recent time. Not all Renewable Energy and Fuels need be more expensive than their Fossil Fuel equivalents. How do we know? Well the P_V (Photo_Electric) debacle already tells us this. Now with the spray-applied paint-style P_V system that is shortly to be launched out of Malta the costs of P_V production will come down dramatically – and we hear to around 15% of the current thin-film hard plate systems. And it can be applied to new and retrofit locations as a system that can be put on any building structure or surface – a dam wall, an aerport roof, a motorway, bridges even the Eiffel Tower! There’s a thought for you! And renewable fuels generated from Biomass – these do not have to cost any more than those obtained from food crops. We hear that two projects – one in Malta and one in Holland – will be developing shortly that will show that this is as true as ever it was, and they do not need food crops! And there are more: the Israeli development of growing macro algae in lagoons (power station cooling basins even) cheaply and for uses as biofuels for transport are also about to reach the market. Yet these proposals have barely reached the areas of EU support or subsidies! Why? This is the cutting-edge technology platform which is needed in the EU and which is needed to be supported in this next 8 years.

    As we must remember tinkering around at the edges in the Climate Debate is not good enough. My Grand-Children will not appreciate it.

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