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This week, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a new proposal detailing how they would like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing power plants. Their analysis predicts that their proposal would reduce power sector GHG emissions 26 percent below 2005 levels in 2020, or 17 percent below 2011 levels.

Standards for existing plants are essential if the United States is to make meaningful strides toward a low-carbon economy. NRDC’s proposal provides a valuable contribution to the ongoing discussion about how best to design these standards.

U.S. Emissions Are on an Unsustainable Path

Even though the United States has made progress on reducing emissions – most notably through the Obama administration’s new standards for passenger vehicles – we need more action if the country is to prevent climate change’s worst impacts. While U.S. energy emissions have fallen nearly 9 percent below 2005 levels, these trends are not expected to continue without ambitious new climate and energy policies. This is the clear takeaway from both the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook 2012 and a recent analysis by Dallas Burtraw and Matthew Woerman at Resources for the Future.

This post originally appeared on Bloomberg.com.

The reality of a world with more extreme weather events, rising seas, and longer droughts is becoming clearer by the day. Even more troubling is that we are on course for still greater changes to our planet in the years ahead.

That’s the key takeaway from a major new report by the World Bank, which examines the impact of a 4 degrees Celsius warmer world. At the same time, new analysis from WRI finds that there are nearly 1,200 proposed coal plants worldwide. If these plants come online, our chances of staying within 2 degrees of warming—the level recommended to prevent the worst consequences of climate change—would be nil.

4 Degrees of Warming Could Reshape Our World

The World Bank is not prone to hyperbole. Its warning that we could be heading to 4 degrees of rising global temperatures should be taken extremely seriously by leaders around the world. The World Bank’s assessment reaffirms what many of us already understand: scientific evidence of human-caused global warming is unequivocal. Given that it took little more than 4 degrees of cooling to create the last Ice Age, it would be hard to overstate how 4 degrees of warming could reshape our world by the end of this century.

Global Coal Risk Assessment

Data Analysis and Market Research

Coal-fired power plants are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions—one that could be increasing significantly globally. This working paper analyzes information about proposed new coal-fired plants and other market trends in order to assess potential future risks to the global climate....

The global renewable energy industry has experienced dramatic growth in recent years. Renewable energy capacity (excluding hydropower) has more than doubled since 2005. In 2011, new clean energy investments reached a record $257 billion (a six-fold increase from 2004), and approximately half of the world’s new electric capacity came from renewable sources. These gains came despite the tumultuous backdrop of a global financial crisis and a rapidly changing clean energy technology industry - one that’s experiencing increased global competition, rapidly falling industry prices, and oversupply in the solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind sectors.

However, the benefits of the clean energy industry have not been shared evenly around the world. WRI’s new working paper, Delivering on the Clean Energy Economy, shows that countries have varied widely in their success of growing renewable energy industries that achieve both global competitiveness and domestic benefits. The main reason for this variation lies in the types of national policies the countries have in place.

According to our new research, countries who have been successful with their clean energy development have:

  • Taken a Comprehensive Approach: Policies are integrated at the national level

  • Sustained Policy in a Predictable Manner: Policies have an established lifetime of at least three-to-four years to enhance industry certainty

  • Implemented Targeted Policies: Policies address the needs of different technologies and target the needs of the entire value chain

Delivering on the Clean Energy Economy

The Role of Policy in Developing Successful Domestic Solar and Wind Industries

This paper examines the development of the solar PV and wind industries across China, Germany, India, Japan, and the United States from 2001–2011. It takes a unique, comparative approach to track the policies and incentives put in place by these key competitors, documents the state of play in...

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com.

Now that the election is over, elected officials need to return to the important act of governing. Building a low-carbon energy future will be essential for the country’s continued prosperity and security.

Yet in recent months, we have witnessed a heated national debate—and significant misinformation—about public investment in clean energy and the government’s role in America’s energy future. Below, we seek to inform a path forward on this critical issue by separating fact from fiction.

Myth 1: Funding Renewable Energy Is a Waste of Taxpayers’ Money

In fact, federal investments in solar, wind, and geothermal companies, largely through stimulus funds, proved to be a success.

This post was co-authored by Dominique Labaki, an intern with WRI's External Relations department.

Last Friday, experts from the ChinaFAQs Network and top media representatives participated on a press call on climate and energy policy under China’s incoming president, Xi Jinping, and other new leaders. The participants focused on the drivers underlying China’s energy and climate policies and actions. Key issues included whether the country can sustain its renewable energy growth, confront rising coal demand, and follow through on its climate change targets in the 12th five-year plan. All of these issues are emerging as the country faces its first major economic slowdown in more than a decade. This blog post highlights experts’ discussion during the press call.

New Leadership and the 12th Five-Year Plan

Kenneth Lieberthal, Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy and Global Economy and Development at Brookings, opened the discussion. As he explained, nearly 70 percent of China’s top leadership positions are expected to change in November, but the make-up of the Standing Committee of the Politburo remains uncertain. In Lieberthal’s view, China’s new leaders will first focus on domestic challenges, primarily around re-balancing the economy.

This post originally appeared on WRI's ChinaFAQs site.

When it comes to coal consumption, no other nation comes close to China. The country reigns as the world’s largest coal user, burning almost half of the global total each year. About 70 percent of China’s total energy consumption and nearly 80 percent of its electricity production come from coal, and its recent shift from being a historical net coal exporter to the world’s largest net coal importer took only three years.

China’s great thirst for coal is undeniably troubling from a sustainable development standpoint. However, the situation may be changing. I recently joined three other experts to speak at a Congressional briefing entitled, “Why China Is Acting on Clean Energy: Successes, Challenges, and Implications for U.S. Policy.” While my fellow speakers spoke about the progress of clean energy development in China, I sought to explain how the growing constraints on coal development are acting as one factor pushing China to move more aggressively towards clean energy.

Listen to the recording of WRI's press call on "China's Leadership Transition and Implications for Energy and Climate.

Today is my first day as President of the World Resources Institute. I’m delighted to be part of this extraordinary organization that seeks enduring solutions to protect the Earth and improve people's lives.

We live in precarious times. The world has achieved unprecedented economic progress, but by living well beyond its means in terms of natural resources and ecosystems. Never has it been more important to understand the links between resources – water, soil, atmosphere, climate, biodiversity, energy, minerals – and human activity. And never has it been more imperative that economic decisions fully reflect the true value of these resources. It is only by doing so that we will succeed in eliminating poverty and enhancing lives and livelihoods permanently.

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