Five-country comparison on solar photovoltaic and on-shore wind energy policies and progress.
WRI assisted Whole Foods Market in completing the largest purchase of green power in U.S. history, 4598 kilowatt-hours per year from wind farms—enough to power 40,000 homes. Corporate leadership is essential to the growth of green power and Whole Foods’ purchase has set a new benchmark. Whole Foods worked with WRI because of the success of our Green Power Market Development Group, a partnership of Fortune 500 companies building corporate markets for renewable energy. Group members are now the nation’s largest corporate users of renewable energy. Starbuck’s, J&J, and IBM support wind power. DuPont and GM are the country’s largest corporate users of landfill biogas for thermal energy, while J&J, Staples, and GM are among the nation’s top business users of solar power.
Powering development with affordable, sustainable electricity
Australia is a major nation to watch when it comes to curbing climate change. The country made an international commitment to reduce its GHG emissions by 5 to 25 percent from 2000 levels by 2020. How Australia achieves these reductions can provide lessons on how other countries around the world can pursue their own climate change mitigation plans.
WRI’s Open Climate Network and Australia’s The Climate Institute (TCI) recently analyzed Australia’s climate change plan, which includes a mix of policies to reduce emissions (check out the working paper here). We found that three initiatives stand out in terms of their potential to significantly reduce GHG emissions: a carbon pricing mechanism, a Renewable Energy Target (RET), and the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI).
As part of his recently released Climate Action Plan, President Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set carbon pollution standards for existing power plants. While these federal standards are a critical component of the U.S. plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and curb climate change, the responsibility to actually implement them will fall to individual states.
The good news for many states is that they can greatly reduce their power sector emissions through existing policies and infrastructure, such as by meeting state standards for renewables and efficiency and increasing the use of existing natural gas power plants. These measures will ease the path for those states to meet future EPA power plant emissions standards and combat climate change.
WRI recently analyzed the existing tools Ohio can use to reduce its power sector emissions and help meet future EPA emissions standards. Over the coming months, we’ll release a series of fact sheets that outline the steps several other states can take.
Germany’s energy transition (or “Energiewende”) is the most ambitious current effort to put a large industrial economy onto a sustainable energy path, recognizing the 21st century reality of a climate-constrained world. If the world’s fourth largest economy demonstrates that this shift is possible without undermining economic growth, it could be a major factor in enabling a global energy transition. And with climate change intensifying – 2012 was the 36th straight year of above-average global temperature, and 2011 and 2012 each produced more extreme weather events costing over one billion dollars each than any other year in recorded history – reducing greenhouse gas emissions is imperative for any future energy system. Thus, the Energiewende is critical to the ongoing fight against global warming.
As impacts from climate change become more visible and costly, leaders across the nation are responding. In the wake of projections from the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science showing that Maryland could face sea-level rise of more than six feet by the end of the century, Governor Martin O’Malley unveiled a state climate action plan this week. The initiative will reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also supporting job creation and economic growth.
Alexander Perera leads WRI’s work in renewable energy. Looking back to the year 2000, he recounts how few companies were thinking about green power options and how few utilities offered them. “Commercial and industrial use of renewable energy in the U.S. totaled less than 250 megawatts – equal to just one quarter the output of a large coal-fired power plant.”
Nine years later, a pioneering group of fifteen U.S. companies quadrupled this output, reaching a collective goal of purchasing 1,000 megawatts of new, cost competitive green power generated from renewable resources. In reaching this landmark, the Green Power Market Development Group (GPMDG) has helped catalyze a dramatic scale up of the domestic renewables industry.
WRI convened the Group and has worked with companies to explore workable renewable energy technologies, financing strategies, and partnership arrangements. It also helped the Group establish best practices for green power purchasing. “Companies now obtain green power from a variety of sources,” says Perera, “including solar and wind power, biomass, low-impact hydropower, and landfill gas.”
Core members of the GPMDG include Alcoa, Dow Chemical, DuPont, FedEx, GM, Georgia-Pacific, Google, IBM, Interface, J&J, Michelin NA, Natureworks, Pitney Bowes, Staples, and Starbucks.
Extreme weather and climate events such as storms, floods, droughts and wildfires visibly impact not only our communities and livelihoods, but also our resources and related infrastructure. In its latest report, U.S. Energy Sector Vulnerabilities to Climate Change and Extreme Weather, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) warns that domestic energy supplies are likely to face more severe disruptions given rising temperatures that result in extreme weather events. The report accurately outlines the risks climate change poses to the energy sector in the United States and serves as a wake-up call on this critical issue, which I highlighted in my testimony before the Energy and Power Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee earlier this year.