Monday, 29 December 2008

Global solar report card

Global Green USA and Green Cross International have published a "Global solar report card", which they say:

"... explores 16 countries, and the state of California’s, solar commitments to date, as well as their policy efforts in fostering future growth of their solar markets. Success stories as well as lessons learned in policy implementation are discussed. Final grades reveal that all countries are still in the early phases of solar deployment."
You can download the report here.

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Monday, 22 December 2008

Solarcentury at Poznan

Solarcentury, who won an Ashden Award in 2007, joined with other solar companies and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) at Poznan to encourage rapid expansion of the use of solar PV technology to combat climate change, as reported by Your Renewables News.

Their proposal included:

  • Stringent, ambitious, international and national carbon regulation policies
  • Enforceable renewables mandates with a solar carve out or credit multiplier for solar energy
  • Near-term incentives that could include feed-in tariffs, partial rebates, tax credits and/or property-based loans
  • Favorable net metering, interconnection, permitting and land-use policies.
Jeremy Leggett, Executive Chairman of Solarcentury, said: "As a European leader in building-integrated solar, Solarcentury expects to see buildings routinely becoming power plants in the years ahead, generating all their own electricity and heating needs in situ, and often more than they need, making them net exporters of energy. With the right partners in the construction industry, we can put up zero-emissions buildings in a matter of weeks: not the years that conventional power plants require. We are seeing some excellent progress with European support, particularly with the incentive of strong feed-in tariffs, but we need very much more."

Read the full story here.

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REDP article in Renewable Energy for Development

Renewable Energy for Development is a magazine published by the Stockholm Environment Institute. Volume 21, issue 2 contains an article on REDP China (Renewable Energy Development Project), explaining their finance model, quality control process and the benefits of the solar PV technology they are working with. You can read it here, the article is on page 5.

REDP won their Ashden Award in 2008 for their work in supporting the Chinese solar PV industry. You can read more info and watch a short film about them here.

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Friday, 12 December 2008

Cookstoves in the Economist

A recent Economist article covers biomass cooking stoves, explaining some of the challenges faced in designing them and making sure they actually get used:

If user demand were the sole driver of innovation, the biomass cooking stove would be one of the most sophisticated devices in the world. Depending on which development agency you ask, between two-and-a-half and three billion people—nearly half the world’s population—use a stove every day, in conjunction with solid fuel such as wood, dung or coal. Yet in many parts of the world the stove has barely progressed beyond the Stone Age.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that toxic emissions from cooking stoves are responsible for causing 1.6m premature deaths a year, half of them among children under five years old. In China 83m people will die from lung cancer and respiratory disease over the next 25 years, according to a recent report from Harvard University. Research from the University of California, Berkeley, on stoves in India, Guatemala and Mexico has found links between indoor air-pollution from stoves and increased incidence of pneumonia, cataracts and tuberculosis.
Even if they get the thermodynamics and materials right, designers must also make the devices compatible with local foodstuffs and cooking habits. A lot of the initial stove projects failed this test, says Daniel Kammen of Berkeley’s Energy Resources Group, who has worked on several stove projects in sub-Saharan Africa. A lack of field testing, he says, meant a lot of stoves were simply unsuited to users’ needs. The difference in cooking styles between countries, he says, can determine how—and whether—a new stove design ends up being used.
If such cultural factors are not taken into account, people will not use the stoves. Dr Wilson says just 3% of chimneys provided as part of one project in India were being used, according to a later survey: the rest had been either sold or reused as irrigation channels.

Read the full article in the Economist, and check out past Ashden Award winners who developed successful cookstoves.

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Ashden Awards at COP14 in Poznan, Poland

With all of the important but rather abstract climate policy discussions that are going on in Poznan this week for the UNFCCC climate change conference (COP14), you’ll be happy to hear that delegates will have the chance to see some real sustainable energy technologies, thanks to the Ashden Awards!

We were invited by the Polish Ministry of the Environment to display models of Ashden Award winning technologies, alongside information about how the technologies have been applied by our winners. These exhibits have included improved cooking stoves (GERES, Kisangani Smith Group, Gaia Association and Aprovecho Research Centre), a ram pump (AID Foundation), a solar home system (Grameen Shakti) and a treadle pump (International Development Enterprises India).

I went out to set them up and they are sitting happily next to hydrogen cars and other futuristic hi-tech gadgets – hopefully as a reminder that these programmes are already delivering social, economic and environmental benefits for millions of people – and need to be rolled out to many more millions. Photos to follow...

Ben Dixon

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Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Is it time for transition?

What connects farming, famine, food, fossils fuels and fertilisers? The answer is somewhat surprising: oil. This was one of the conclusions of the Soil Association annual conference: Transition - Food and Farming in 21st century Britain. Fossil fuel depletion, climate change, diminishing soil and water resources and population growth present an unprecedented threat to global food security.

Those threats are based on our dependence on fossil-fuels for both our energy needs and for the mass production (and transportation) of food. This places us in a very precarious position. Precarious because oil has peaked and we are beginning to run out. Precarious because mass, non-organic, agriculture is so dependent on synthetic, oil-based fertilisers. Precarious because the burning of fossil-fuels is leading to irrevocable climate change. Precarious because our dependency on imported food and energy leaves us a vulnerable, net importer and precarious because we are destroying the very thing that nurtures us: the soil beneath our feet.

But rather than produce despondency (a common enough human reaction) these problems have led to some remarkable grass-roots solutions. From the rapidly growing Transitions Towns movement to Catherine Sneed’s remarkable and moving ‘healing through horticulture’ programme in US prisons to Dr Vandana Shiva’s ‘Soil not Oil’ movement. You can listen for yourself here:

Ashden Awards was there too, to share the experience of our pioneering winners, as a major contributor to a workshop on farming and energy. The workshop outlined the lessons we can learn from international biogas systems for UK farmers and demonstrated the benefits of biomass in sustainable farming energy solutions as well as the role farmers (and landowners) can play in powering the national grid through wind. There was overwhelming interest.

Whilst the global issues can seem at times insurmountable, this conference demonstrated that it is the often small, frequently bottom up, mostly local and always sustainable solutions that may provide the shoots of hope for us all.

Simon Brammer
UK Programme Manager for Ashden Awards

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Mayor of London follows example of Ashden Awards winner

Boris Johnson and his advisers are examining the scheme for which Kirklees Metropolitan Borough Council won an Ashden Award in 2006. The scheme installed insulation, solar PV and solar thermal technology in social and private housing, and also community buildings.

The Telegraph says:

Isabel Dedring, Mr Johnson's director of environmental policy, who is a New Yorker, said she was on her way to Kirklees next week to see how the scheme worked. She hopes the first homes could be insulated in this way within a year.

The mayor is looking to Kirklees after an audit of the green schemes put in place by his predecessor showed mixed results, with relatively few people taking up the offer of a £199 survey and concierge service to identify where homes could save energy.

Ms Dedring said: "It is difficult to get people to do the audit, then even more difficult to get them to do the actions. People are lazier than you think. If it is harder than extremely easy, people will not do it."

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