Interview: Designing Green Cities
To Meet 21st Century Challenges
Landscape architect Martha Schwartz is a passionate believer in the role that landscape can play in urban sustainability. Great landscape design, she says, can
Martha Schwartz Partners
moderate extreme heat, recycle water, reduce energy use, lower carbon emissions, and attract people to urban areas. Following these principles, her London-based firm, Martha Schwartz Partners
, has designed such projects as Dublin’s Grand Canal Square; Exchange Square, in Manchester, England; and Abu Dhabi’s Corniche beachfront area. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Schwartz, a professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, talks about the importance of incorporating cultural values in urban design, explains why the design of streets and parking lots is as important as the design of parks, and discusses why the U.S. lags behind many other nations in the greening of its cities. Read the interview
21 Nov 2012:
Solar-Equipped ‘iShacks’ Offer
Cheap, Sustainable Housing in South Africa
South African researchers say they have developed a low-cost and sustainable housing alternative to the flimsy corrugated iron shacks found in the country’s growing settlements. Developed by an interdisciplinary
team at Stellenbosch University’s TsamaHUB center
, the so-called iShack is insulated with inexpensive, natural materials such as mud and cardboard boxes and has a sloped roof for harvesting rainwater. A photovoltaic cell on the roof provides the energy for motion-sensitive exterior lighting, interior lighting, and a cellphone charger. So far, a mother and her three children are living in a prototype iShack
in Ekanini, an informal settlement of 8,000 residents in Cape Town that lacks access to electricity and an adequate water supply. Project developers also taught six residents in the community how to install and maintain the solar power system in hopes they can use the skills for future entrepreneurial ventures. Researchers look to apply the iShack’s design to upgrade settlements in other regions.
15 Nov 2012:
GM to Make 500,000 Vehicles
With Electric Technology Within 5 Years
General Motors aims to build as many as 500,000 vehicles that utilize some sort of electric technology
by 2017. Speaking to reporters this week, GM’s product development chief, Mary Barra, said the company’s fleet of cleaner vehicles will include the plug-in Chevrolet Volt; the all-electric Spark EV, which will go on sale in some markets next year; and cars that utilize the eAssist technologies, which can improve efficiency in some vehicles by as much as 25 percent. A half-million vehicles would represent about 5 percent of the company’s global sales last year; GM expects to sell 50,000 vehicles equipped with electric technologies this year. While the market for electric cars is sluggish, Barra said plug-in vehicles remain central to the company’s strategy
. “We have every intention of maintaining our leadership position in plug-in vehicles,” she said. Like all automakers, GM will need to offer more fuel-efficient vehicles to meet stricter U.S. auto emissions standards that will be in place in 2025.
14 Nov 2012:
Algal Biofuel Blend
Reaches Market at California Gas Stations
A U.S. company this week began pumping a mix of an algae-based biofuel and gasoline at gas stations in California
, a pilot project the company hopes will be a first step in providing a large-scale alternative to fossil fuels.
The fuel, known as Biodiesel B20, contains 80 percent petroleum and 20 percent algae grown by San Francisco-based Solazyme. The fuel is produced in a fermentation process at Solazyme’s Illinois plant that combines sugar with an organism company officials will not identify. According to the company, the new fuel blend produces 30 percent fewer particulates, 20 percent less carbon monoxide, and 10 percent fewer hydrocarbons than other biodiesel fuels. So far, the fuel is being sold for diesel vehicles at four gas stations in the Bay Area for $4.25 per gallon, which is also the average price right now for diesel fuel in California. But Propel Fuels, which is providing the infrastructure for the fuel delivery, hopes to make the fuel available at hundreds of California stations, said Matt Horton, Propel’s CEO.
12 Nov 2012:
U.S. Could Be World’s Largest
Oil Producer Within a Decade, Report Says
Advances in drilling for unconventional fossil fuels could make the U.S. the world’s biggest oil producer within a decade, a shift that could transform the global flow of energy for all regions of the world, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA). According to the organization’s World Energy Outlook
, the U.S. could become a net exporter of natural gas by 2020 as a result of advances in drilling, including for shale gas, and “almost self-sufficient” in energy by 2035. In addition, once North America becomes a net oil exporter and no longer reliant on countries such as Saudi Arabia, nearly 90 percent of Middle Eastern oil will be exported to China and other Asian nations. While the report projects that energy demand worldwide will increase by one-third by 2035, it also suggests that the global market can achieve energy savings equivalent to nearly 20 percent of total current demand during that period. “In other words, energy efficiency is just as important as unconstrained energy supply,” said Maria van der Hoeven, executive director of the IEA. “And increased action on efficiency can serve as a unifying energy policy that brings multiple benefits.”
08 Nov 2012:
Molecular ‘Trap Door’ Method
May Reduce Costs of Carbon Capture
Australian scientists have developed a method for trapping carbon dioxide
that they say could ultimately reduce the costs of separating and storing carbon from fossil fuel emissions. Writing in the Journal of the American Chemical Society
, researchers from the University of Melbourne say they have produced an ultra-fine sieve that separates only carbon dioxide from a gas stream, acting as a sort of “molecular trapdoor.” According to the study, the new method — which can be used in power plants or during natural gas extraction — uses a chemical called a chabazite that allows carbon dioxide to pass through but blocks other chemicals. While many such existing carbon capture technologies use similar “sieves,” they often require additional stages of refining and extraction before yielding a pure form of CO2. “Because [the new process] allows only carbon dioxide molecules to be captured, it will reduce the cost and energy required for separating carbon dioxide,” said Paul Webley, a professor at the University of Melbourne and one of the study’s authors.
07 Nov 2012:
Green Ballot Initiatives
Rejected by Voters in California, Michigan
Two closely watched state ballot initiatives endorsed by environmental groups went down to defeat on Tuesday, as voters in California rejected a proposal that would have required the labeling of all genetically modified crops and Michigan voters soundly defeated a measure that would have required stricter renewable standards on electric utilities. In California, Prop. 37 was backed by the organic food industry and consumer groups but faced rising opposition in recent weeks in the form of a $44 million advertising campaign funded largely by the biotechnology sector, including agribusiness giant Monsanto. While advocates said they have the right to know what’s in the their food, opponents warned voters that the initiative would cost families hundreds of dollars annually in higher grocery costs. According to the Los Angeles Times
, the measure was losing, 57 percent to 42 percent, with most precincts reporting. In Michigan, a ballot initiative that would have required utilities to generate 25 percent of their power
from green sources by 2025 also triggered a major ad blitz by opponents, including the state’s utilities.
30 Oct 2012:
Vulnerability of Infrastructure
Revealed During Hurricane Sandy
The storm that crippled the New York City region has revealed the extreme vulnerability of its transportation and electricity infrastructure
and highlights the need to better protect subways, tunnels, low-lying roads, and power substations as sea levels rise
Andrew Burton/Getty Images
Flooding in New York City’s Financial District
and storms produce higher seawater surges in the future. New York City and the surrounding area experienced unprecedented damage to its transportation infrastructure
, with the subway system knocked out for an estimated four to five days, several major tunnels flooded, regional rail lines crippled, and highways and roads underwater. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday morning that the city and the state may have to consider building a levee to protect lower Manhattan
, where waters rose 10 feet above flood stage. Other experts suggested that other significant steps will have to be taken to protect New York City, including building sea gates that would keep surging storm waters out of New York Harbor. Climate scientists said that the impact of hurricanes can be expected to become more severe
as temperatures increase and sea levels rise by an estimated three to six feet this century.
26 Oct 2012:
Digital Atlas App Documents
Human Effects on the Natural World
A team of UK-based developers has created an interactive app that enables users to explore a trove of global data on several critical issues, including how human populations are impacting the natural world and
Mapping world trends: Carbon emissions
the production and consumption of energy resources. Released this month, Atlas by Collins
uses a series of 3D globes to illustrate seven topics, including energy, the environment, politics, and population. The digital atlas contains data from every nation and more than 200,000 geographical sites, including cities, landmarks, and natural features. Users can compare trends in population, pollution, and forest loss, and trace the shifting dynamics of the distribution of energy resources. The app allows viewers to swipe across the planet’s surface and click key points to zoom to street-level detail using Apple Maps and Google Maps.
17 Oct 2012:
Chinese Report Acknowledges
Nuclear Safety Concerns at Reactors
In a new report, the Chinese government has laid out a plan to upgrade the security at its nuclear power reactors
over the next decade, suggesting that the country may be ready to resume a planned expansion of
Feng Li/Getty Images
Inspector at a Zhejiang construction site
its nuclear sector halted in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. The Ministry of Environmental Protection report indicates that roughly 80 billion yuan ($12.75 billion) will be required by 2015 to upgrade radioactive-contamination controls at the nation’s plants to international standards. Making the challenge more complicated, the report said, is the variety of reactors in place across China and “multiple standards of safety.” “The current [nuclear] safety situation isn’t optimistic,” the report said. The report recommended the phasing out of older nuclear reactors and an increased emphasis on research and development into nuclear safety and radioactive waste handling. While not specifying any timeline, the report suggested the nation is getting closer to restarting the approval process for new plants, which was suspended in 2011 following the nuclear crisis in Japan.
11 Oct 2012:
Group Calls for Swift Growth
Of Carbon Capture-and-Storage Facilities
An industrial group says that to avoid “dangerous climate change” an additional 55 facilities that capture carbon from power plants and store it underground must be built by 2020
. The group, the Global CCS Institute, said that only one new carbon-capture-and-storage (CCS) plant was built in the past year, bringing the current number to 75. The institute acknowledged that the goal of building 130 CCS plants by 2020 was unlikely, but argued that the technology is a proven method of reducing carbon dioxide emissions
and vital to future strategies to slow global warming. The institute said that just eight of the 75 plants now in operation have achieved a greater reduction in CO2 emissions that all other greenhouse gas reduction efforts instituted in the UK and Australia. CCS Institute President Brad Page said that governments should treat CCS technology as they do other low-carbon initiatives, like solar and wind power, which often receive subsidies and other government aid designed to encourage the growth of renewable energy.
10 Oct 2012:
Software Maps CO2 Emissions
Down to Building and Street Levels
A team of U.S. researchers has developed a software system that they say documents carbon dioxide emissions in urban areas down to the level of individual buildings or street segments
. Using publicly available
Click to enlarge
Bedrich Benes and Michel Abdul-Massih
Annual carbon emissions, Indianapolis
data on local pollution, traffic counts, and building uses — as well as models of building-by-building energy consumption — the researchers from Arizona State and Purdue universities were able to create three-dimensional maps detailing carbon emissions. The researchers hope the software will provide insights into urban CO2 sources and help guide public policy on climate change and sustainable energy use. “Cities have had little information with which to guide reductions in greenhouse gas emissions — and you can’t reduce what you can’t measure,” said Kevin Gurney, an assistant professor at Arizona State University. So far, the so-called Hestia software has been used to produce visualizations for the city of Indianapolis, but the group is also developing maps for Los Angeles and Phoenix.
10 Oct 2012:
U.S. Supreme Court Refuses
Chevron Challenge of Ecuador Damages
The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear Chevron Corp.’s challenge
of an $18.2 billion judgment issued by an Ecuadorian court over large-scale damages caused by oil drilling in the Amazon. The Supreme Court decision is the latest development in a long legal battle that led to a ruling last year by an Ecuadorean court that Chevron had to pay the damages for massive oil dumping by Texaco, which Chevron acquired in 2001. Chevron was challenging a ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York that would have effectively opened the way for worldwide enforcement of the judgment against Chevron. An Ecuadorean court found that an oil consortium run by Texaco dumped billions of gallons of oil and toxic sludge in the Amazon rainforest
from 1964 through 1992, badly polluting water supplies and causing health problems among some of the 30,000 plaintiffs in the Lago Ario region. Chevron vowed to continue to fight the Ecuadorean court’s decision, which it called “fraudulent” and tainted by judicial misconduct. Chevron contends that the decision is not enforceable under New York law.
09 Oct 2012:
Facing Opposition at Home,
UK Looks to Build Wind Project in Ireland
Faced with growing opposition to land-based wind turbines in England, UK officials are looking to build hundreds of wind farms in Ireland
that would generate electricity exclusively for the UK. Government officials say the £8 billion proposal, which includes the construction of more than 700 turbines in a rural area west of Dublin, would provide more than 3 gigawatts of electricity to the UK and help the nation meet its green energy goals. Officials say the project already has the approval of the government of Ireland, where there is less public resistance to wind turbines. More than 1,100 turbines are now operating in Ireland, most of which are located at 176 land-based wind farms. Costs for the proposed project are estimated at about €8 billion, about two-thirds of which would be for construction of the wind farms, with the other third used to install two large underwater cables beneath the Irish Sea. Officials say the project could be operational by 2018.
03 Oct 2012:
Major Policy Shifts Needed
To Maintain Decline in U.S. CO2 Emissions
A decline in U.S. carbon emissions in recent years is unlikely to continue over the long term
unless there is a significant shift in how the nation produces and uses its energy, according to a new analysis. While several factors have triggered a 9 percent decline in annual carbon emissions in the U.S. since 2005 — including a decrease in the use of coal-fired electricity as a result of the natural gas boom — the most significant factor has been the economic recession, according to the group Climate Central. As the economy recovers, any reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will likely be offset by increased incomes that drive an greater demand for vehicles, electrical appliances, and other consumer products.
calculates that U.S. carbon emissions can be reduced 38 percent below 2005 levels by 2035 if several hypothetical changes occur. These include the number of miles driven remaining at today’s level and average vehicles achieving fuel efficiency of 55 miles-per-gallon; significant gains being made in the efficiency of energy-consuming equipment; and natural gas continuing to reduce the share of coal-burning technologies.
26 Sep 2012:
European Solar Capacity
Grew in 2011 Despite Subsidy Cuts
Installed solar capacity continued to grow across Europe in 2011
despite a decline in subsidies for green energy continent-wide, according to a new report. Roughly 18.5 gigawatts of new solar photovoltaic energy capacity were installed in the European Union during 2011, about two-thirds of the world’s increase in PV capacity, according to the Joint Research Center of the European Commission
. The EU’s overall PV capacity increased to 52 gigawatts, supplying about 2 percent of the continent's electricity needs, according to the report. Although European companies remain world leaders in the development and production of photovoltaic technology, the report projects that they will suffer in future years in the face of increased competition, particularly from Chinese companies. And while Europe remained the leading region worldwide in terms of renewable energy investment last year, the rate of investment grew faster in Asia, particularly in India, Japan, and Indonesia, the report said.
26 Sep 2012:
Approved for California Roadways
California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a law that will allow self-driving vehicles on the state’s public roadways
by next year. While fully automated vehicle technology may be years away, the California law establishes safety and performance regulations for testing these cars next year — provided that the driver is ready to take control of the vehicle if needed. Several companies, including Google, are developing self-driving cars
that utilize a series of sensors — including GPS, cameras, lasers, and radar — as well as data from other vehicles to learn what is around the vehicle and guide its navigation. Developers say the innovative technology has the potential to improve safety, reduce congestion, and improve fuel efficiency. “We’re looking at science fiction becoming tomorrow’s reality,” said Brown, who drove to the signing ceremony at Google’s Mountain View headquarters in the passenger seat of a vehicle that steered itself.
25 Sep 2012:
Sluggish Electric Car Market
Forces Discounts and Cuts by GM, Toyota
With electric vehicles still struggling to find a foothold in the mainstream market, General Motors has offered major discounts on its Chevrolet Volt to move cars off sales lots, and Toyota has scrapped plans for widespread sales of its new all-electric minicar. While
Courtesy of GM
A Chevrolet Volt charges
GM reported a record-setting month for Volt sales in August, selling 2,800 cars, an Associated Press report
found the increase was due largely to discounts
of nearly $10,000, or about 25 percent off the $40,000 sticker price, including low-interest financing and cash discounts. While those sales indicate consumers will buy electric vehicles if prices are low enough, the fact that dealerships had to offer such steep discounts suggests the technology still has a long way to go before entering the consumer mainstream and becoming profitable for carmakers. Two years after Toyota announced plans to sell several thousand of its all-electric iQ minicar, the company this week said it will scale back those goals
. “The current capabilities of electric vehicles do not meet society’s needs, whether it may be the distance the cars can run, or the costs, or how it takes a long time to charge,” Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota's vice chairman, told reporters.
19 Sep 2012:
Fuel Consumption in New Cars
Can Be Halved by 2030, Report Says
With advanced technologies and innovative government policies, fuel consumption in new vehicles can be cut in half by 2030
, saving billions of dollars in fuel costs worldwide and significantly reducing CO2 emissions, a new report by the Paris-based International Energy Agency says. According to the report
, many of the technologies that could significantly improve fuel efficiency over the next two decades are already commercially available but are not widely used. For these technologies to penetrate markets globally, the report says, governments will have to introduce stronger policies, including tougher fuel economy standards and financial incentives. The report notes that strong fuel efficiency standards have been adopted in some major markets, including the U.S., the European Union, and China, but that most of the world’s emerging markets lag far behind. The report also recommends increased research, development, and demonstration of emerging technologies, including waste heat recovery devices.
Video: Debating the Complex
Impacts of Natural Gas Fracking
At a recent panel discussion at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, a group of experts tackled the controversial drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and questions about its impacts on the environment, human health, and the U.S.’s energy future. During the discussion, which can be viewed here
, former Shell Oil president John Hofmeister said the gas made accessible by fracking is more than a “bridge fuel.” Natural gas, he said, is “a highway to the future, and yes, a highway to a clean, more sustainable future.” But environmental activist Bill McKibben countered that the fracking boom is stunting the U.S.’s emerging green energy sector and does nothing to stem climate change. “Fracked gas is not a bridge into the future,” he said, “but a rickety pier out further into the lake of hydrocarbons.” Watch the video
18 Sep 2012:
San Francisco Plan Would Give
Consumers Option of 100% Green Power
City officials in San Francisco, Calif. are considering a $19.5 million program that would give consumers the option of buying 100-percent renewable power
at a higher cost. The so-called CleanPowerSF plan, which would be done in partnership with Shell Energy North America, would also invest about $2 million into the exploration of local green energy generation possibilities. If approved, city officials say, the program would slash carbon emissions during the first year by nearly 10 times the amount already achieved by the city’s green energy initiatives. According to the proposal, which is subject to a vote by the city’s Board of Supervisors, the program would increase utility bills for average customers by about $9 per month. About half of the city’s residents would automatically be enrolled in the program, but would have the chance to opt out at no charge within five months, city officials say. Neighboring Marin County has already initiated a similar program with Shell that allows customers the option of choosing renewable power.
14 Sep 2012:
Japanese Set Goal
To Phase Out Nuclear Power by 2040
The Japanese government says it will seek to phase out all nuclear power plants by 2040
, although officials suggested that the target remains flexible. The new energy strategy, which places a 40-year lifespan on nuclear reactors and limits construction of new plants, would continue a national shift away from nuclear power following last year’s disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power station. Earlier this year Japan suspended operations at the last of its 50 nuclear power stations
over public safety concerns. Most of the plants remain off-line. In announcing the new plan, Motohisa Furukawa, Japan’s minister of state for national policy, left open the possibility that five reactors that will be younger than 40 at the end of the 2030s will be allowed to remain in operation. In addition, Furukawa indicated that the central government would ultimately bow to a newly formed nuclear panel over such policy questions, the New York Times
reported. Nuclear power provided nearly 30 percent of the nation’s electricity before the 2011 disaster, and many have questioned whether the country can meet its power needs without a nuclear sector.
12 Sep 2012:
U.S. Big-Box Retail Stores
Lead Surge in Solar Power Installations
A growing number of major U.S. companies, led by the nation’s largest big-box retailers, are installing rooftop solar power systems to help cut energy costs and increase profits, a new report says
. According to the report, released by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and the Vote Solar Initiative, more than 3,600 non-residential systems were activated
in the U.S. during the first half of 2012, led by retail giants such as Walmart, Costco, and Kohl’s department stores, all of which have sharply increased their solar power installations in recent months. Among the top 20 U.S. companies
by solar capacity, almost half are big-box retailers, according to the report. “Five or six years ago, you probably would have read about a pledge in an annual report about what they’re doing for the environment,” Rhone Resch, SEIA’s chief executive, told the New York Times
. “Now what you’re seeing is it’s a smart investment that they’re making for their shareholders, and this is a standard business practice.”
10 Sep 2012:
Wind Resources Could Meet
Global Energy Demands, Study Says
The earth contains enough wind energy to meet all of humanity’s power needs
if future technologies are able to tap into high-altitude winds, a new study says. Using models to quantify wind energy potential, researchers at
the Carnegie Institution for Science and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory calculated that more than 400 terrawatts of power could be extracted from the planet’s surface winds — which could be accessed with land- and ocean-based turbines — and more than 1,800 terrawatts could be generated by high-altitude winds using technologies that combine turbines and kites. Currently human civilization uses about 18 terrawatts of power. The researchers’ calculations, described in the journal Nature Climate Change
, are based on geophysical limits, and do not take into account technical or economic limitations. The study said the effects of extracting enough wind power to meet current global demand would be minimal as long as turbines are scattered worldwide.
07 Sep 2012:
LED Bulbs Widening Gap
In Energy Efficiency, Report Says
While today’s light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs are slightly better for the environment than compact fluorescent lamps, the energy efficiency gap will widen over the next five years
as the technology and manufacturing methods of LEDs improve, according to a new report. In an analysis of the impacts of the light technologies in 15 categories — including the energy and resources required to manufacture, operate, and dispose of the bulbs — researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory found that CFLs caused slightly more environmental harm than existing LED technologies in all but one of the areas studied. The one exception, they said, was hazardous waste generation because existing LEDs utilize a component, called a heat sink, which requires mining, refining, and processing of the aluminum. Improved efficiencies in emerging LED technologies, however, will reduce the amount of heat produced and, in turn, the size of heat sink required. As a result, they say, LED bulbs are expected by 2017 to have 50 percent less environmental impact than today’s bulbs and 70 percent less than existing CFLs.
05 Sep 2012:
Major Chinese City
Restricts the Number of New Cars
Government officials in Guangzhou, China’s third-largest city, have enacted measures to limit the number of new cars on city streets
, a policy some analysts say reflects a broader effort by Chinese cities to protect public health and well-being in the face of worsening highway congestion. In Guangzhou, a city of 15 million people and a center for auto manufacturing, officials last week introduced license plate auctions and lotteries, a strategy that is expected to cut the number of cars by half, according to The New York Times.
While the restrictions will have short-term economic impacts, government officials say they could also help reduce air and water pollution, cut long-term healthcare costs, and alleviate the city’s notorious traffic jams. “From the government’s point of view, we give up some growth, but to achieve better health for all citizens, it is definitely worth it,” said Chen Haotian, the vice director of Guangzhou’s top planning agency. Guangzhou’s efforts come as other major Chinese cities are requiring cleaner gasoline and diesel fuels, closing dirty factories, and removing older, more polluting cars from roads.
31 Aug 2012:
EU Ban on Incandescent
Bulbs Goes into Effect on September 1
The incandescent light bulb, in use for more than a century, will be officially banned across the European Union on September 1.
Over the past three years, the
EU has been phasing out 60-watt and 100-watt incandescent bulbs, and on Saturday retailers will no longer be allowed to sell 40-watt and 25-watt bulbs. Incandescent bulbs will be replaced with compact fluorescent lights, halogen bulbs, and LED, or light-emitting diode, lights. The move is expected to save 39 terawatt-hours of electricity across the EU annually by 2020. Some consumers have complained about the quality and expense of the new light bulbs, but lighting industry executives say that prices are coming down steadily and the quality of light from the new bulbs is good. “The phase-out has ben very smooth,” said Peter Hunt, joint chief executive of the UK’s Lighting Industry association. “Concerns about poor performance of replacement bulbs have been proved wrong.”
29 Aug 2012:
India Approves $4 Billion Plan
To Add 6 Million Green Vehicles by 2020
The government of India has approved a 230-billion rupee strategy ($4.13 billion) to spur increased production of electric and hybrid vehicles
over the next eight years, setting a target of 6 million green vehicles by 2020. The new plan, designed to reduce the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels and cut carbon emissions, would attempt to close the gap between the costs of producing green vehicles in India and what consumers can afford to pay. The country’s nascent electric and hybrid car sector slowed dramatically earlier this year when the government removed subsidies of up to 100,000 rupees per vehicle, Reuters reports. According to sources, the new plan would likely include cash subsidies for consumers, increased funding for research and development, and the creation of a charging network, sources said. While specific plans remain to be worked out, S. Sundareshan, the secretary of India’s Heavy Industries ministry, said the government would provide 130 to 140 billion rupees, while private corporations would cover the rest.
28 Aug 2012:
Germany May Need to Slow
Shift to Green Energy, Official Says
Germany’s environment minister said Tuesday that the country might have to slow its shift to renewable energy
to quell concerns about rising consumer costs. A year after the government decided to phase out nuclear power
following Japan’s Fukushima disaster, Germany has indeed been able to increase renewable energy generation, with solar and wind incentives helping the country produce more than 25 percent of its power from cleaner sources. But that rapid growth is causing higher costs for consumers and placing an increased strain on the energy grid, Environment Minister Peter Altmaier told the Financial Times Deutschland
. “These are costs that can be avoided with good planning,” Altmaier said. While a senior Social Democrat called a slower shift to renewable energy “unacceptable,” members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration are seeking legislation that would reduce the burden on consumers. On Monday, the energy group Vattenfall reported that Germany’s current green energy targets would likely require an investment of 150 billion euros
by 2020, causing a 30-percent increase in electricity costs.
23 Aug 2012:
U.S. Solar Panel Maker to
Build Solar Farms in Energy-Hungry India
First Solar Inc., the U.S.-based solar panel manufacturer, plans to expand its role in the global energy industry by developing solar power farms in India
, where an emerging industrial sector is looking to
First Solar Inc.
shore up energy security in the aftermath of record blackouts. The company aims to secure 20 percent of India’s photovoltaic sales by expanding beyond its role as a solar panel supplier and building large solar arrays, Sujoy Ghosh, First Solar’s new India head, told Bloomberg News. According to Ghosh, First Solar will sell electricity at below-market prices directly to private businessess looking to lock in their own power supplies in the event of electricity shortfalls. India, which last month endured blackouts that left half the nation’s 1.2 billion people without power, has a 30-gigawatt backup power market comprised of factories and businesses that currently switch to diesel generators when power fails.