Inflammation and stories on energy consumption

Hydropower in Guyana
Guyana is currently developing a plan to harness Amaila Falls’ potent hydropower, power that is capable of producing electricity (165MW to be exact) for the whole of Guyana, reports The Economist.

The project is set to cost around $840 million and was initially headed by Sithe Global of the global investment and advisory firm, the Blackstone Group. In addition, investments from China Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank were to take part in harnessing the country’s torrents.

However, a lack of unanimous concession by the Guyanese legislative branch has resulted in Sithe Global’s withdrawal from the project. Primary criticisms by legislators were its lack of transparency—particularly the projects expenditures and the engineering plans.

The deals brokering between the Amaila Falls Hydro Inc. and its power players remained cloak and dagger, arousing skepticism from the project’s critics.

Despite the halt in the project, it was predicted to minimally affect the ecological community. Moreover, the site of the project, located at the intersection of the Amaila and Kuribrong Rivers is 30 km from the nearest community, supposedly to avoid disturbing any local villages in the region.

With the promise of hydroelectricity in 2017, Guyana could possibly reduce its reliance on imported oil although the cost of electricity will remain expensive.

Furthermore, with a shift to hydropower, green house gas emissions (GHG) were projected to decrease by 87%.

It’s realization would have cost the federally funded Guyana Power and Light (GPL) company to pay an estimated $100 million a year to the aforementioned investment groups and companies.

Despite the country’s massive potential for hydroelectricity, the project remains at a standstill. The secrecy of the project propelled its main investors, from remaining with the project. Yet, Guyana’s President Donald Ramotar recently stated that Sithe Global is still very much interested in the project, pending Parliament’s unanimous agreement.

Regardless of legislative decision, the go-ahead for the project remains largely with Sithe Global, who possesses the license to Amaila Falls’ development.

– Miles Abadilla

Sources: Amaila Hydropower, The Economist, Fox News, Kaieteur News
Photo: Wondermodo

Wasted Electricity Can Be Prevented and Redistributed
Energy efficiency is extremely important for the economy and a green future. However, that statement seems to be undervalued in the U.S. for the amount of energy efficiency estimates to around 43.8% whereas the amount of wasted electricity is estimated at 56.2%. In other words, Americans are wasting more energy than their actual usage. A fifth of the wasted energy actually comes from commercial and residential buildings.

In residential buildings, the most common type of wasting energy is people leaving their light on when they are not at home, keeping their computers running when they are not in use or simply leaving appliances plugged in. In commercial buildings, companies leave their lights on to showcase the offices and keep companies on standby.

Even in educational buildings, computers in the libraries and computers in media labs are kept on around 12 to 16 hours a day. When computers are on standby, they consume less energy, but the large amount of computers causes the huge waste in electricity.

Saving on energy is saving money. People can reduce their energy cost and spend in more useful ways. To illustrate one instance, reducing energy cost for companies can mean more profitability, higher pay for employees or passing the savings down to the consumers.

Saving energy is not difficult, and it is an effective means of saving money. By reducing electric consumption by only 1.7 TWH — or 0.002%of total residential energy consumption — people can save more than one billion dollars each year.

Around the world, more than 1.6 billion people are living without electricity.  Saving energy might be an interesting solution that contributes beneficially to such urgencies.

Consider how the saved income from prevented energy waste can be distributed to aid a cause ending global poverty: Lets say one billion dollars saved from saving energy, 17,000 farmers can be trained, 10,000 hectares of land can be under protection and almost 600 kilometers of road can be built to offer better transportation and facilitate the world economy. One billion dollars is also equal to one-fifth of the United Nations Development Program’s budget and one-fourth of the World Food Program’s annual budget.

Phong Pham

Sources: Oil Price, MN Energy Challenge, Tree Hugger

Hidden Cost of Energy Fuel Subsidies
Nobody wants to pay more for gas.

Fossil fuels account for the vast majority of energy production, and, as non-renewable resources, the price has steadily increased for energy as supply dwindles and demand has surged.  Throughout most of the world, especially the richest nations, the true cost of energy is not seen due to a wide array of fuel subsidies and energy “support.”

There is not much agreement on what exactly constitutes a fuel subsidy but, all seem to agree that a lot of money is being spent on supporting various energy industries by artificially reducing the direct cost of production and consumption. So, while many tactics are employed in reducing energy costs, very few countries accurately report what they spend. Further, assessing the fiscal damage to the environment as well as the lack of funds generated by not imposing taxes (such as those on carbon emissions) become even trickier to estimate.

The International Monetary Fund estimates global fuel subsidies at 1.9 trillion USD, or 8 percent of all governments’ revenue. These estimates are extremely conservative, though, considering the dollar amount they use for the social cost of carbon, $25 per ton, is less than a third of what the UK and independent analysts have found. Also, the estimate does not include the vast majority of energy producer subsidies, only looking at consumer subsidies for oil and coal.

The impact of fuel subsidies is far-ranging. Pre-tax subsidies, or those that are direct cost reductions from the government to consumers, come at a global cost of 480 billion USD according to IMF’s report on 2011’s data. These are funds that are being deprived from social programs for urgencies such as roads, water distribution and poverty alleviation.

Subsidies are often unequally distributed. In developing countries, the IMF found the top fifth of societies in household income reap six times the subsidies of anyone else. The cost of these subsidies is offset by increased prices of other goods and services –resulting in a 6 percent decrease in income for every $0.25 cost decrease per liter.

Artificially increasing demand and consumption for fossil fuels reduces investment and growth in alternative fuel sources as much as the growth of many other markets — especially, exports.

Though developing countries appear to receive the most negative impact, developed nations such as the US and Russia spend the most through post-tax subsidies. Estimates on US subsidies range from $10 billion to $52 billion and do not include any of the associated health or environmental costs.

So, what can be done?

Various countries have successfully phased out tax reduction programs in the coal industry such as Poland, Germany and most developed nations do not offer pre-tax subsidies.  Unfortunately, little progress has been made on oil subsidies, which account for over 2/3 of the total. Developed countries will have to continue to lead the charge in reforming these harmful economic policies.  Transparency to the accurate amounts of what is actually being spent and to whom the money is going to may very well be the first step toward achieving more effective means of viable economic stability and sustainable progress in the use of depleting resources.

– Tyson Watkins

Sources: IMFIEA, Oil Change International, Grist, BBC News, Climate Progress

Energy is tantamount to the development of poor nations. Several sectors rely on energy — from lighting schools and hospitals, powering farms, manufacturing facilities, maintaining water sanitation plants to keeping emerging businesses afloat. Mobile telecommunications has become a fundamental part of successful business — especially, the business of global development.

IFC, the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, plans to invest $7 million to the clean energy company, Fluidic Energy, which is a company for the research and development of new climate-smart batteries that power cellular phone networks in developing countries. The rechargeable energy sources are promised to be a solution that is both cost-effective and power-efficient. As the technology will reduce costs of powering mobile networks in rural areas, the battery is also a cleaner alternative to diesel generators and lead-acid batteries. In result, it is less damaging to the environment for it leaves a smaller carbon footprint.

The technology is currently used in Indonesia and other South East Asian countries. The hope is that the technology will branch out into the rest of Asia and South America. Fluidic Energy, the Arizona-based company, is a fine example of private businesses working in tandem with The World Bank Group for the common goal of global development.

Providing sustainable energy to telecommunications is a development that is promised to open new frontiers in other sectors where sustainable energy can be a progressive alternative.

Malika Gumpangkum

Sources: IFCPressRoom, thegef
Photo: Panos

There are many aspects of sustainable development methods that are required to evaluate. In the developing world such as Zambia, few regard the issue of the environment seriously. On average, lead concentrations in children are five to 10 times the permissible United States Environmental Protection Agency levels, and can even be high enough to kill.

It has over the years left huge effects that can now be felt for many years to come. One of the most prominent environmental issues was the discovery of high levels of lead in the town of Kabwe. The Canadian oil sands provide another example of the need to make sure development is anchored by principles that are sustainable. Politicians mostly see votes and with little focus on effects of unregulated massive development such as pollution in the rivers as the case in Alberta, Canada. According to investment for this region of Canada oil companies will spend nearly $200 billion over the next decades.

In this regard it is important to know what is required to balance needs and realities of the effects on the activities of development. Sustainable development methods are plans that meet the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. It contains within it two key concepts: the concept of needs, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor to which overriding priority should be given; and the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs (WCED, 1987:43.)

This way small economic focus approach has several unwanted side effects. For example, the solution to one problem may make another problem worse. Moreover it tends to focus on short-term benefits without monitoring long-term effects. GDP only reflects the amount of economic activity and can rise when the overall community health is being impaired.

The Alberta Oil Sands is the largest energy project on the planet, lying beneath 140,200 square kilometers of northern Alberta forest, an area almost as large as the state of Florida. With estimated $20 billion revenue coming to Canada each year from this project in Alberta, sustainable development with a broad focus is not a huge priority. Even the currently developed portion of the Oil Sands region is already experiencing severe fragmentation effects on the ecology of the boreal forest.

Remarkably one respected scientist from Canada did a report about this dilemma instead the government went on the defensive despite obvious problems in many areas. These include pollution in the Athabasca River affecting aquatic, plant, human and wildlife. This study was conducted by Dr. David Schindler a renowned academician with impressive pedigree such as the acid rain discovery. According to his report, white fish was caught in Lake Athabasca, near Fort Chipewyan, higher cancers than usual (including rare forms of cancer) in adjacent populations to the project.

It now well known that there many methods to sustain development. These are designed to measure and communicate progress towards of human endeavours across the world.

Alan Chanda

Sources: Time 1, 2, CBC, Green Party of Canada
Photo: Wikimedia

We need greenhouse gases. Without them, the Earth would be a cold, lifeless lump of dirt hurtling through space. Greenhouse gases allow the sun’s rays to pass through the atmosphere and warm the earth. They also prevent the warmth from escaping back into space. The problem with greenhouse gases, however, is that the more heat-trapping gases there are, such as carbon dioxide and methane, the warmer earth gets. This consequently increases the “greenhouse effect” and is what is causing a steady increase in the global temperature. The consequences are enormous.

Humans have been simultaneously burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests. Forests, which produce the oxygen needed to balance out carbon dioxide production, can be compared to a planet sized pair of lungs for Earth. The occurrence of fossil fuel burning and deforestation has increased the amount of carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere by 42 percent.

Carbon dioxide is one of the largest contributors to climate change. Though it is a byproduct of many actions, one of the main producers of carbon dioxide is the burning of coal. Coal, a fossil fuel created from the remains of dead plants from millions of years ago, produces enormous amounts of COwhen burned.

It also took center stage in a global warming debate on Monday in Warsaw, Poland during a U.N. climate conference. Environmental activists there said that the coal industry needs to be part of the climate discourse, because many countries continue to rely on coal as their primary energy source. Coal has been heavily used since the 19th century English Industrial Revolution. While it provides quick energy, it also results in smog, acid rain, and air pollution. In 2011, 44% of emissions came from coal compared to only 35% from oil.

“Leave the coal in the ground,” says UN climate chief, Christiana Figueres. However, the likelihood that countries who rely on coal will abandon it is low. Instead, many countries are aiming to increase the efficiency of coal-powered plants. Economically, many countries refuse to “give up” using coal because the demand for energy never ceases, and as populations increases, coal quickly meets these needs.

China, for example, is the world’s largest carbon polluter, and while it is investing in renewable energy, its coal consumption continues to rise. Coal was 68% of Chinese energy consumption in 2012 and it continues to be the largest producer. As it’s population and energy needs increase, it must meet these demands.

The amount of greenhouse gases is at an annual record high – 39 million tons this year. However, in a study published by the University of East Anglia (UEA), the level at which people are polluting is leveling off. The good news even presents itself in the West, where emissions have dropped. The U.S. produced 3.7% less carbon dioxide in 2012 than the previous year, and Europe, 1.8%. However, individual emissions per person in the US is still 16 tons, compared to people in India who produce only about 1.8 tons.

Nevertheless, the 2.1% rise projected for 2013 means that global emissions from burning fossil fuels are 61% above 1990 levels, the baseline year for the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement developed in Japan on December 11, 1997, was a commitment made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 18% below 1990 levels from 2013 to 2020.

Professor Corinne Le Quéré of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia led the Global Carbon Budget report. She said: “Governments meeting in Warsaw this week need to agree on how to reverse this trend. Emissions must fall substantially and rapidly if we are to limit global climate change to below two degrees. Additional emissions every year cause further warming and climate change.”

The problem remains that while many countries have signed the Kyoto Protocol to decrease emissions, China and the United States have not.

The world, if it continues with it’s current emission levels, will see a global temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius, the worst climate change scenario predicted by the U.N. panel on climate change.

– Chloe Nevitt

Sources: David Suzuki Foundation, Fox News, United Nations, University of East Anglia, CNN
Photo: Energy.Gov

China is one of the fastest growing countries in the world. With that being said, it can be safe to say that it has one of the fastest growing industries in the world. These industries require a lot more labor and resources. Recently, it has been reported that in order to “meet its growing energy needs, China is planning to build hundreds of coal fired power plants in the next few years.” However, developing the coal industry could have a devastating effect on China’s freshwater resources. The development of these plants threatens other areas such as drinking water supplies, industry, farming, and the environment.

In 2011, the Associated Press reported that around 68.4 percent of China’s energy came from coal. China’s coal industry is the fastest and most dominant in the country. Other nations such as the United States and Germany reported that around 30-37 percent of their energy came from coal. Moreover, China is the world’s largest consumer of coal. Around 50 percent of the world’s coal is consumed by China. This number is expected to grow.

According to the Washington Times, the Chinese government recently announced its plans to build 363 new coal-fired plants. The new power plants would increase the country’s coal-powered generating capacity from 68.4 percent to 75 percent. As a result, China’s coal consumption would significantly increase.

Although China’s industries depend on cheap, easy-to-use resources to keep the economy going, the cheap energy sources are considered dangerous and detrimental to society. One example is coal. Coal is considered to be the less costly and more effective way to address China’s energy problem. However, coal is extremely labor and water intensive. This creates a problem for people and for areas where water is scarce. In these areas, water resources can diminish further. The problem is that China does have enough water resources, however, these resources are not evenly distributed between communities. According to the Washington Times, “demographics, population, geography and politics make water a complicated issue.”

– Stephanie Olaya

Sources: Washington Times, Reuters