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Big business is right to be concerned about the chancellor’s equivocal strategy


Walney offshore windfarm, 10 miles west of Cumbria in the Irish Sea . Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

As the coalition prepares to introduce its energy bill into Parliament in the next few weeks, it must demonstrate political leadership and ensure that its policy is based on robust economic analysis, recognising and addressing failures of the market.

The most obvious market failure is created by the fact that, without policy, the price of products and services that involve emissions of greenhouse gases does not reflect the costs of damage caused by climate change.

A strong and stable carbon price corrects this market failure and helps to produce a level playing field on which new low-carbon technologies, such as wind, solar and carbon capture and storage, can compete against fossil fuels. However, it is not the only market failure that holds back these new technologies.

A failure arises as well from the inability of capital markets to manage the risks associated with investments in new technologies properly.

And other failures are associated with the limitations of networks, particularly concerning public transport and grids. Most consumers and many firms do not yet fully understand the technological opportunities that are available.

At a time when the public finances are under strain, it would be better to deal with these market failures through the tax system to disincentivise high-carbon activities or even regulate against them.

But it takes time to design and implement such policies and delaying action is dangerous because it can lock in high-carbon infrastructure, such as fossil fuel power stations with unabated greenhouse gas emissions.

So, in the meantime, while these market failures are inadequately tackled and there is not yet a strong and stable carbon price, low-carbon technologies need government assistance through direct subsidies.

These subsidies should be reduced and eliminated as the costs of development and deployment fall over time, as carbon markets become stronger and as other market failures are tackled.

But it is crucial that the reductions in subsidies for low-carbon energy are carried out according to a predictable rule-based system. Sudden and unexpected cuts undermine the confidence of the private sector and hold back badly needed investment in the UK power sector.

Those who argue against subsidies for low-carbon technologies are implicitly adopting an anti-market approach. Those who want markets to be harnessed to deliver greater prosperity and wellbeing, on the other hand, recognise a role for public policy in ensuring that markets can do their job in providing incentives and promoting entrepreneurship.

Removing subsidies for low-carbon technologies too quickly and erratically would undermine efforts to reduce the UK’s emissions of greenhouse gases in an efficient and effective way and delay progress towards our ultimate target of a cut of at least 80% by 2050 compared with 1990.

Such delay would risk relegating the UK to also-rans in the global low-carbon race and could mean that we are shut out of the developing markets for cleaner goods and services.

But most dangerous of all, delay would mean higher concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and huge risks across the world from climate change.

The coalition must demonstrate leadership through its energy and climate policies, supporting creativity and innovation in the power sector, and boosting the UK’s prospects for sustainable economic growth.

Anything less would damage the prospects of future prosperity and wellbeing, for us, our children and future generations.

Author: Nicholas Stern – The Observer
Source: The Guardian
Original: http://goo.gl/Zj7uD


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Germany’s switch to renewable energies is getting expensive. (dapd)

Germany’s switch to renewable energies is driving up electricity bills across the country, with a green technology surcharge set to rise by nearly 50 percent next year. With frustration over the high price tag, it promises to become a key issue in next year’s election campaign.

Germany’s four leading electrical grid operators — RWE, E.ON, Vattenfall and EnBW — announced on Monday that they would be hiking by 47 percent the charge to consumers that goes into financing subsidies for producers of renewable energy. For the time being, solar, wind and biomass power make up a quarter of the country’s electricity supply but are set to account for 80 percent by 2050.

Germany’s status as a global leader in clean energy technology has often been attributed to the population’s willingness to pay a surcharge on power bills.
But now that surcharge for renewable energy is to rise to 5.5 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) in 2013 from 3.6 in 2012. For an average three-person household using 3,500 kWh a year, the 47 percent increase amounts to an extra €185 on the annual electricity bill.

Consumer Priorities

The steep rise in the surcharge is likely to trigger debate about the cost to consumers of Berlin’s energy revolution, a drastic energy policy reversal triggered by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in Japan.

Known as the Energiewende, the shift to a sustainable energy supply based on renewable energies and the phasing out of nuclear energy by 2022 has evolved into one of the top priorities of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government.

With costs associated with that energy revolution now spiralling, however, it is likely to become a central issue ahead of next fall’s general elections. According to a recent poll conducted by Emnid, Germans are more interested in affordable electricity than in the nuclear phase-out. Now faced with the bill for the switchover, consumers may start to withdraw their support.

Sharing the Costs

“For many households, the increased surcharge is affordable,” energy expert Claudia Kemfert from the German Institute for Economic Research told AFP. “But the costs should not be carried solely by private households.”

But experts have pointed out that with many energy-intensive major industries either exempt from the tax or paying a reduced rate, the costs of the energy revolution are unfairly distributed.

Last week, Environment Minister Peter Altmaier unveiled a complex roadmap aimed at holding costs in check. But according to the German Federal Association for Energy and Water Management (BDEW), further expenses are still in store for consumers.

Meanwhile, the German Federal Association of Renewable Energies (BEE) maintains that not even half the surcharge goes into subsidies for green energy. “The rest is plowed into industry, compensating for falling prices on the stock markets and low revenue from the surcharge this year,” BEE President Dietmar Schütz told the influential weekly newspaper Die Zeit.

Coalition Differences

As election year looms, the surcharge is also causing tension between Merkel’s Christian Democrats and their junior partners, the Free Democrats.
Economics Minister Philipp Rösler called for a “rapid change to energy policy” in response to the network operators’ announcement. He stressed that the switch to renewable energies must be economically viable and described the new surcharge as “an alarming signal.”

Speaking to the Passauer Neue Presse at the weekend, he put the case for a reduced energy tax, only for the environment minister to reject the suggestion in an interview on Monday with public broadcaster ZDF. “I am not convinced by the idea,” said Altmaier emphatically.

jlp/SPIEGEL/wire reports

Source: Spiegel International
Original: http://goo.gl/bKcjb


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Cada vez mais, o Brasil está investindo em energias renováveis, e nos próximos anos o país deve se firmar como líder no mercado latino-americano de energias limpas. É que indica um novo relatório publicado na última semana (11), que também fala sobre outros grandes mercados renováveis da América Latina, como Argentina, Chile, México e Colômbia.

Segundo o documento, em 2011 o país tinha 120.553 megawatts (MW) de energia instalados, com uma grande participação (80%) das energias verdes (considerando as grandes hidrelétricas). Cerca de 70% da energia é hidrelétrica, mas outras fontes alternativas, como a eólica, a solar fotovoltaica (PV), as pequenas centrais hidrelétricas e a biomassa estão crescendo, alimentando atualmente 10% do mix energético.

Fora o setor de grandes hidrelétricas, a capacidade instalada de energias limpas no Brasil deve crescer de 13.260 MW em 2012 para 38.015 MW até o final da década, subindo a uma Taxa de Crescimento Anual Composta (CAGR) de 14%.

Por isso, algumas dessas fontes, como a eólica e a solar, devem ganhar cada vez mais destaque na produção energética nacional. A energia eólica, por exemplo, ainda que contribua com apenas 2.769 MW para o total de capacidade instalada, deve ser estimulada com planos do governo de explorar o mercado offshore, atraindo investidores e podendo chegar a 19.420 MW até 2020.

Mas é a energia solar PV que deve ter o maior crescimento em solo brasileiro, apesar de ainda ser uma das fontes renováveis menos desenvolvidas no país. O setor, que tem uma CARG de 59%, deve saltar dos 31 MW de capacidade instalada em 2012 para 1.276 MW até o final da década.

“A energia solar fotovoltaica não é mais uma promessa, mas uma realidade. Ela já é utilizada no Brasil no Programa Luz para Todos em áreas rurais isoladas, em uma usina solar no Ceará e faz parte do projeto de estádios da Copa do Mundo como o Mineirão e o Maracanã”, comentou Edwin Koot, CEO da companhia holandesa SolarPlaza, no evento O Futuro Solar, realizado nesta quinta-feira (20) em São Paulo.

“Projetos e iniciativas não param de surgir. A chamada da ANEEL para projetos de pesquisa e desenvolvimento no setor atraiu 97 empresas, sendo 18 propostas aprovadas, totalizando 24,5MW e com um investimento total de quase R$ 400 milhões. Deve ocorrer também o primeiro leilão no mercado aberto dedicado exclusivamente à compra de energia solar fotovoltaico. Um verdadeiro marco”, acrescentou Koot.

Um dos fatores que devem estimular esse crescimento são as novas regras da Agência Nacional de Energia Elétrica (ANEEL) para micro e mini geração distribuída. A partir daí, os consumidores de eletricidade (tanto pessoas quanto empresas) poderão gerar sua própria energia, utilizando geradores que trabalham junto com a rede de distribuição, um sistema que permitirá a troca de energia.

“A energia fotovoltaica é a que melhor se encaixa neste sistema, uma vez que aproveita telhados e coberturas de edificações em geral, e o Brasil tem uma grande incidência de irradiação solar”, observou o CEO da SolarPlaza. Assim, a placa solar capta a energia durante o dia, direcionando excedente para a rede. Durante a noite, o consumidor utiliza a energia da rede. O que sobrar vira crédito, descontado da conta de luz do consumidor.

Além disso, o valor das instalações de sistemas fotovoltaicos tem caído anualmente, contribuindo para a queda nos preços da energia solar. No Brasil, estima-se que o custo dessa energia esteja entre R$ 300/MWh e R$ 400/MWh, que já é inferior ao que consumidores residenciais pagam, por exemplo, em estados como Ceará, Tocantins, Bahia, Minas Gerais e Maranhão.

“Os preços estão entrando em colapso, a queda no preço da energia solar foi de 50% no último ano”, lembrou Koot. Por isso, estima-se que até 2030 haja uma onda de investimentos em geração distribuída no país de R$ 15 bilhões a R$ 49 bilhões, de acordo com as medidas que o governo adotar ou não.

No entanto, alguns obstáculos podem surgir nesse caminho de crescimento. A diminuição das tarifas de energia devido à renovação de concessões e corte dos encargos fiscais, pode mudar a competitividade da fonte solar em curto prazo, retardando também um leilão de energia solar.

“É claro que, com a redução das tarifas, a energia solar perde um pouco a competitividade, mas as condições de inserção permanecem válidas, porque há uma tendência estrutural de queda do custo dos painéis fotovoltaicos”, declarou Amilcar Guerreiro, diretor da Empresa de Pesquisa Energética (EPE).

“Mas também é verdade que o desenvolvimento do mercado e de novas tecnologias também reduz os custos, há uma redução estrutural, mas talvez não no nível que vemos hoje”, concluiu Guerreiro.

Autor: Jéssica Lipinski
Fonte: Instituto CarbonoBrasil
Original: http://goo.gl/PnXhP


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O Japão planeia construir centrais de energia solar e eólica que nos próximos quatro anos vão acrescentar mais de dois milhões de kilowatts à capacidade de geração do país, o equivalente à eletricidade produzida por dois reatores nucleares.

De acordo com o diário económico “Nikkei”, o Japão tem em construção mais de 110 centrais solares com uma capacidade de pelo menos 1.000 kilowatts cada uma, que contribuirão para gerar no total mais de 1,3 milhões de kilowatts.

Está ainda prevista a construção de outras 20 centrais eólicas com uma capacidade total de cerca de 750 mil kilowatts.

Fonte: Expresso
Original: http://goo.gl/0IWxX


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The German government was quick to approve a phase-out of nuclear power in the country after the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Now the costs of moving toward renewable energy are just being realized, and low-income consumers are paying the price.


Chancellor Angela Merkel made the transition to renewable energy a top priority after dismissing her environment minister, Norbert Röttgen, last month, but essential questions remain unanswered. (REUTERS)

After two weeks, the first letter arrives. The second notice comes a week later. On the fourth week, the bell rings and a technician from the power company, Vattenfall, is at the door. He has a black toolbox under his arm and he means business.

Aminta Seck, 39, has been through this twice before. If she doesn’t pay the technician at least part of what she owes the company, he’ll disconnect her electricity, leaving Seck and her three-year-old son Liam sitting in the dark in their two-room apartment, without lights, a working stove, refrigerator or TV.
Electricity prices in Germany have risen by more than 10 percent since the current coalition of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) took office. The price hike has been too much for some like Seck, an unemployed decorator from Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg district.

“Approximately every tenth household currently has problems paying for rising energy costs,” says Holger Krawinkel at the Federation of German Consumer Organizations.

Left in the Dark


“We can’t allow electricity to become a luxury,” says new Environment Minister Peter Altmaier of the Christian Democrats (CDU). Altmaier says he intends to meet as soon as possible with representatives from social welfare organizations. (dapd)

About 200,000 recipients of Hartz IV, Germany’s benefits program for the long-term unemployed, had their power cut off last year because of unpaid bills, according to Paritätische Gesamtverband, an umbrella association for social movements in Germany.

The consumer protection organization for the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia estimates that number to be as high as 600,000 per year. Ulrike Mascher, president of VdK, an interest group focusing on social justice, uses terms such as “fuel poverty” and a “blatant violation of fundamental social rights,” when talking about the issue.

Meanwhile, the next price hikes are just around the corner. “The cost of electricity will rise, there’s no question about that,” says Jochen Homann, head of Germany’s state-run Federal Network Agency.

The federal Economy Ministry calculates internally that prices will increase by between three and five euro cents per kilowatt hour within the next 12 months, in order to finance renewable energy subsidies and grid expansion. Those increases amount to an additional annual burden of between €105 and €175 ($130 and $220) for a family of three.

Consumer protection advocates and interest groups focusing on social issues blame the federal government for these increases. In particular, they say, the unchecked expansion of highly-subsidized photovoltaic installations is driving prices up, without the benefit of creating a commensurate increase in supply.

The CDU-FDP coalition itself has long wanted to cut back on funding for solar energy, but the Bundesrat — Germany’s upper house of parliament, which represents the individual federal states — voted against the measure. It is unlikely lawmakers will reach a compromise on the issue before their summer recess this year.

‘A Major Debate’

More than a year has passed since the Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster in Japan prompted Germany’s lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, to vote to gradually phase out the country’s nuclear power plants, replacing them wherever possible with renewable energy sources. Yet it is only now that a serious discussion is beginning over the costs of the nuclear phase-out.

Chancellor Angela Merkel made the transition to renewable energy a top priority after dismissing her environment minister, Norbert Röttgen, last month, but essential questions remain unanswered. Who will pay for this supposed “joint effort,” in Merkel’s words? What’s the upper limit on costs? And when will voters’ positive view of the nuclear phase-out give way to frustration over rising costs?

“I am very concerned about the way energy prices are growing,” says Economy Minister Philipp Rösler of the FDP, discussing what he describes as a “battle to keep energy affordable.” Thomas Bareiss, who coordinates energy policy issues for the parliamentary group of the CDU and its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU), predicts: “We’re going to see a major debate over who pays for the transition to renewable energy.”

The last thing the chancellor wants, especially with parliamentary elections coming up next year, is to open herself up to accusations that she lacks a sense of social justice or is indifferent to social issues. Leading figures within her coalition are pondering ways to combat the steady rise in energy prices, and to divert attention away from the failures over the past 12 months.

Their list of proposed solutions ranges from reducing energy costs for low-income consumers, to a new program that would earmark billions of euros for renewable energy sources and energy storage capacity. “We can’t allow electricity to become a luxury,” says new Environment Minister Peter Altmaier of the CDU, who also said he intends to meet as soon as possible with representatives from social welfare organizations.

Searching for Alternatives


Those costs have proven to be too much for many consumers, including welfare recipients like Aminta Seck. Seck says she has trouble affording electricity in the winter for the two-room apartment she shares in Berlin with her son Liam. (Thomas Grabka/ DER SPIEGEL)

Parliamentarians from the CDU and FDP have already begun campaigning within their parliamentary groups to repeal an “eco-tax” currently added to consumers’ energy costs. Removing this tax, they say, would make it possible to keep consumers’ energy prices at their current level for the time being.

Other parliamentarians, meanwhile, hope the finance minister will make tax funds available to help pay for new transmission lines connecting northern and southern Germany. The downside of this approach is that it would require either cuts to public spending on other fronts, or raising taxes.

Federal Economy Minister Rösler is at work on a new model for financing renewable energy. He would like to repeal Germany’s renewable energy law, known as the EEG, which forces energy consumers to bear a portion of the costs for rooftop solar panels, wind turbines and biogas facilities. “The planned cutback in photovoltaic subsidies is only the first step,” Rösler says.

Rösler’s advisers are currently devising an alternative model based on a suggestion from the country’s Monopolies Commission. According to this plan, the government would require power companies to obtain a certain proportion of their energy mix from renewable sources, but would leave it up to individual providers to decide how to meet that quota.

Rösler’s analysts believe investors would then use whichever energy technologies are most cost-effective in any given situation, and would pass the savings on to their customers. Rösler had little success getting his former cabinet colleague Röttgen to approve of his plans, but hopes Röttgen’s successor Altmaier will be more receptive.

Unkept Promises


The German government quickly approved a phase out of nuclear energy in the country after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan last year. (dapd)

Rising energy costs are especially embarrassing for German leaders because, until very recently, they claimed to have everything under control. Merkel more or less offered a price guarantee in a speech on the energy turnaround she gave in front of the Bundestag last year.

“We must continue to provide both businesses and individual citizens with affordable energy,” Merkel said at the time. “The costs to consumers as a result of the EEG must not exceed their current level.”

That’s a promise the chancellor won’t be able to keep. This fall, the Federal Network Agency is expected to announce rates that are 30 to 50 percent higher than current levels, putting consumers’ contribution to renewable energy subsidies between 4.7 and 5.3 euro cents per kilowatt hour of energy, plus sales tax, up from the current level of 3.59 cents. Bareiss, the CDU’s energy specialist, has even talked of “potentially more than six cents” per kilowatt hour, which would be an increase of nearly 70 percent.

The primary reason for these costs can be seen on rooftops throughout Germany. Energy consumers will pay €100 billion over the next 20 years to subsidize photovoltaics installed before the end of 2011. The first several months of this year added at least €5 billion to that amount.

Burdened by Debts


But politicians are just now starting to seriously discuss how to pay for the energy turnaround. (AP)

Meanwhile, many low-income and unemployed Germans have reached the limits of what they’re able to pay, as the example of Aminta Seck in Berlin shows. As a single mother, Seck receives €860 a month in government assistance. By law, €40 of that amount is intended primarily to cover energy costs.

In reality, though, the money isn’t enough. Despite moving out of her old apartment and into a smaller one, Seck consistently comes up a few euros short each month, an amount she then has to pay as a lump sum at the end of the year. “I manage to come up with the money for the energy bill in the summer,” she says, “but in the winter, when it’s dark, it’s just not possible.”

Once the electricity has been shut off, it’s difficult for consumers to climb out from under their debts, since in addition to settling their overdue bills, they have to pay a fee of up to €80 to have the power turned back on.

“My clients end up waiting at least a week, and in extreme cases even up to two months,” says social worker Renate Stark, who works in Prenzlauer Berg at Caritas, a social services organization, and counsels people who have fallen behind on their energy bills.
Stark says she’s already seen the effects of the transition to renewable energy sources. “In the past, at most one client per month came to me because of problems paying energy bills,” she says. “Now it’s at least 30.”

This makes it all the more astonishing how casually politicians — from all parties — have disregarded the societal consequences of their project. While the government and opposition quarreled for months over a few euros’ difference in Hartz IV payments, they essentially formed a grand coalition when it came to subsidizing solar panels.

Part 2: Not Knowing the Details

All of the political parties wanted to appear eco-friendly, and many politicians never knew much about how the system worked in detail. Former Minister Röttgen, for example, was quite surprised when he found out — well into his term in office — that Hartz IV recipients must pay their electricity bills out of the standard payment they receive from the government.

Members of the opposition were just as willing to overlook the bizarre redistribution of funds taking place as a result of the renewable energy subsidies, with low-income consumers in rental apartments subsidizing homeowners’ solar panels through their energy bills.

The situation didn’t seem to bother the center-left opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD), which was very much caught up in the green spirit of times. After all, the money benefited solar power, something everyone agreed was a “good thing,” in the words of Ulrich Kelber, an SPD politician who works on environmental issues. There was no need, the SPD felt, to get worked up over a few cents here and there. The Green Party, meanwhile, took the position that it was necessary to make financial sacrifices for the sake of the “environmental transformation of society.”

Now, though, the general mood seems to be shifting. Individuals are becoming increasingly aware that they’re expected to bear the majority of the burden in the transition to renewable energy, while industry and power companies bask in endless subsidies.

New Class of Millionaires

Cash-strapped energy consumers find themselves pitted against profit-hungry entrepreneurs who have been spoiled by subsidies. They are businesspeople such as Frank Asbeck, a photovoltaics manufacturer who has become a multimillionaire — with his own private castle, hunting grounds and a Maserati — thanks to the EEG.

Asbeck received an appointment with Altmaier, the new environment minister, right away last Tuesday, to express his views on the issue. The energy transition will also prove profitable for investors in the project to expand Germany’s power grid. The return on such investments is guaranteed by the government to be around 9 percent, an interest rate of which mere mortals with standard retirement plans can only dream.

“Private households are expected to pay for an energy transition for which no clear plan exists,” says Holger Krawinkel of the Federation of German Consumer Organizations. “That’s unacceptable.”

Ulrich Schneider from Paritätische Gesamtverband, the umbrella organization working on social justice issues, warns that there will be protests.

“We can only truly commit to renewable energy if the costs are distributed fairly,” he says. “Anyone using the energy transition as a campaign issue also needs to explain who’s going to pay for it.”

Translated from the German by Ella Ornstein.

Author: Alexander Neubacher and Catalina Schröder
Source: Der Spiegel International
Original: http://goo.gl/EtMG6


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Over a beer or two, Danes like to tell a story that goes like this: One night the energy ministers of the countries around the North Sea got together to divide up its oil and gas wealth. The Danish minister got very drunk, but the Norwegian managed to stay sober. As a result, Norway carved out a jagged shape that included Ekofisk, which has proved to be a major field, and Denmark was left with the dregs.

Regarded as a model of how to spend oil and gas wealth wisely, Norway has stashed away surplus revenues from exports while hydropower caters for the bulk of its domestic electricity needs.

But Denmark has also found its own path to energy pragmatism, supplementing its relatively few oil rigs with wind turbines and a deep commitment to energy saving.

As awareness has grown, cities like Copenhagen and some of the nation’s hundreds of islands are vying for the accolade of “zero carbon” while Danes from across the social spectrum can tell you how much energy they use to the kilowatt.

Keeping up with the Joneses – or in this case Christensens – is all about using less fuel and having better solar panels.

“We get a bit competitive with our neighbours,” said Kalle Christensen, a computer engineer, who lives in a low-energy house in Stenlose South, just outside Copenhagen.

His is one of some 400 low-energy houses in a community expected to grow to at least 750. He said he was looking into buying solar panels that would allow him to sell more power back to the grid, although he already expects energy savings will more than make up the roughly 10,000 euro ($13,300) difference in price between his low-energy home and a standard house.

Stenlose South has the highest concentration of such homes, but low-energy houses are a growing trend across Denmark, which enforces strict efficiency standards on new building.

Together with his wife Anne Godiksen, a chemist, and two young children, Christensen uses around 5,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year compared with the 25,000 needed in their previous house.

Insulated walls, reinforced glass windows and technology tucked away in a control room ensure a constant temperature and re-use of heat from appliances. When it was minus 15 degrees Celsius outside last winter, it was a toasty 22 degrees inside.

Their neighbours are retired police inspector Ove Bendtsen and his wife Hanne Beer.

The couple had considered moving to a retirement village but Beer, a former municipal worker, had heard about the low-energy housing project through her job.

Surrounded by young kilowatt-counters, they now have no anxiety about utilities bills and no need to buy water softener for the washing machine that runs on collected rain water. “There are only advantages,” Beer said.

OIL CRISIS

For Denmark as a whole, the real energy sobering-up began in the 1970s when prices surged in the first oil crisis and the nation found itself almost 100 percent dependent on fossil fuel.

Now a world leader in wind power, Denmark gets a quarter of its electricity from wind and aims to increase that share to 50 percent by 2020.

As holder of the EU presidency until the end of June, the Danes are championing energy saving and green growth in the region, but convincing others can be a problem.

In principle, all 27 EU nations have backed a target to cut energy use by 20 percent by 2020, but in practice they balk at any upfront investment, even for building measures that create jobs and ultimately cut bills.

Harassed finance ministers tend to be the toughest opponents. In Denmark, however, a cross-party, low-carbon consensus extends to every government department. The finance minister backs green growth as heartily as the environment minister.

“If we don’t invest, it will be more expensive,” Danish Economic and Interior Minister Margrethe Vestager told Reuters when asked about energy savings measures and renewables. “For us, the alternative to renewables is still higher oil prices.”

High taxes for fossil fuel – such as 75 percent tax on heating oil – have helped to convince the Danish general public, while for business a stable regime of subsidies, feed-in tariffs and tax-deductible green investment has spurred renewables.

State-owned oil, gas and power company DONG still derives the bulk of its earnings from fossil fuel, driven by high oil prices, and green groups criticise Denmark for continued use of carbon-intensive coal.

In contrast to oil majors that have dipped into renewables but so far stuck with the fossil fuel business model they trust, however, DONG issues separate figures for green power and they show rising earnings from wind.

Between 2007 and 2011, profits from wind grew by nearly 200 percent from 81 million euro to 240 million, while the exploration and production sector rose nearly 140 percent from 321 million euros to 758 million.

GREEN COMPETITION

The Danish government has fostered a domestic green rivalry.

A national competition in 1997 selected Samso – between the island of Zealand and the Jutland peninsula – to become Denmark’s first carbon-neutral island.

By 2005, Samso had achieved the goal, and the 114-sq-km island, with a dwindling population of around 4,000, is now a net exporter of green power, which means the fossil fuel it uses on ferry journeys and other transport is offset.

Burning wood chips, old blackcurrant bushes and straw in furnaces provide district heating. The island’s farmers are also wind farmers.

At Tyregaarden Farm, Jorgen Tranberg, who has 100 hectares and 130 dairy cows, proudly leads visitors into the base of his wind turbine where dials indicate how much power is being generated. What interests him are the hard economics.

“I sell more electricity than milk,” he said. “There’s no bad weather, if the wind’s blowing.”

Tranberg bought his wind turbine 12 years ago. It produces 2.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year – enough, he says, for 35 farms like his.

In seven years, he recouped the 6 million Danish crowns ($1.07 million) cost.

Tranberg also bought half of an offshore wind turbine in 2003 for 12 million crowns. Gigantic offshore turbines are much more expensive to buy and maintain than onshore – Tranberg faced a 4 million crowns repair bill when a gear box failed – but they also generate much more power.

In all, he sells 6.5 million kilowatts every year along with 1.4 million litres of milk.

NOW, THE HARD PART

Tranberg and others on Samso, who invested at the right time with the help of subsidies and tax incentives, are the lucky ones.

Agriculture Minister Mette Gjerskov is frank about the debts crippling many Danish farmers, debts that can be due partly to spending on renewable energy.

Even for those who have got it right, building on the progress will be hard: the global economic downturn and credit crisis mean finding the funds for shrewd, long-term investment is harder than ever, and the obvious changes have been made.

“It’s getting more and more difficult. It was difficult in the beginning because people rejected it. In the end they realised that this was not dangerous,” said Soren Hermansen, chief executive officer of the Samso Energy Academy, summing up the Samso experience.

“We had really good development of the project, but now we have done the easy things.”

The next step is to aim to be not just carbon-neutral, but carbon-free, which means tackling the issue of how to escape dependence on transport fuel.

Hermansen drives an electric car, but electric transport technology is still immature and more widespread development will require investment in power grid infrastructure.

The Energy Academy, which has become a magnet for “energy tourists” from all over the world, is working on solutions to these problems.

Hermansen has not lost his optimism that “radical changes ” r emain possible, including Copenhagen’s dream of becoming the world’s first carbon neutral capital by 2025. For Denmark’s centre-left government, becoming ever greener is non-negotiable.

“In spite of our economic crisis, the green economy is not just one way forward, it is the only way forward,” Ida Auken, Denmark’s environment minister, told journalists in April.

Author: Barbara Lewis
Source: REUTERS / The Huff Post Green
Original: http://goo.gl/LxTjQ


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Portugal é o quarto país da União Europeia mais avançado em termos de cumprimento das metas para 2020 sobre peso das fontes de energia renováveis no consumo final de energia, de acordo com um relatório do Ministério da Economia.

Segundo o documento de apoio à revisão dos Planos Nacionais de Ação para a Eficiência Energética (PNAEE) e para as Energias Renováveis (PNAER), Portugal já tinha cumprido, em 2009, 79 por cento dos objetivos previstos, sendo apenas superado pela Suécia, Finlândia e Áustria.

Para cumprir a meta até 2020, faltavam apenas seis por cento, de acordo com o documento, que conclui que “os desafios associados ao PNAER são hoje facilmente alcançáveis com medidas de menor investimento”.

Fonte: Expresso
Original: http://goo.gl/Qyqu2


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