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Small-town mayors: the cutting edge of climate action

Chris Nelder, Smart Planet
Rex Parris was on fire at the Pathways to 100% Renewables Conference in San Francisco two weeks ago.

Eschewing the podium on the stage, he paced the floor and worked the crowd with the flair of the practiced personal injury trial lawyer he is, modulating his voice from a near-whisper to a thunder. He would have made an equally good evangelical preacher, I thought.

“Imagine there were an asteroid coming, and every reputable astrophysicist tells us it’s coming, and it’s aimed right at us,” he opened by way of example. “Because that’s what they’re telling us…isn’t it?” He didn’t need to explain that the asteroid was a metaphor for global warming.

After studying the issue, Parris became convinced that the threat of climate change was that serious. “It didn’t matter what party I was in,” he explained. “It’s science, not a political issue.”

As the mayor of Lancaster, California (population 157,000), Parris knows a thing or two about politics, but insists that climate change should not be a political issue. “Every time somebody puts it in the political domain, we lose half the country,” he lamented.

When he became a grandfather a year ago, Parris became much more concerned about the world we’re leaving for our grandchildren. “It terrifies me,” he admitted. “Something horrible is coming.”

He set off on an exploration, paying his own expenses to attend energy conferences around the world on his own time. “I found that the whole world knows that something horrible is coming,” he said…
(1 May 2013)

How are communities raising serious money for green energy projects?

Chris Goodall, The Guardian
This month a hydro project to generate electricity at a weir on the Thames in Oxford nearly £300,000 from 95 shareholders, three-quarters of whom live in Oxford, within two weeks of opening its offer. Just a few weeks ago, the village of South Brent in Devon financed a large wind turbine almost entirely with local money.

Green energy projects owned by communities – long talked about as a way to reduce emissions, cut bills and bring people together – are starting to raise serious amounts of money. But how?

Saskya Huggins, one of the volunteers who has organised the Osney hydro project in Oxford, said "when you get an opportunity like this that helps tackle a major global issue, albeit in a small way, and raises significant funds for your own community, you grab it with both hands."

The two ventures share many features. Both had a core group of utterly committed volunteers like Huggins working for many years to bring the project to fruition. The Osney hydro plant has been in development for over a decade. South Brent’s team got planning permission three years ago but took until the late 2012 before being able to start fundraising…
(29 April 2013)

Is 70 Percent Renewable Power Possible? Portugal Just Did It For 3 Months

Ryan Koronowski, Think Progress
Portugal’s electricity network operator announced that renewable energy supplied 70 percent of total consumption in the first quarter of this year. This increase was largely due to favorable weather conditions resulting in increased wind and water flow, as well as lower demand. Portuguese citizens are using less energy and using sources that never run out for the vast majority of what they do use…

Portugal’s investment in modernizing its electricity grid in 2000 has come in handy. Like in many countries, power companies owned their own transmission lines. What the government did in 2000 was to buy all the lines, creating a publicly owned and traded company to operate them. This was used to create a smart grid that renewable energy producers could connect to (encouraged by government-organized auctions to build new wind and hydro plants)…
(14 April 2013)

Germany’s Energy Transition Experiment

Sonal Patel, Power Mag
Germany has chosen to transform its energy system within a few decades—an ambition that has evoked equal admiration and confusion. Has Europe’s largest economy embarked on a rational path to an energy future that will make it the bellwether for global acceptance of renewables, or will the complex array of current challenges encumber its grand transformation?

A comprehensive legislative package passed by Germany’s federal cabinet and its bicameral legislature (comprising the Bundesrat, the federal council, and the Bundestag, the federal parliament) in the summer following Japan’s Fukushima nuclear catastrophe in 2011 adopted 120 individual measures previously proposed in a 2010-unveiled “Energy Concept” and laid the groundwork for Germany to set its energy supply system on a new footing by the middle of the century.

The transition to a new energy era—described by the German term Energiewende —will be a “Herculean task,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel has admitted, bigger, perhaps, than efforts to bridge the infrastructure development gap following German reunification. But if the transition is successful, Germany could model how an export-oriented industrial nation staking its future on a high share of renewables can be globally competitive. If it stalls, the nation with the world’s fourth-largest economy by nominal gross domestic product could flounder economically, miring grandiose ambitions in the European Union (EU)—and around the world—to combat climate change with renewables…
(7 April 2013)

London’s cooking waste to fuel power station

James Meikle, The Guardian
Cooking waste from thousands of London restaurants and food companies is to help run what is claimed to be the world’s biggest fat-fuelled power station.

The energy generated from the grease, oil and fat that clogs the capital’s sewers will also be channelled to help run a major sewage works and a desalination plant, as well as supplying the National Grid, under plans announced by Thames Water and utility company 2OC.

The prospect of easing the financial and logistical problems of pouring £1m a month into clearing the drains of 40,000 fat-caused blockages a year is being hailed by the companies as a "win-win" project. Thirty tonnes a day of waste will be collected from leftover cooking oil supplies at eateries and manufacturers, fat traps in kitchens and pinchpoints in the sewers – enough to provide more than half the fuel the power plant will need to run. The rest of its fuel will come from waste vegetable oil and tallow (animal fats)…
(7 April 2013)

Lessons From Thailand: Mobilizing Investment In Energy Efficiency

Louise Brown and Athena Ballesteros, WRIInsights
Developing countries will need about $531 billion of additional investments in clean energy technologies every year in order to limit global temperature rise to 2° C above pre-industrial levels, thus preventing climate change’s worst impacts. To attract investments on the scale required, developing country governments, with support from developed countries, must undertake “readiness” activities that will encourage public and private sector investors to put their money into climate-friendly projects.

The development of Thailand’s energy efficiency sector is an interesting case study. It demonstrates how strong government leadership combined with strategic support from international climate finance can drive the transition toward an energy-efficient economy.

In the early 1990s, Thailand’s economy was growing rapidly at 10 percent per year; the power sector was growing even faster. The government recognized that conserving energy would provide a low-cost way to meet its citizens’ rising demand for energy….
(1 April 2013)

Green planet image via shutterstock. Reproduced at with permission.