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Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Sustainable Energy Roadmap

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This is another of the Press Releases that I get, and unusually this one struck a nerve. First off there was the CBC news report this morning that Barack Obama was using his “bully pulpit” to persuade congress to end the massive subsidies to the oil industry. They have been getting them for over a hundred years to subsidize exploration and drilling – and not only do they not need them (they are, after all, hugely profitable) but there are much better things to spend taxpayers money on. (Buried in the block quote below you will find this gem “fossil fuels benefit from decades of subsidies and the support of powerful interests”. Indeed.) Secondly the Green Party of BC is in the process of developing its own “technology road map for the production of clean energy”, so it would certainly help if we could have access to one that has already been developed.

What also attracted me was the first recommendation of the authors is energy efficiency. This goes back to my days as a provincial civil servant at MEMPR’s Energy Management Branch. While everyone else in the energy ministry was busy try to get ever more coal, oil and gas out of the ground,we were trying to make better use of the stuff we already had. And since in the mid-nineties energy prices were low (though plenty of people didn’t see it that way) we had to work to find things with sensible payback periods. That wasn’t hard, even then – and is even easier now, I think. One thing we have to do is stop being quite so blinkered. Like the gas inspector from the City of Richmond who insisted that if I installed a high-efficiency gas fire in my living room, it would also need an air brick through an outside wall for combustion. Actually, no it didn’t, it gets that from the flue but I suppose he had not seen the drawings and did not like to admit ignorance.

The WorldWatch Institute has a web page you should visit, even if the idea of sustainable energy roadmap is not top of your mind. You can also buy a copy of the report from there as a pdf or hard copy for $12.95. They are doing these studies in places like the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Jamaica. Not that you will find those easily on this graphic of where the energy gets used.

Worldwatch is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues.

Sustainable Energy Roadmaps Chart Course to Healthier Economies and Societies

Mix of GIS, technical and financing advice helps countries shift
from high-carbon imports to low-carbon domestic energy 

Washington, D.C.—-By embracing an integrated mix of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and grid technologies, countries can put their energy systems on a more sustainable path while developing economically, according to a new report from the Worldwatch Institute. The report, Sustainable Energy Roadmaps: Guiding the Global Shift to Domestic Renewables, lays out an innovative, targeted approach that details how countries can take specific technical, policy, governance, and financial steps to help make the shift to sustainable energy a reality.

“Still today, an estimated 1.3 billion people worldwide lack access to electricity, and another 1 billion have unreliable access,” said Alexander Ochs, Director of Worldwatch’s Climate and Energy Program and the lead author of the report. “But expanding fossil fuels is not the solution to the world’s energy challenges. We need solutions that are economically, socially and environmentally sustainable—-many of which are now at hand.Implementing our Sustainable Energy Roadmaps will enable decision makers to pursue strategies that are in the true interest of their people while protecting Earth’s climate.”

To develop a Sustainable Energy Roadmap, Worldwatch analyzes an area’s potential for energy efficiency gains and undertakes detailed GIS mapping of local renewable energy resources, including wind, solar, and biomass. The Institute also produces an infrastructure inventory that assesses solutions for grid renovation and energy storage. In addition to technical analysis, the Roadmaps explore the socioeconomic impacts of diverse energy pathways, including the potential for sustainable energy development to create jobs and reduce healthcare and electricity costs. Worldwatch’s Roadmaps can be applied almost anywhere—-in industrialized and developing countries—-and at multiple levels of political organization, from the municipal to the regional.

“When governments, energy specialists, and the public join in a guided conversation to consider their country’s energy status and potential, they can see more easily the options for freeing themselves from dependence on imported fossil fuels,” said Worldwatch President Robert Engelman. “The Roadmaps show a route to sustained long-term economic development, universal energy access, cleaner local environments, healthier populations, and carbon-free energy systems. It’s impressive that some developing countries are now poised to make this shift more rapidly than many countries that are much wealthier.”

The burning of coal, oil, and other fossil fuels is a leading driver of global climate change and many other environmental and socioeconomic problems worldwide. Air pollution from fossil fuel combustion contributes to smog, water pollution, and acid rain and can trigger or exacerbate health conditions, including chronic respiratory and heart disease, lung cancer, and asthma. Many countries rely heavily on fossil fuel imports, making them dependent on foreign energy supplies and vulnerable to price fluctuations on the global market. Competition among energy-insecure countries over dwindling fossil fuel resources also contributes to civil or international conflicts, creating an unnecessary obstacle to development and prosperity in many regions.

Due in large part to massive subsidies to fossil fuels, the world’s energy resources are not utilized as effectively or efficiently as they could be. Coal, oil, and natural gas still account for more than 80 percent of the world’s primary energy consumption, despite the adverse impacts of these fuels on the well-being of both present and future generations. And although energy production from all major renewable energy sources—-wind, solar, biomass, hydro, and geothermal—-is booming, it remains far from its full potential. Developing local renewable energy resources, alongside job training and education programs, can provide quality long-term employment and help countries build strong economies with sustained growth.

In Sustainable Energy Roadmaps, Worldwatch emphasizes four key components that can help countries and regions transition successfully to sustainable energy use:

  • Capture synergies from energy efficiency and renewable energy. Expanding both energy efficiency and renewable energy capacity simultaneously results in increased energy benefits. Reducing energy demand through efficiency measures means that renewable energy can displace fossil fuels more rapidly. At the same time, many sources of renewable energy, such as solar photovoltaic (PV), have much higher efficiency rates than conventional energy sources. And, since renewable energy is often produced at or close to the location where it is consumed, less energy is lost in distribution through the grid.
  • Integrate multiple renewable energy sites and sources. One challenge to a rapid transition to a renewable energy economy is the “variability” of renewable resources such as wind and solar: power generation depends on factors like the time of day, cloud cover, and wind patterns. Such variability can be reduced greatly by harnessing renewable resources from both different areas as well as different energy sources. In the Dominican Republic, for example, wind resources in the north are strongest in the early evening and peak in the winter months, whereas wind resources in the south are strongest in the morning and peak in the summer. Integrating wind power from both areas into the electricity system can provide a relatively consistent level of wind power throughout the day and year. Similarly, wind and solar power can be integrated with the burning of combustible renewable fuels such as biomass and biogas, which can provide reliable generation on short notice during periods of particularly high energy demand, or at times of low generation from other renewable sources.
  • Promote strong and feasible policy solutions. Identifying both energy efficiency measures and strong renewable resource potentials are important steps to making smart energy planning decisions, but effective policies are vital to ensure that the benefits of sustainable energy are fully realized. A long-term vision for sustainable energy, concrete policy tools and incentives, and a streamlined and transparent governance structure are all important to creating a stable and profitable investment environment for scaled-up investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy. Analyzing the regulatory environment in a country or region is an important first step to understanding what policy tools are most effective and politically acceptable. A toolbox full of proven effective and affordable mechanisms exists, and best practices from around the world provide important guidance for action. But ultimately, policymakers must decide which concrete tools to apply.
  • Identify lifecycle costs and financing opportunities. Around the world, renewable energy is already cost-competitive with fossil fuels—-if the long-term economic and societal costs are taken into account. But fossil fuels benefit from decades of subsidies and the support of powerful interests. It is therefore essential that energy developers seeking to pursue energy efficiency and renewable energy projects gain access to appropriate financing tools. Because the renewable energy industry is still relatively new, there is a general lack of knowledge on the part of investors and banks about how to effectively fund such projects. Capacity building within the financial sector is necessary to develop long-term loans for renewable energy development and to minimize the perceived riskiness of sustainable energy investment. Options within domestic public funds, multilateral lending agencies, and bilateral financing must be explored, and networks between the key finance actors must be actively promoted.

In October 2011, Worldwatch released the first detailed country study implementing its roadmap approach, a wind and solar roadmap for the Dominican Republic entitled Roadmap to a Sustainable Energy System: Harnessing the Dominican Republic’s Wind and Solar Resources. The Institute is currently developing national Sustainable Energy Roadmaps for the governments of the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Jamaica. Worldwatch recently embarked on its first project at the regional level, providing advice to the seven member countries of the Central American Integration System (SICA). The Institute is actively exploring opportunities elsewhere to help decision makers pursue a strategy for transitioning to domestic sustainable energy solutions.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 29, 2012 at 12:32 pm

7 Responses

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  1. No replies? do I have to kick the ball and nater away? ..
    All I can say is that Western European countries appear to be more conscious than we are about energy conservation. They have been for a long time, starting in the late 1940s when one had to make do with little. Then, after some mad years of buying, buying, in the 60s, the 70s oil crisis forced them to take a sober second look.
    Ever since home appliances and fixtures, cars etc. HAD to save lots of energy. People over there, just like those in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, do have choices as consumers as it isn’t the builder of a new development but homeowners–and even tenants—that choose appliances and all sorts of other stuff, so there is a lot of competition between manufacturers to come up with improvements every few years.

    Starting next year all new homes must be low consumption. I read about 50 kw/ m2 /per year. Net -zero energy being of course the ultimate goal, though not always financially possible (just like buying an electrical car isn’t always a wise move). Old homes have until 2020 I think..

    For years hydro and natural gas providers have helped home owners (both those in single families houses and apartment buildings) to not only super insulate older homes but also use, if possible, alternative energies.
    More and more real estate ads do mention the energy rating of a home. This is becoming a deciding factor in a sale.

    The complex system for energy rates is also a big incentive…In one country that shall remain nameless, 300 days of the year have only peak and off-peak electric rates that are cheap. However there are 65 days–in winter, by some coincidence–where rates go up and up…on 22 special days the rates–for both peak and off-peak, are 5 times the rates of the 300 economical days!

    These 3 types of days aren’t the same year in/ out. People learn about the rates of a day one or 2 days in advance…Hence the need to have a basic computer system, linking the smart meter and everything electrical in the home, that will turn off anything that is not absolutely essential.

    Obviously if a home doesn’t use much electricity to start with, and even produce some..the future looks brighter.

    In my apartment building the only thing people care about is a low maintenance fee. Having one car per person is also a must. Transit is for crabby foreigners like me. Retrofitting the building is a low priority.

    But then the reality is that we don’t get much financial help here to do it, unlike homeowners and tenants in “Socialist” Europe..(were most doctors I knew, including a couple in Finland, owned a big house or big apartment in town–cooking and cleaning done by a maid or 2–and a vacation home in the back country, more often than not with a staff or 2..)

    Red frog

    April 1, 2012 at 1:32 am

  2. I find it remarkable how fast the right wing fulminate about ‘subsidies’ for transit, sustainable energy etc, with comments like “If it needs subsidising then it’s because people don’t want it!”, yer are strangely quiet about subsidies to their interests.

    And yes, there are many rules about energy effeciency here: All new houses in Germany now have to be triple-glazed, and there are incentives for insulating. The energy effeciency of a building is also now connected to the amount of rent that can legally be charged by landlords, and they have to give tenants an independent assesment of the buildings energy effeciency.

    Andy in Germany

    April 2, 2012 at 12:32 am

  3. In BC our problem is not electricity, which is mostly renewable already. It is a lack of liquid transportation fuels. And there is no “plug and play” replacement; reducing oil and gas subsidies will not make a replacement appear. We need to rebuild our transportation infrastructure to be based on electric mass transit; this is going to cost a lot of $ and will also require more electricity to be generated. This will require difficult decisions regarding flooding valleys, erecting expensive windfarms (which require fossil fuels to maintain), etc. None of this is “sustainable” anyways, because our economic model is based on growth, which requires growth in energy consumption (and no, you can’t do it with efficiency gains alone). Sooner or later, we’ll hit physical limits, and I think we are already hitting economic ones.


    April 3, 2012 at 10:51 am

  4. We live in a drafty century old house. The previous owner “modernized” in the Seventies. Out went the beautiful old clear grain Douglas fir doors, sash windows, ten inch baseboards and window and door casings. In came single-glazed aluminum windows that leak and whistle during storms, false ceilings that hid a multitude of sins, and stucco over the original fir bevel board siding.

    We have spent over a decade slowly bringing back the Edwardian architecture, bringing the systems up to Code, and increasing the energy efficiency. Every exterior wall that was stripped to the sticks on the interior got new insulation and vapour barriers. In came another 18 inches of new fiberglass batt insulation in the attic, new energy efficient appliances (our new fridge lowered our overall electrical consumption by a third), and new reproduction fir sash windows with removeable storm windows (for the most important remaining windows we’re now looking at double-glazed fir units with storms). We recently replaced our 45-year old gas furnace with a new high-efficiency model and really appreciated the $1,500 in government grants and manufacturer’s rebates, and we get to enjoy lower energy consumption for space heating, not to mention the new influx of fresh air.

    If we had the financial resources to build new, I would push not only for high quality West Coast modernist architecture, or row houses, but super energy efficiency (e.g. R40 walls, triple glazing, solarium for passive heat…) and a solar-assisted geo-exchange space heating system. There would also be no natural gas connections, only one garage space instead of two, and I’d locate it as close to transit as possible.

    Such as it is currently, we would be loathe to rip out the beautiful new interior millwork and fir exterior siding made from old growth trees at huge costs and major ramifications to the original and renewed heritage architecture — and our personal accomplishments regarding renovations — just to meet some new law that forced home owners to provide more energy efficiency. Blanket, punitive rules are not as effective as specific incentives – or an array of options — that allow owners to choose without being forced into destroying a home’s and neighbourhood’s character.


    April 4, 2012 at 2:59 pm

  5. MB, congratulations for what you did with your home. I agree with you about not imposingblanket restrictions .
    You raised an important point about older houses.

    Knowing how many restrictions there are in France when one own an historical home I am quite sure that they will not have to be “modernized”.
    I do know that owners of some non-historical old homes from the early 1900s got grants and loans to insulate the outside then added on top of the insulation new thin stone elements that replicated the original ones under the insulation…

    I will keep an eye on that subject as there are hundreds of small historical towns, meaning many thousands of truly old homes in the region of my birth (hence a huge number in the whole country) that are treasured by all, and bring hordes of tourists, so renovating them drastically will not be considered.

    Some home owners may do what we were doing when my parents rented for a while a wing of a somewhat dilapidated 17th century castle, while a house was renovated for them nearby (a perk of their job was free housing near the workplace). The rooms were enormous and had no central heating (obviously there was no energy wasted..).
    We had gas-fired radiant radiators by the sitting area and the bed that only heated us, not the room, when we were there (it ‘s like sunbathing in the snow on a sunny day). We also dressed up warmly to go from room to room away from radiators.
    At night we turned the radiators off just in case and let the big dogs sleep on the bed, the small one inside.

    As for hydro power, some people that own real old water mills have installed small turbines in their mill centuries old weir and produce their own power. One of my teacher was already doing that in the late 1960s. The river bed and banks weren’t modified, fishes weren’t harmed (there was a fine mesh at the weir mouth).

    I have also heard about home owners that only use the old home in summer and use a renovated former outbuilding next door in the winter. I would think too that stone walls 2 or 3 ft thick might insulate well enough, especially with the new type of thin insulation placed on the inside under a new layer of hand-trowelled plaster.

    Red frog

    April 7, 2012 at 1:21 am

  6. Fascinating stuff, Red Frog. I can understand the challenges of retrofitting not just older structures in Europe, but structures steeped with architectural heritage, for greater energy conservation.

    To think that my grandparents first home together was a self-built log cabin with a sod roof, and heated by a stone fireplace and a cast iron wood stove only a century ago on the brutally cold northern Canadian prairies. They emigrated from Eastern Europe in 1902 and 1906 respectively under the Homestead Act, married a month after they met, and over the next few decades bought two quarter sections of land (160 acres; ¼ mile square; ~ 65 hectares) for $10 each. The proviso was that you had to clear and cultivate at least half of the land within a set timeframe (10 years, I think). They had nine kids, seven of which survived into old age, the youngest being my Dad who passed in 2011 at 89. Truly the last of his generation of original Canadian pioneers outside of the aboriginal communities.

    Now we’re talking planetary climate change, outer space, and faltering globalized economies. Who would have thought of these things during our parent’s times?


    April 12, 2012 at 11:03 am

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