World’s biggest source of hot air offers some solutions

By Joydeep Gupta, IANS

Bali : The world cannot do without electricity, but the power generation sector is responsible for 41 percent of the global emission of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas (GHG) warming the atmosphere and leading to climate change. So how does one square this circle? The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) has some answers.

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As over 10,000 delegates from 187 countries attended the Dec 3-14 UN climate change conference here, a recent study by WBCSD on what is needed for the power sector to reduce its GHG emissions was endorsed by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer.

The report, called ‘Powering a sustainable future: policies and measures to make it happen’, says that many low-carbon solutions exist today. But it warns that their development and deployment at a sufficient scale to reduce the carbon intensity of electricity production and increase consumption efficiency will not occur without the right regulatory and market frameworks.

“Given that the sector is currently responsible for approximately 41 percent of global energy related carbon dioxide emissions, these frameworks will be critical to combating climate change during the first half of this century,” it says.

A key message from the document is that consistent and integrated policy and regulatory measures must underpin and support investment in low carbon technologies, both on the demand and supply sides.

But a ‘one size fits all’ approach will fail and a combination of complementary mechanisms must be used.

Specific policies will be necessary to drive the implementation of currently available technologies, while large-scale multi-country R&D efforts are required for those future solutions that currently face technological or commercial barriers to deployment, such as integrated carbon capture and storage technology that aims to keep the carbon underground.

“To enable their effective implementation, significant investments in grid infrastructure will be required,” the report says.

WBCSD brings together around 200 international firms. Ten of them have worked to produce this report – ABB, EDF Group, AEP, CLP Holdings, Eskom Holdings, Kansai Electric Power Company, Suez, Gaz de France, Statkraft and Tokyo Electric Power Company.

The report predicts that global electricity demand will double by 2030. “It is crucial to meet increased demand for electricity at an affordable price and ensure adequate return while contributing effectively to climate change mitigation. Electricity consumption must therefore be more efficient and supply less carbon intensive.”

The authors of the report want a number of initiatives from governments around the world:

* Immediately establish energy policies that incentivise investments in currently available low or zero emission technologies at the end-use and generation levels;

* Support innovation and R&D efforts across a wide range of promising technologies to secure that a continuous pipeline of options are brought to the market in the medium and long term;

* Customise policy interventions and continually review their effectiveness to make sure they take account of national needs and objectives as well as technological maturity;

* Ensure the complementary implementation of policy tools such that they work together in achieving the overarching objectives of carbon dioxide mitigation, social development and energy security;

* Use an effective blend of policy tools that combine market and regulatory instruments and encourage voluntary action;

* Promote realistic pricing that reflects investment cost and carbon dioxide value while addressing social development issues through specific policy measures;

* Realise the potential of emission reductions along the entire electricity supply chain, from production to end-use by consumers;

* Fully recognise the importance of transmission and distribution and ensure the required investment;

* Establish strong integrated infrastructure planning and policy environments which promote coordinated disaster recovery plans and mechanisms, in order to meet existing climate adaptation challenges;

* Increase developing countries’ capacity to adopt climate change related technologies through enhanced technology transfer supported by policies tailored to the host country needs;

* Expand the use and effectiveness of the clean development mechanism of the UNFCCC or other future mechanisms to facilitate the large-scale deployment of key technologies.

CEOs of the 10 firms that have prepared the report say: “We are confident that an enabling policy environment, which sets the right framework conditions, will allow us to establish a global, quantifiable, long-term GHG emissions pathway in order to make markets work and attract investments to the most effective projects.”