Climate of Confusion
The feed-in tariff under Ontario’s Green Energy and Green Employment Act, which started as a program of weaning the province off coal power while rebuilding its floundering manufacturing section, has become a muddled mess. Companies which build alternative power plants in Ontario get up to 64.2 ¢/kWh for electricity, nearly ten times the current market value. FIT has sparked a World Trade Organization challenge from abroad, over its made-in-Ontario provisions. Mounting outrage over increasing power bills from consumers has prompted the government to promise to cut electricity rates for consumers (but not for industry which doesn’t vote) by 10% for the next five years. Finally, the opposition Progressive Conservative Party has vowed to scrap the program if elected next October.
Now companies dependent on FIT are wondering whether there will be an alternative energy industry left in Ontario an a year’s time. Some are threatening a class action lawsuit if FIT is abolished.
Eastern Europe Puts Emergency Brakes on Solar Energy
The lower house of the Czech parliament has passed a law that slaps a 26% tax on any revenue from the operation of solar energy projects put into operation since last year. This comes after a solar boom (1034 MW of photovoltaic capacity already installed) raised fears that electricity prices could explode and networks become unstable. While it would have been easier to ditch the renewables obligation, rather than impose a tax, the former would have posed a risk of billions of euros in compensation claims against the Czech Republic.
Neighboring Slovakia amended its Energy Law last May, severely curtailing the potential for solar investment.
Spain’s Solar Power Sector Falls into the Abyss
The Spanish government has launched a new regulatory framework that will result in subsidized tariffs for ground-mounted solar energy projects drop 45% this year, killing future investment in the trade, which industry leaders expect will be frozen in the next few years. The Spanish solar industry has seen investment plunge in the past two years with only 100 MW of generating capacity having been installed in 2009 and 2010 – compared to 2,700 MW in 2008.
The industry is so frustrated that it has sued Spain’s government, arguing that that new regulation is way too harsh and even “unconstitutional” as the tariff cuts are expected to apply to both new and existing projects, meaning the industry may have to make retroactive payments.
Cancún: Global Climate Consensus Is Disintegrating
The two-week UN Climate Change Conference starts next week in Cancún without much hope of any real success. The Cancún conference follows on last year’s failed effort in Copenhagen and is officially referred to as the 16th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 16) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the 6th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties (CMP 6) to the Kyoto Protocol. Last year 100,000 people attended the Copenhagen conference; this year about 10,000 are expected in Cancún.
Nations like China believe that they should be allowed increases in CO2 emissions in order to develop their economies, while saying that developed nations should take the lead in drastic emissions cuts, as well as offering funds and technology to developing countries. Events over the past year, starting with the Climategate emails, revealed that the science of climate change is dodgy. The global consensus that at one point a year of so ago seemed unstoppable, that man can influence the fact of, or the speed of climate change and agreement on how to go about the task, seems to be disintegrating.
The New Guard of Climate Questioners: Get Ready for the Next Round of Climate Science Debate
On November 17 the US House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Energy & Environment held a hearing on climate change titled “Rational Discussion of Climate Change: the Science, the Evidence, the Response.” The Republican invitees were Richard Lindzen, Patrick Michaels and Judith Curry. The first two each presented compelling evidence as to why anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions might not rapidly push up global temperature—not now, nor in the future. Dr. Curry’s written testimony discussed the “wickedness” of the climate problem, uncertainty in climate science and statements that have resulted in her being labeled a “climate heretic” by her colleagues. Having been duped by the IPCC, Dr. Curry has decided to try to restore integrity to climate science and dig deeply into the broader aspects of the science and the IPCC’s arguments to try and assess the uncertainty.
The full 3-hour and 46-minute hearing can be followed on C-SPAN. The first 18 minutes is taken up by opening remarks by the sub-committee chairman and ranking members. Then there are three panels of witnesses. On Panel 1, Ralph Cicerone of the National Academy of Sciences speaks from there to 0:26 , Dr. Lindzen to 0:34, Gerald Meehl of National Center for Atmospheric Research to 0:39, Heidi Cullen from Climate Central to 0:47. Questions from the sub-committee took until 1:25. Panel 2 consisted of Patrick Michaels of the Cato Institute to 1:32, Ben Santer of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to 1:38, Richard Alley of Penn State to 1:43, Richard Feely of NOAA to 1:50. Questions of Panel 2 from the sub-committee took to 2:43. Panel 3 consisted of Adm. David Titley of the US Navy to 2:49:, James Lopez of the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development to 2:55, William Geer of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership to 3:03, and Judith Curry of Georgia Tech to 3:09. Questions from the sub-committee took the rest of the time.