Make Biofuels Part of Paris Agreement Implementation

History was made this week with the signing of the Paris Agreement climate accord by 130 countries at the UN Headquarters in New York. The governments now have one year to ratify the accord. The Paris Agreement will enter into force on the 30th day after the Paris-Agreement_Logo_EN_sizedate on which at least 55 Parties to the Convention accounting in total for at least an estimated 55 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions have finalized their adoption of the accord. In response, the global biofuels community is calling on these countries to include biofuels as part of their greenhouse gas reduction goals.

Nearly a third of global GHGs come from the transportation sector making it a key area of focus in efforts to reduce emissions. Studies have shown that biofuels, like ethanol, are proven to reduce harmful GHGs from 40 percent to 90 percent compared to fossil fuels according to the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA).

GRFA logo“It is clear that the biofuels industry generally, and ethanol specifically, will continue to have a significant role to play in international efforts to transition away from carbon-intensive fossil fuels in the transport sector,” said Bliss Baker, GRFA spokesperson. “As countries look to take policy steps to reduce GHG emissions in their transport sectors, the GRFA will continue to provide technical support for the adoption of ethanol-supportive policies that will maximize the advantages of biofuel technologies.”

At the end of March, U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to historic reductions in GHG emissions. President Obama pledged that the U.S. would cut its emissions by 26 percent by 2025 compared with 2005 levels. In turn, President Jinping promised that China’s emissions would peak by 2030 and fall after that, the first time China has agreed to any emission reduction targets.

However, as the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) points out, the U.S. did not include the roll biofuels would play in its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDCs), a plan submitted by each country outlining how it would meet emission reductions. So far 37 countries have included biofuels in these plans. Continue reading

Novozymes, Royal DSM Join DIVA Ventures

Novozymes and Royal DSM have joined DIVA Ventures L3L, a coalition that co-develops and co-invests in opportunities that have high potential to deliver positive societal impact in a sustainable way. The two organizations are joining as co-founders along with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and counsel partner Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman. DIVA is a member of the European Venture Philanthropy Association

The announcement was made at United Nations HQ in New York by Thomas Videbæk, COO of Novozymes, and Peter Bakker, President and CEO of WBCSD. DIVA stands for Driving Impact Venture Action.

“In 2015 we launched a new corporate strategy, ‘Partnering for Impact’,” said Thomas Videbæk, COO at Novozymes. “The strategy is based on our strong sustainability-oriented corporate culture as well as the conviction that long-term business growth is best achieved by focusing on business opportunities that deliver positive societal impact. Co-founding DIVA is one of the ways in which we are enabling our organization to explore such opportunities.”

vcsPRAsset_524875_68967_c3d9206c-5beb-49af-ab5d-39ff8fe08bba_0Meeting development challenges in the global economy will ultimately require private sector leadership. Impact investors and socially responsible businesses face a gap – available capital and desire to participate, but not enough ventures or venture ecosystem in the developing world. DIVA presents a new model to help address this challenge. Working closely with its corporate partners, DIVA helps identify and mature impact venturing ideas that leverage existing corporate technologies, products and services.

The ultimate goal is to bring high-impact ventures to maximum international scale and help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed by the United Nations in September 2015.

Report Confirms Ethanol’s GHG Reductions

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 8.22.03 PMEarlier this month the European Commission released its new report, “The land use change impact of biofuels consumed in the EU,” (GLOBIOM). The study assessed the (indirect) land use change (LUC) impacts of biofuels demand expected as a result of Europe’s 2020 climate and energy policy. According to the European Renewable Ethanol Association (ePURE), the study found that increased demand for European produced ethanol would have low impacts on land use change and confirms ethanol’s high net greenhouse gas (GHG) savings.

The study was conducted by IIASA, Ecofys and E4Tech at the request of the European Commission. The report found that the increased demand from ethanol made from sugar and starch crops, such as corn, along with cellulosic biomass bill have low impacts ILUC. In addition, the study found that this increase in demand will have no impact on food prices through 2020.

Specifically, the study finds that:

  • Conventional ethanol feedstocks, such as sugar and starch crops, have much lower land use change emissions impacts than other biofuel feedstocks. For example, in Europe the key feedstocks used to produce ethanol would have LUC emissions of 14g CO2 e/MJ for maize, 15g CO2 e/MJ for sugar beet and 34g CO2 e/MJ for wheat.
  • Cellulosic ethanol feedstocks similarly have a low or even positive LUC impact (16g CO2 e/MJ for straw ethanol, 0g CO2 e/MJ if a sustainable straw removal rate is introduced, -12g CO2 e/MJ and -29g CO2 e/MJ for perennials and short rotation crops).
  • Land use change impacts and associated emissions can be much lower if: abandoned land in the EU is used for biofuels production; yield increases occur as a result of biofuels demand; and/or peat drainage in Malaysia and Indonesia is halted.

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Electric Cars Take Over Greenest Vehicles List

Electric cars have taken over this year’s Greenest Vehicles List published by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). The 19th annual environmental rankings published on greencars.org featured nine electric vehicles (EV). The following vehicles comprise the Greenest List for 2016:

For the third year in a row, the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive tops the Greenest List. Toyota’s Prius line continues to perform well, with the new Prius Eco nabbing the 4th spot, while the Prius C and original Prius claim spots #8 and #9. For the first time ever, the Greenest list is completely populated by plug-in and hybrid vehicles; not a single vehicle with only an internal combustion engine appears.

“The 2016 scores are in, and plug-in electric vehicles are outpacing all other vehicle offerings in terms of environmental friendliness. Fortunately, the electricity sector is slated to become cleaner over the life of model year 2016 vehicles, thanks to the Clean Power Plan, and that has bumped up electric vehicles’ green scores this year. Nevertheless, it’s important to acknowledge that how green your electric vehicle truly is depends on the electricity it uses to charge,” said ACEEE Lead Vehicle Analyst Shruti Vaidyanathan.

The newest additions to the list are the Volkswagen eGolf and the Kia’s Soul electric vehicle, which claim the #5 and #7 spots respectively. This year marks the first time a Kia vehicle has earned a top spot since 2009. The improved 2016 Chevrolet Volt also nabs a spot this year (#11) thanks to significant increases in fuel economy and its new streamlined vehicle design.

Modern clean diesels have repeatedly placed well in ACEEE’s annual ranking. However, following the EPA announcement that Volkswagen had cheated federal emissions standards since 2009, greenercars.org suspended its Green Scores for all affected VW, Audi, and Porsche diesel models.

Greenercars.org also identifies practical options in each class among the top widely available, automatic transmission, petroleum-fueled models, since many of the vehicles on the Greenest list are not widely available. The Greener Choices list include the Chevrolet Trax and the GMC Canyon.

Berkely Lab Study Finds RPS Policies Save Money

In 2013, there were $2.2 billion in benefits from reduced greenhouse gas emissions and $5.2 billion came from reductions in other air pollution for states with renewable portfolio standards (RFS) according to a new study. “A Retrospective Analysis of the Benefits and Impacts of U.S. Renewable Portfolio Standards,” evaluates the benefits and other impacts of RPS policies and was conduced by researchers from U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

RPS report from NRELRPS policies require utilities or other electricity providers to meet a minimum portion of their energy output with eligible forms of renewable electricity such as wind and solar power.  The report finds there are 29 U.S. states plus Washington, D.C., with RPS policies in place and they have been a driver for renewable electricity generation in the U.S. over the past decade. Many states are currently considering whether to extend, eliminate, or otherwise revise existing RPS policies and the goal of the report is to help officials evaluate their programs.

“Our goal was to estimate the magnitude of RPS benefits and impacts at a national-level, using established methodologies, while recognizing that individual states can perform their own, more-detailed assessments,” said NREL’s Jenny Heeter one of the report’s authors.

In addition to evaluating environmental benefits, the study also assessed other impacts. The research estimates that RPS policies supported 200,000 renewable energy-related jobs in 2013, saved consumers up to $1.2 billion from reduced wholesale electricity prices and another $1.3 to $3.7 billion from reduced natural gas prices.

This work was a follow-up and complement to an earlier study by the two labs that focused on the costs of state RPS programs to-date and that noted the need for a full understanding of the potential benefits, impacts, and costs of RPS programs. To that end, this most recent study provides a point of comparison for estimates of RPS program costs. The researchers are planning a follow-up effort for the coming year to evaluate the costs and benefits of RPS programs prospectively, considering scheduled increases to each state’s requirements as well as potential policy revisions.

The Climate Trust

As the new year has kicked off, The Climate Trust has released its prediction list of 10 carbon market trends to watch in 2016. The trends range from climate change playing a larger role in federal decision making to increased carbon market linkage and momentum in conservation finance.

Image credit: Flickr/Yann Caradec

Image credit: Flickr/Yann Caradec

“The Trust pays close attention to market signals throughout the year, identifying areas where we can have the greatest impact,” said Sean Penrith, executive director for The Climate Trust. “Each year, we look forward to putting together our team’s collective knowledge and sharing our industry insights.”

And the top trends….

1. Carbon pricing will play a key role for many jurisdictions worldwide as they plan to meet their emission reduction targets from the Paris negotiations. Roughly one quarter of the world’s emissions now fall under some form of carbon pricing system.

2. In Oregon, policies related to clean energy will take center stage in 2016. Importers of transportation fuels will be under obligation to comply with the state’s Clean Fuels Program in 2016. This program is designed to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels 10% by 2025, by integrating more low-carbon fuels (like ethanol and biogas) into the fuel supply.

3. Climate Risk Gets Real for Private Industry. Beginning with the groundswell at Climate Week in New York in September 2015, and becoming more strident at the Paris climate summit, it is clear that the era of managing and disclosing a corporation’s exposure to climate risk has arrived.

4. Addressing climate change will play a larger role in federal decision-making and political platforms in 2016. With the energy created by the COP21 gathering in Paris still buzzing around us, a presidential campaign well underway, and a little more than a year left for members of the Obama Administration to leave their full mark on history, it seems clear that 2016 will be a year of climate action.

5. Increased U.S. carbon market linkage as states prepare for the Clean Power Plan. The final draft of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan was released in 2015, with 24 states filing a lawsuit against the plan questioning EPA’s authority. The lawsuit is unlikely to succeed. In fact, many of the states involved in the lawsuit are still drafting compliance plans; 24 other states launched a countersuit in support of the Plan; and George Bush’s EPA chief reminds the states that EPA’s authority has been upheld by the Supreme Court twice before.
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Nova Scotia Supports Ocean Energy, Wildlife

As offshore wind begins to take off, many organizations are concerned about the impact on ocean life. Last week, the Nova Scotia Legislature passed the Marine Renewable Energy Act (Bill 110) as a means to ensure that ocean renewable energy has appropriate licensing and environmental protections in place to protect marine life.

Novia Scotia is looking at tidal energy as a clean energy tool and along with technological developments in this sector, companies are also developing offshore wind farms and wave technology. According to WWF-Canada, Nova Scotia has significant tidal energy potential, and the province has plans to develop enough energy using tidal turbines to power a quarter of the province’s homes. The Bay of Fundy has some of the highest tides in the world, with more water flowing in and out of the bay with each tidal cycle than the output of all the world’s freshwater rivers combined.

Cape Split © Sarah Saunders / WWF-Canada

Cape Split © Sarah Saunders / WWF-Canada

This productive area provides a home for 22 species of marine mammals, including endangered North Atlantic right whales, more than 130 species of birds, and a wide variety of fish and invertebrates. Properly harnessing these tides could help reduce the province’s dependence on fossil fuels, but development cannot compromise this ecologically rich habitat, says WWF-Canada, which supports coastal economic activities, including fishing, aquaculture and ecotourism.

In response to the approval of Bill 110, David Miller, WWF-Canada President and CEO said, “WWF-Canada strongly supports and commends the province of Nova Scotia for their work to revolutionize their energy grid while protecting ecosystems. The Act not only promotes renewable energy, but it recognizes the need to ensure that renewable energy projects do not have substantial impacts on nature. We applaud the government of Nova Scotia for paying attention to the importance of habitat maintenance and protection.”

WWF is promoting a 100 percent habitat friendly renewable energy future by 2050. This Act is one step towards achieving that goal.

#COP21 Participants Commit to Energy Transition

Over the weekend UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) attendees made commitments to accelerate the ongoing energy transition through several initiatives discussed during the Lima-Paris Action Agenda Focus on Energy (LPAA). New analysis from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) finds that achieving a 36 percent share of renewable energy by 2030 would result in half of all emission reductions needed to maintain a two-degree pathway, while energy efficiency measures could supply the rest.

From left to right: Nick Nuttall (Moderator), UNFCC; Jean-Marc Ollagnier, CEO, Accenture Resources; Steve Howard, CSO, IKEA; Adnan Z. Amin, Director-General, IRENA; Rachel Kyte, incoming CEO, SE4All; Khaled Fahmy, Minister of Environment, Egypt, Chair of AMCEN

From left to right: Nick Nuttall (Moderator), UNFCC; Jean-Marc Ollagnier, CEO, Accenture Resources; Steve Howard, CSO, IKEA; Adnan Z. Amin, Director-General, IRENA; Rachel Kyte, incoming CEO, SE4All; Khaled Fahmy, Minister of Environment, Egypt, Chair of AMCEN

“With the energy sector accounting for some two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions, the decarbonisation of energy must be at the heart of any effort to keep global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “The energy transition is underway worldwide but more action is needed. To scale up efforts to the level needed, we must utilise all available technologies, increase ambition among all actors in all regions of the world, and mobilise the funds needed to enable the transition.”

The announcements included new initiatives emerging to help further drive this transition including:

  • The Global Geothermal Alliance launched during the event. This Alliance is set to achieve a 500% increase in global installed capacity for geothermal power generation and a 200% increase for geothermal heating by 2030. The world contains vast geothermal energy potential, proven across nearly 90 countries. However, almost 90% of this remains untapped with roughly 12 GW installed so far. What was only an idea a year ago, is now a partnership of 36 countries and 23 institutions with an action plan in place to guide its success.
  • The Africa Clean Energy Corridor aims to boost renewable power deployment, reduce carbon emissions and support sustainable, climate-friendly economic growth. By facilitating a larger electricity market, the initiative could attract sufficient investments to meet half of all power needs in eastern and southern Africa by 2030. At COP21, IRENA and its partners announced efforts to develop a clean energy corridor in western Africa as well.
  • The Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Lighthouses initiative announced that Saint Lucia is the 29th island to join the initiative. Since its launch in September 2014, 18 SIDS have developed roadmaps for deployment of renewable energy, USD 150 million has been mobilised for renewable energy projects on SIDS, and 18 MW of renewable energy has been deployed. The initiative will also announce a new pilot project development facility to help develop more bankable projects.
  • To meet climate objectives, renewable energy uptake would need to increase six-fold from current levels. This would require global annual investment to nearly double to exceed USD 500 billion in the period up to 2020, and more than triple to exceed USD 900 billion from 2021 to 2030. The Sustainable Energy Marketplace was launched to provide a matchmaking platform for renewable energy projects and investors to connect. The Marketplace expects to house 100 projects by the beginning of 2016, and to mobilize USD 10 billion in project financing over the next 3 years.

These initiatives are the latest in a series of renewable energy announcements made during COP 21 including the African Renewable Electricity Program; Breakthrough Energy Coalition; and the Mission Innovation initiative.

Clean Energy Victory Bonds for a Clean Climate

A new bill was introduced in the U.S. this week in conjunction with COP21: the Clean Energy Victory Bonds Act of 2015. If passed, it would help the U.S. meet its climate goals. Introduced by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Doris Matsui (D-CA), the Act would also create more than 1 million jobs. The Clean Energy Victory Bonds would begin as low as $25 and the funds raised would be invested in clean energy. The bill is endorsed by Green America and the American Sustainable Business Council who have been touting clean energy bonds for several years. A similar act was introduced in 2012 but failed to gain momentum.

clean energy victory bondsTodd Larsen, executive co-director of Green America, said of the bill, “This bond fills a real need for individual and institutional investors, offering them a low risk opportunity to invest in clean energy sectors such as solar, wind, second generation biofuels, electric vehicles, and residential and commercial energy efficiency programs. It will also provide the incentives companies need in the clean energy sector to maintain the United States’ leadership and create over 1 million jobs in the U.S.”

The groups say the Clean Energy Victory Bonds will create major benefits:

  • Leverage $50 billion investment to provide up to $150 billion in public and private financing to fund the production of innovative energy technologies, at a time when the U.S. is falling behind other countries in clean energy manufacture and installation.
  • Help create at least one million competitively-paying jobs in the U.S.
  • Support America’s clean energy sector, helping to ensure that the U.S. remains a world leader in this increasingly crucial and competitive industry.
  • Reduce U.S. dependence on foreign sources of energy, enhance national security, and limit price increases and fluctuations.
  • Provide a secure, competitive, government-backed investment vehicle for average Americans and investment institutions alike seeking a safe place for their money.
  • Offer flexible redemption options at interest rates superior to most bank accounts.
  • Help all Americans to invest in the future of their country and benefit from their investments.
  • Promote a cleaner environment through the financing of clean energy technologies.
  • Protect the health and safety of Americans by reducing local air and water pollution throughout the country.

The groups note that tax incentives for renewable energy come and go, often without predictability, leaving investors and industry scrambling. The Clean Energy Victory Bond, they say, would extend vital tax credits for a decade, giving emerging industries the support they need to develop and become increasingly competitive.

“From a business perspective, the Clean Energy Victory Bond makes great sense,” added Richard Eidlin, co-founder & VP of policy for the American Sustainable Business Council. “The market is speaking, and it’s speaking in favor of clean energy. As the world comes together in Paris to address climate change, it is more important than ever for renewable energy industries to have a new source of investment capital to build the market momentum.”

20 Countries Pledge “Mission Innovation” at #COP21

Leading up to the World Climate Summit and #COP21 that kicked off in Paris today, three major announcements were make regarding the acceleration of technological developments in clean energy and clean technologies. The first announcement came from Bill Gates about the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, that will will working directly with Mission Innovation, a “pledge” by 20 countries to commit to doubling its governmental and/or state-directed clean energy research and development investment over the next five years. More countries are encouraged to join the efforts.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 11.29.02 AMThe third announcement came from President Obama who announced the U.S. will be participating in the Mission Innovation initiative.

According to the Mission Innovation website, all new investments will be focused on transformational clean energy technology innovations that can be scalable to varying economic and energy market conditions that exist in participating countries and in the broader world. The goal of the initiative is to reinvigorate and accelerate global clean energy innovation with the objective to make clean energy widely affordable.

The Mission Innovation website states that accelerating widespread clean energy innovation is:

  • An indispensable part of an effective, long term global response to our shared climate challenge;
  • Necessary to provide affordable and reliable energy for everyone and to promote economic growth; and
  • Critical for energy security.

In line with the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, Mission Innovation was formed to fill accelerate the time between innovation, scale-up and commercial scale availability.