EU and China resolve solar panel dispute

By Fiona Baker

china eu flag slThe Chinese solar panel industry has been struggling for the past year and things have become increasing difficult with the EU Trade Commissioner enacting steep provisional tariffs on Chinese manufactured solar panels.  It was welcome news for Chinese manufacturers to learn than an agreement had been reached in the end of July.  China’s ten largest solar panel companies have an enormous cumulative debt of USD 27.7 billion. Global prices for solar panels have been driven down by over production.  The demand for solar modules was approximately 36 GW, which was dwarfed by global production of approximately 70 GW.  In 2011, the oversupply of solar panels led to a 40% decrease in panel price.

Spurred on by government subsidies, many Chinese entrepreneurs entered into manufacturing solar panels.  From 2009 to 2011 Chinese production of solar panels quadrupled.  Similar to global demand, China’s domestic demand for solar panels was greatly outpaced by production.  China over relied on external markets as a means to get rid of excess production.  To help absorb some of the excess solar panels, China has announced their goal to increase solar electricity production to 35 GW by 2015.  In 2012, China had 8.3 GW of solar generating capacity.  To reach the goal, China will add approximately 10 GW per year from 2013 to 2015.    

Read more: EU and China resolve solar panel dispute

South Korea Releases Electric Public Transportation System

 By Victoria Cheung               

olev-south-korea-electric-road large verge medium landscapeImagine a vehicle that runs strictly on electricity and recharges its battery as it gets driven. South Korea has made this into a reality by releasing two such buses for public transportation in early August. Researchers at the Korean Advanced Institute of Technology (KAIST) call this the On Line Electric Vehicle (OLEV) charging system – a system that uses underground cables to create an electromagnetic field. As the bus drives over the cables on its route, a receiving device located on the underside of the bus will be exposed to the electromagnetic fields, convert this to electricity, and charge the battery.

Currently, South Korea has laid out fifteen miles of these underground cables in the city of Gumi. KAIST assures that the electromagnetic fields abide by international standards of safety and are weak enough for pedestrians. The fields are also cost-effective and turn on only when sensors detect an OLEV bus, preventing unnecessary energy expenditure and EMF exposure. Moreover, the buses allow for batteries that are three times smaller than a regular electric car battery, as they only need to hold enough of a charge to reach the next power strip. If all goes well, KAIST hopes to be running ten of these buses by 2015.

Read more: South Korea Releases Electric Public Transportation System

Growing Energy Ties between Moscow and Beijing

By Fiona Baker

big-oil-new-no-1-f0d0052bc83f8775A $270 billion, 25 year deal between Rosneft, a Russian state-controlled oil company, and China National Petroleum Corporation (CNCP), and the announcement that CNCP would take a 20% stake in a $20 billion liquefied natural gas project—both occurring during the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum—are indications of an increasingly strong relationship developing between Russia and China. President Putin’s announcement during the forum that the two countries have identified energy and high-tech industries as two areas of focus for further development and cooperation further demonstrates the growing convergence of interests of the two big neighbors. In the coming year, oil produced in Western Siberia, previously for export to Europe will head to China.

Amid stagnant energy demand in Europe and the shale gas boom in the United States, the oil and gas centered economy of Russia has been under pressure in a declining global energy prices scenario. The long-term agreements with China will provide a steady flow of revenue from the oil and gas sector, offsetting losses from a declining European demand and the increased competition from the U.S. Moreover, Russia’s pivoting away from Europe may contribute to price increases across Europe.

Read more: Growing Energy Ties between Moscow and Beijing

Covenant of Mayors Calls upon Collective Action of Cities

By Stephanie Chiao

Covenant-of-Mayors2The Holy Grail for mitigating climate change lies within cities, which account for 70 per cent of energy in Europe. This was a central theme of European Commission President José Manuel Barroso’s speech as he welcomed 600 participants to the 4th annual Covenant of Mayors ceremony in Brussels on June 24. The event gathered 200 mayors from 35 countries in the European region as they committed to achieve at least a 20 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020.

To date the initiative has garnered the support of more than 4,800 signatories, which represent places ranging from villages to large metropolitan areas. Signatories must develop Sustainable Energy Action Plans (SEAP) within a year of pledging to the Covenant of Mayors, which is in simple terms a blueprint for how the region will meet its emissions target. They are required to submit implementation reports every two years thereafter to monitor carbon emission progress. At present, the signatories oversee roughly 169 million inhabitants – representing a third of the total EU population.

As keynote speaker for the opening ceremony, former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger drew reference to his green policies in California, noting that “we believe in a new way, in moving forward at the subnational level – in the states and provinces and cities – just like we’ve done in California”. The governor was responsible for laying the foundation for the first state-wide emissions trading program, which came into effect on January 1 this year.

It is difficult to ignore the close parallels between the Covenant of Mayors and Kyoto Protocol. The former is a localized version of the latter, but has been remodelled to avoid the ratification issues of China and the US since signatories must agree to implement SEAP. A key difference is that the Covenant of Mayors mandates a uniform reduction level for all regions, whereas the Kyoto Protocol varies by country.

Read more: Covenant of Mayors Calls upon Collective Action of Cities


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