Energy efficiency is the new normal, according to Consumer Energy Solutions
Consumer Energy Solutions, a long-time proponent of energy efficiency, sees the potential for continued economic growth coupled with enhanced environmental protection.
A recent report from the International Energy Agency notes, indicates that in 2014, for the first time in 40 years, there was a “decoupling” of economic growth and carbon dioxide emissions: the world economy grew, but CO2 emissions did not. The Washington Post, commenting on this announcement, observed that what appeared to be a tight link between economic growth and the use of more energy has seemed an almost invariant fact of the modern industrial world, and has led some to suggest that economic growth itself is incompatible with environmental protection. Clearly, it seems, that is not the case.1
The IEA report attributes the 2014 results to a number of factors. One is China’s shift to a greater use of renewable resources; another very important one is the fact that OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries have both advanced renewable energy production and combined it with greater energy efficiency. That’s certainly the case in the U.S. electricity industry, according to Patrick J. Clouden, CEO, Consumer Energy Solutions, Inc., who adds that the report from the IEA supports, on a macro level, what his company has been seeing for years with thousands of customers: energy efficiency enables everyone to do more while consuming less power.
Consumer Energy Solutions officials say a trend taking place in the world of commercial LED lighting is affordability. In the past LED lights were significantly more expensive than traditional lights, so making the switch could be daunting. But now it is becoming much more affordable to choose LED lights. In fact, companies can even lease them, Clouden says. CES is, on average, seeing a 30-50% savings per annum for their business clients who are converting their incandescent lighting to LED lighting. For one client, CES upgraded all types of lighting elements in one building to LED; the upgrades, for this one building alone, saved the company over $180,000 over a five-year horizon.
On the federal level, Clouden notes, energy efficiency for consumers is being encouraged by the residential energy tax credit provision of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which provides homeowners a tax credit of up to 30% of the cost of qualifying energy-efficient improvements to their existing homes.2 More broadly, the Obama administration’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2016 calls for a seven percent increase in funding for clean energy and a new $4 billion fund to encourage states to make faster and deeper cuts to power plant emissions.
Nonetheless, in February the American Energy Innovation Council, a group that includes former Microsoft Chairman and CEO Bill Gates and General Electric Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt, issued a report stating that federal government investments in energy research, development, and demonstration projects have been flat for the past five years.
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“To solve the world’s energy and climate challenges we need hundreds of new ideas and hundreds of companies working on them,” says Gates. “That is not going to happen without the U.S. government’s continued tradition of leadership in R&D.” Echoing Gates’s comment, council member Norman Augustine, retired chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin, says, “We believe it is deeply in America’s economic and security interests to double or triple long-term R&D investments. We urge this to become a priority for the new Congress, the president, and leaders of both parties.”3
It seems likely that as the public comes to a greater understanding of the benefits of energy efficiency for the environment and the nation’s economy, bipartisan support for intensified energy research will arise. In the meantime, there are a number of promising local initiatives in the works. In California, for example, the California Energy Commission has just released the latest in a long line of energy-efficiency standards that have made the Golden State a world leader in saving electricity. The commission is writing proposed minimum power consumption standards that it estimates would save 2,702 gigawatt hours a year of electricity, roughly the combined usage of the cities of Long Beach, Anaheim, Huntington Beach, and Riverside—an area with an aggregate population of 1.3 million.4
“As a pioneer in energy efficiency, both for consumers and for business,” says Clouden, “it’s both encouraging and satisfying to see what was once regarded as a fad become the ‘new normal.’ We devote a lot of our time to helping our customers operate more efficiently, and we also pay a great deal of attention to applying new technology as it develops. In a lot of areas, such as solid-state lighting, we’re just now beginning to find out what’s possible. The future of energy use, both in this country and worldwide, will be an increasing ability to do more, better, with less.”
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Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030
Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission.
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.
The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.
The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture.
It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.
The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020.
Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.
The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.
While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.
Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.
Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse.
"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.
“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets.
Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.
Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."
McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:
- Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
- Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
- Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
- Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
- The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere