South Korea has been looking for a way to enter renewable energy in a big way and it's found it: it's about to begin construction of a vast offshore wind farm that will supply electrity to 10% of its population, about 5.6 million people.
Construction of a mammoth 2.5 gigawatt offshore wind farm will cost $9 billion and be completed by 2019, and will be led by state-owned Korea Electric Power Corporation.
The country imports 97% of its energy and needs to diversity energy sources and cut greenhouse emissions. The wind farm will also give it a leg up on competing with China, Europe, and the U.S. in renewable energy.
APEC Agrees on Green Deal
After hosting an APEC meeting in Hawaii last week, President Obama announced that one of the significant agreements was to reduce tariffs and other barriers that block trade in environmental products and services, such as solar panels, wind turbines, air pollution and sewage treatment products.
The US proposes capping tariffs at no higher than 5%.
The 21 members of APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) account for about 60% of the trade in environmental goods and services.
News from China
At a high level meeting before the summit, Chinese President Hu Jintao noted that although the country is opening wider to the outside world and is growing steadily, it faces unbalanced, unsustainable development.
He promised to deepen economic structural reform and improve the business environment, honor the commitment to grow a green economy and a conservation culture, enhance protection of intellectual property rights and open wider to the outside world.
Hu said China will double investment in the environment from that of the past five years, to $488 billion from 2011-2015, noting that its green industry is a key area for foreign investment.
In another announcement, China's Cabinet approved a plan last week to cut annual greenhouse gas emissions 17% per unit of GDP by 2015.
China is preparing a system to measure its emissions and will provide detailed indicators to local governments to guide them toward lowering them. The government and social groups will be asked to take initiatives that encourage a green, healthy lifestyle and low consumption.
Also in the plan is to increase forest coverage by 40 million hectares by 2020.
The statement says coping with climate change should be regarded as an important strategy for China's economic and social development, as well as a great opportunity for economic restructuring and promoting a new industrial revolution.
China Pushes Electric Cars
To buy a car in China, people have to participate in license plate auctions or lotteries, but they can avoid that if they buy an electric car.
That's one of the ways China hopes to get people to buy electric vehicles (EVs). Last week, the government called for 25 pilot cities to develop ways to jumpstart an EV market by installing charging stations and other means.
The country will invest $1.5 billion a year for the next 10 years to create a leading EV manufacturing industry - one of its stated top priorities. And it offers strong financial incentives for people to buy EVs.
China's first long range, electric car became available for retail sales a few weeks ago - BYD Company's "BYD e6" electric car, a five-passenger, cross-over vehicle. So far, there hasn't been much interest even in Toyota's Prius.
Indonesia Gets Big Loans To Cut Emissions
Indonesia has been granted a $400 million loan to cut emissions and adapt to climate change. It's getting $200 million from Japan, $100 million from France, and $100 millin from the Asian Development Bank.
Indonesia has pledged to cut emissions 26% by 2020, and with international help, says it could achieve 40%. The country produces over half of south east Asia's greenhouse gases because of rainforest clearing for palm oil and converting peat land to agriculture.
The country's Low Carbon and Resilient Development Program is implementing governmental policies on forest management, creating a timber verification program and developing its vast geothermal resources.
Its also getting a $700,000 grant from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction, for technical assistance that will help the country adapt to the effects of climate change.
US: Energy Storage Bill Introduced
A bill has been introduced in the US Senate to encourage development of energy storage technologies that would better integrate renewable energy into the grid.
"Storage Technology for Renewable and Green Energy Act of 2011 (STORAGE) is sponsored by Senate Energy Committee Chair Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Susan Collins (R-ME).
It would offer incentives for development of technologies that can better store energy created during non-peak hours and distribute it to meet peak demand. It provides a 20% investment tax credit of up to $40 million for storage systems that are connected to the grid and 30% up to $1 million to businesses and homeowners for on-site storage projects.
As European solar makers lower financial expectations because of reduced subsidies, low prices and oversupply, they're getting a temporary boost for the remainder of this year.
The EU market is expected to grow 22% in the fourth quarter over last quarter, but that's still a 25% drop from Q4 2010 (which was a banner year), says SolarBuzz.
Module prices are down 32% year-over-year and customers are deferring purchases because they expect them to fall further. But since Germany announced a further cut of 15% in its feed-in tariff starting in January 2012, there's short term impetus to get projects off the ground.
Difficulties in getting financing have pushed ground mounted projects down to a third of the EU market in the second half of this year, with residential installatios taking a 55% share.
"Falling prices have compensated for major cuts in government solar incentives to leave PV investment returns still sufficiently attractive in almost all markets. However, the more important consequence of frequently changing incentive policies across Europe has been greater uncertainty and therefore higher risk for project financiers. This has come at the worst time for banks also suffering under macro-economic and currency crises," says Alan Turner, Vice President of Solarbuzz Europe.
2012 is expected to be a bleak year for solar in Europe. The first quarter is projected to drop 72% from Q3 2011, with the ground mount segment down 81% and residential down 41%.
Greece, Spain, and the UK should see the most growth, while Germany falls 11% from 2011 levels. Installed system prices are forecast to decline 17% in 2012. Residential markets are seen as having the best propects for growth because of low prices and limited need for financing.