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Clean Energy News Vol. 12, Number 33, October 18, 2012

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Happy Bijaya Dashami and Dipawali 2069

Clean Energy News
Vol. 12, Number 33, October 18, 2012

CE News is a free weekly e-mail publications that features news, information and events related to clean energy, clean air and climate change. CE News is published by Clean Energy Nepal. For more information on our campaign please visit www.cen.org.np
Headlines
China Firm to Build 30-MW Solar Project
Development of Kathmandu Metro to Cost Rs 330b
Climate Change: Them Pests
Food Scarcity: the Timebomb Setting Nation Against Nation
Norway to Double Carbon Tax on Oil Industry
Heathrow Third Runway would Treble Air Pollution Deaths, Study Warns

Links of the Week
QUIZ Of The Week # 529
Answer Of Quiz Of The Week # 528

National News
China Firm to Build 30-MW Solar Project
 
By Ramesh Prasad Bhushal
 
Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) today signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Chinese solar energy firm Hunan Yueer Solar Energy Technology Co. Ltd. for installing a 30-Megawatt solar station in the country. It would be the largest ever solar energy project in Nepal.
 
The MoU stated that that a solar company would be established in Nepal and NEA will buy and sell electricity produced from the solar station. The site of the installation is yet to be decided.
 
NEA will be responsible for providing space for installing the solar panels whereas the total investment will come from the Chinese firm. “Actual cost of production and other details are yet to be finalized but for now we have agreed to produce 30 MW of electricity from solar power; this would be a major demonstration project for the country,” said Sher Singh Bhat, director at NEA´s Department of Power Trade.
 
“It has also been agreed that the feasibility study is to be completed within four months. If found feasible, the installation could be done within two years and it will be connected directly to the national grid.”
 
The Chinese company will hold 92 percent share of the solar company to be established within the next six months. NEA will have an 8 percent share. However, the company will be responsible for installing the system and will bear the cost of the installation in full.
 
The document says the installation work will be completed within two years from the date of the construction contract, which will be entered into after the feasibility study and the establishment of the company in Nepal.
 
A joint team will be formed immediately for the preparatory work and it will negotiate various technical issues as well as identify the installation site.
 
The company will sell the electricity to NEA for 35 years and then hand over the system to the government. “It is technically feasible to generate that amount of power but the electricity will be more expensive than hydropower,” said Mukesh Ghimire, solar energy expert at the Alternative Energy Promotion Center under the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology.
 
According to Ghimire, if all the electricity generated to date across the country by small solar panels at individual homes is added up, it would amount to about 13 MW. So, the installation of such a big project would be a milestone for solar energy development in the country.
 
A few weeks ago, NEA had signed a power purchase agreement (PPA) for the solar energy project at Sundarighat that generates 650 KW, a first such agreement for solar power. The PPA rate was Rs 5.1 per unit.
 
Experts say that Nepal has a potential of about 21,000 MW of electricity from solar power at present. “It depends on how we install but there is a huge potential for solar energy and it could be harnessed if big projects are also launched and connected to the national grid, " added Ghimire.
 
Development of Kathmandu Metro to Cost Rs 330b
 
By Bhoj Raj Poudel
 
The construction of Kathmandu Metro Railway (KMR) would cost Rs 330 billion (around US$ 3.88 billion) and the project can be developed in 10 years, a preliminary finding of feasibility study report of the KMR said.
 
A consortium of five Korean and two local companies that carried out the feasibility has tagged government´s involvement in the KMR as mandatory if it seriously wishes to successfully develop and operate the KMR.
 
"The study team has proposed numerous modality of its development. But no matter which modality the government adopted, the team helds the view that government´s subsidy would be crucial to successfully implement the project," Rajeshwore Man Singh, superintendent engineer at the Department of Railway (DoI) told Republica
 
The feasibility team that shared the preliminary findings of the study with the senior government officials on Monday has further outlined that it would cost Rs 20 to Rs 30 per commuter to travel in the Metro. It did not shed light on recovery of investment though.
 
"The complete feasibility report is yet to come. but the government has targeted to develop the KMR in ten years period after analyzing the feasibility report,” said Singh.
 
The government some 10 months ago had appointed Korea Transport Institute, Chungsuk Engineering Company, Kunwa Consulting and Engineering Company, Korea Rail Network Authority and two local companies - BDA Nepal Private Limited and EMRC Private Ltd - to conduct the feasibility study of the KMR. It paid Rs 60.5 million to those firms for completing the task.
 
The feasibility study report has, furthermore, indicated that total length of the KMR would be around 77 kms, which is some 11 kms longer than what the preliminary inception report reckoned. There would be a total of five railway lines of which one will encircle the existing ringroad, while others will traverse through the Kathmandu city in four directions.
 
The study has suggested the government to develop two railway lines underground and remaining three lines in ´elevated´ form, that is above the ground. "Elevated lines have been suggested mainly considering two factors: unsupportive underground soil features and heavy cost emanating from necessary land acquisitions," said Singh.
 
The 27.35 km long Ring Road line, which connects different locations between kalanki, Satdobato, Chabhil and back to Kalanki, will be elevated as per the feasibility report study. Similarly, the lines that connect Maharajgunj and Satdobato and Kalanki to Koteshwore and Gongbu to Kalanki will be elevated.
 
“Rest of the other lines will be underground,” Singh said.
 
The preliminary inception report that was approved by the government in March, 2012 too had outlined five major lines to connect the entire Kathmandu through a mass rapid transport system, Metro Railway.
 
According to the inception report, Line 1 follows the Ring Road, Line 2 goes from Kalanki to Sinamangal, Line 3 connects Koteshwore and Gongabu, Line 4 stretches from Satdobato to Maharajgunj and Line 5 links Balkhu and Chabhil.
 
The government has planned to develop KMR under build-own-operate- and transfer model, inviting foreign investment. The project has been handed over to the Investment Board of Nepal for speedy development. 
International News
Climate Change: Them Pests
 
 
While a lot of attention has been devoted to the effects of a changing climate on food crops in Africa, relatively little has been given to the effects on crop-destroying pests like cereal aphids, fruit flies, armyworms and locusts.
 
Munene Macharia, an entomologist with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, reported at the Wheat for Food Security Conference that outbreaks of pests such as cereal aphids, which suck sap from plants like wheat and transmit viruses, have become increasingly common in Kenya as seasons grow drier.
 
“There is a definite relationship between the pests and the increase in temperature and the decrease in rainfall in some parts of the country,” he said. A 1995 outbreak of Russian wheat aphids destroyed entire crops in Kenya, where positive year-round growing conditions also ensure a constant food supply for aphids, he added.
 
Researchers have also found that, as rains have become more erratic in parts of Kenya, the quelea bird - the most destructive grain-feeding bird in Africa, which normally migrates in search of water - has grown more sedentary, causing it devour even large quantities, Macharia said.
 
Farmers’ only options are to apply pesticides, which are expensive, or to rely on pest-resistant crop varieties, which are being developed, he said. “What we need is more research on the impact climate change will have on these pests in relation to our food crops - so we know when to expect an outbreak to help farmers decide on when to plant.”
 
Macharia added, “We do not have the resources to conduct that research at our institute at the moment.
 
Pests, along with pathogens and weeds, destroy 40 percent of the world’s food supply every year, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation.
 
Scientists, mostly in the industrialized world, have just begun to study the impact of climate change on agricultural pests.
 
“Insects cannot internally regulate their own temperature and their development depends on the temperature to which they are exposed in the environment,” wrote Jürgen Kroschel and Jacqueline Becker, of the International Potato Center (CIP), on the website Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security. 
 
CIP scientists have developed a temperature-related model for a potato-eating moth; the model can predict the growth of the insect’s population according to different climatic conditions. They suggest the model could be replicated for other insects to predict future changes in pest populations resulting from climate change.
 
Food Scarcity: the Timebomb Setting Nation Against Nation
 
By John Vidal
 
Brandon Hunnicutt has had a year to remember. The young Nebraskan from Hamilton County farms 2,600 acres of the High Plains with his father and brother. What looked certain in an almost perfect May to be a "phenomenal" harvest of maize and soy beans has turned into a near disaster.
 
A three-month heatwave and drought with temperatures often well over 38C burned up his crops. He lost a third and was saved only by pumping irrigation water from the aquifer below his farm.
 
"From 1 July to 1 October we had 4ins of rain and long stretches when we didn't have any. Folk in the east had nothing at all. They've been significantly hurt. We are left wondering whether the same will happen again," he says.
 
On the other side of the world, Mary Banda, who lives in Mphaka village near Nambuma in Malawi, has had a year during which she has barely been able to feed her children, one of whom has just gone to hospital with malnutrition.
 
Government health worker Patrick Kamzitu says: "We are seeing more hunger among children. The price of maize has doubled in the last year. Families used to have one or two meals a day; now they are finding it hard to have one."
 
Hunnicutt and Banda are linked by food. What she must pay for her maize is determined largely by how much farmers such as Brandon grow and export. This year the US maize harvest is down 15% and nearly 40% of what is left has gone to make vehicle fuel. The result is less food than usual on to the international market, high prices and people around the world suffering.
 
"This situation is not going to go away," says Lester Brown, an environmental analyst and president of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington. In a new book, Full Planet, Empty Plates, he predicts ever increasing food prices, leading to political instability, spreading hunger and, unless governments act, a catastrophic breakdown in food. "Food is the new oil and land is the new gold," he says. "We saw early signs of the food system unravelling in 2008 following an abrupt doubling of world grain prices. As they climbed, exporting countries [such as Russia] began restricting exports to keep their domestic prices down. In response, importing countries panicked and turned to buying or leasing land in other countries to produce food for themselves."
 
"The result is that a new geopolitics of food has emerged, where the competition for land and water is intensifying and each country is fending for itself."
 
Brown has been backed by an Oxfam report released last week. It calculated that the land sold or leased to richer countries and speculators in the last decade could have grown enough food to feed a billion people – almost exactly the number of malnourished people in the world today. Nearly 60% of global land deals in the last decade have been to grow crops that can be used for biofuels, says Oxfam.
 
The next danger signal, says Brown, is in rising food prices. In the last 10 years prices have doubled as demand for food has increased with a rapidly growing world population and millions have switched to animal-based diets, which require more grain and land.
 
Most grain prices have risen between 10% and 25% this year after droughts and heatwaves in Ukraine and Australia as well as the US and other food growing centres. The UN says prices are now close to the crisis levels of 2008. Meat and dairy prices are likely to surge in the new year as farmers find it expensive to feed cattle and poultry. Brown says: "Those who live in the United States, where 9% of income goes for food, are insulated from these price shifts.
 
"But how do those who live on the lower rungs of the global economic ladder cope? They were already spending 50% to 70% of their income on food. Many were down to one meal a day already before the recent price rises. What happens with the next price surge?"
 
Oxfam said last week it expected the price of key food staples, including wheat and rice, to double again in the next 20 years, threatening disastrous consequences for the poor.
 
But the surest sign, says Brown, that food supplies are precarious is seen in the amount of surplus food that countries hold in reserve, or "carry over" from one year to the next.
 
"Ever since agriculture began, carry-over stocks of grain have been the most basic indicator of food security. From 1986 to 2001 the annual world carry-over stocks of grain averaged 107 days of consumption. After that, world consumption exceeded production and from 2002 to 2011 they averaged just 74 days of consumption," says Brown. Last week the UN estimated US maize reserves to be at a historic low, only 6.3% below estimated consumption and the equivalent of a three-week supply. Global carry-over reserves last week stood at 20%, compared to long term averages of well above 30%.
 
Although there is still – theoretically – enough food for everyone to eat, global supplies have fallen this year by 2.6% with grains such as wheat declining 5.2% and only rice holding level, says the UN.
 
There is no guarantee, says Brown, that the world can continue to increase production as it has done for many years. "Yields are plateauing in many countries and new better seeds have failed to increase yields very much for some years," he said.
 
Evan Fraser, author of Empires of Food and a geography lecturer at Guelph University in Ontario, Canada, says: "For six of the last 11 years the world has consumed more food than it has grown. We do not have any buffer and are running down reserves. Our stocks are very low and if we have a dry winter and a poor rice harvest we could see a major food crisis across the board."
 
"Even if things do not boil over this year, by next summer we'll have used up this buffer and consumers in the poorer parts of the world will once again be exposed to the effects of anything that hurts production."
 
Brown says: "An unprecedented period of world food security has come to an end. The world has lost its safety cushions and is living from year to year. This is the new politics of food scarcity. We are moving into a new food era, one in which it is every country for itself."
 
"What in the past would have been a relatively simple question of developing better seeds, or opening up new land to grow more food, cannot work now because the challenge of growing food without destroying the environment is deepening."
 
Brown adds: "New trends such as falling water tables, plateauing grain yields and rising temperatures join soil erosion and climate change to make it difficult, if not impossible, to expand production fast enough."
 
Four pressing needs must be addressed together, he says. Instead of better seeds, tractors or pumps to raise water, he claims, feeding the world now depends on new population, energy, and water policies. Water scarcity, especially, concerns him.
 
"We live in a world where more than half the people live in countries with food bubbles based on farmers' over-pumping and draining aquifers. The question is not whether these bubbles will burst, but when. The bursting of several national food bubbles as aquifers are depleted could create unmanageable food shortages.
 
"If world population growth does not slow dramatically, the number of people trapped in hydrological poverty and hunger will only grow."
 
The madness of the food system since 1950 astonishes him. Last year, the US harvested nearly 400 million tons of grain, of which one third went to ethanol distilleries to fuel vehicles. Meanwhile, more than 130 million people in China alone, he estimates, live in areas where the underground water resources are being depleted at record rates.
 
Why can't politicians understand that every 1C above the optimum in the growing season equates to roughly a 10% decline in grain yields? he asks.
 
"Yet if the world fails to address the climate issue, the earth's temperature this century could easily rise by 6C, devastating food supplies."
 
The ever greater number of weather-related crises suggests strongly that climate change is beginning to bite and that the heatwaves, droughts and excessive rainfall around the world in the last few years have not been a blip, but a new reality
 
"We have ignored the earth's environmental stop signs. Faced with falling water tables, not a single country has mobilised to reduce water use. Unless we can wake up to the risks we are taking, we will join earlier civilisations that failed to reverse the environmental trends that undermined their food economies."
 
He says we know the answers. They include saving water, eating less meat, stopping soil erosion, controlling populations and changing the energy economy.
 
"But they must be addressed together We have to mobilise quickly. Time is the scarcest resource. Success depends on moving at wartime speed. It means transforming the world industrial economy, stabilising populations and rebuilding grain stocks.
 
"We must redefine security. We have inherited a definition from the last century that is almost exclusively military in focus. Armed aggression is no longer the principal threat to our future. The overriding threats are now climate change, population growth, water shortages and rising food prices. The challenge is to save civilisation itself."
 
Norway to Double Carbon Tax on Oil Industry
 
By Severin Carrell
 
Norway is to double carbon tax on its North Sea oil industry and set up a £1bn fund to help combat the damaging impacts of climate change in the developing world.
 
In one of the most radical climate programmes yet by an oil-producing nation, the Norwegian government has proposed increasing its carbon tax on offshore oil companies by £21 to £45 (Nkr410) per tonne of CO2 and a £5.50 (Nkr50) per tonne CO2 tax on its fishing industry.
 
Norway will also plough an extra £1bn (Nkr10bn) into its funds for climate change mitigation, renewable energy, food security in developing countries and conversion to low-carbon energy sources, Environmental Finance reported.
 
It will step up spending on new projects to combat deforestation in developing countries to £44m, taking up its spending overall on forestry programmes to £327m. Previous forestry projects have involved Brazil, Indonesia and Ethiopia.
 
The Oslo government is also to spend £69m on buying carbon credits in 2013, to help offset its emissions, force through new building regulations to make all new homes carbon-neutral by 2015 and increase efforts to heavily cut emissions from cars, switching to electric vehicles.
 
The scale of these initiatives will pose a significant political challenge to other oil-producing nations, who are also investing in low-carbon technologies and cutting their own emissions, but not yet investing heavily in tackling the impacts of climate change on developing countries.
 
The UK and Scottish governments estimate there are up to 24bn barrels of oil left to be exploited over the next 40 years from the UK's oil and gas fields in the North Sea, west of Shetland and smaller sites off western England.
 
But that would lead to total CO2 emissions of an extra 10bn tonnes – dwarfing the UK's annual 500m tonnes of CO2 emissions, at a time when many climate scientists urge cutbacks in oil, gas and coal use to avoid significant global warming and to meet climate targets.
 
Neither the UK or Scottish government has supported a carbon tax on the oil and gas industry.
 
The Scottish government, which often looks to Norway as a model for its independence plans, has greatly increased its funding and support for renewable energy investment. It announced a £103m investment fund for marine renewables and community power schemes on Wednesday and has a £4m "climate justice fund" to help developing countries.
 
But fields in Scottish waters account for about 80% of the UK's North Sea oil and gas fields, which produced 1m barrels of oil a day in August.
 
Alex Salmond, Scotland's first minister, said on Wednesday that oil economies have a "moral obligation" to increase low-carbon energy and tackle climate change, but says there is no contradiction in maximising oil, gas and coal production.
 
He told a conference on low-carbon investment: "As countries such as Denmark show, there's no contradiction between making use of substantial in their case gas reserves which will be needed by the rest of the world in the coming decades by the rest of the world, while leading the transition to a low-carbon economy."
 
After speaking at the same conference on Thursday, Ed Davey, the UK energy and climate secretary, told the Guardian he believed the UK's actions on climate change and green energy were also world-leading. The UK government was putting £3bn into the new green investment bank, and aims to cut CO2 emissions by 34% by 2020, he said.
 
Asked about Norway's new programme, Davey said: "I would say that the UK government has very ambitious climate change targets and carbon emission reduction targets.
 
"We were one of the first countries in the world to pass legally binding targets on ourselves, with the Climate Change Act 2008 which had cross party support. And the government has introduced on the back of that, the fourth carbon budget and the whole electricity market reform, the green deal, the green investment bank.
 
"These are all our tools to deliver on those targets; these are incredibly ambitious and maybe some countries are catching us up."
 
Ranking third among the world's oil exporters, with production peaking at 3m barrels of oil a day, Norway has 51 active oil and gas fields in the North Sea, and believes it has more than 7bn barrels of undiscovered reserves. Its oil and gas sector is the world's richest: its employees earn $180,000 on average a year.
 
With a population of 5 million - the same as Scotland - it is the third wealthiest country per capita in the world thanks to its oil and gas exports. Norway's plans to offset the impacts of its oil exports on the world's climate come as it also proposes to expand oil exploration into the Barents Sea to the far north.
 
Richard Dixon, director of WWF Scotland, said: "Norway is showing how you can use oil income to fund the transition out of oil, we should be doing the same with UK oil revenues. The Scottish National Party have always been keen on the Norwegian oil fund, and now it is setting an example really worth following."
 
Heathrow Third Runway would Treble Air Pollution Deaths, Study Warns
 
By Roland Pease
 
Premature deaths from Heathrow pollution would treble by 2030 if a third runway is built, according to an academic study to be published next week.
 
Even if the airport does not expand, increased numbers of flights will lead to a more than doubling in the number of deaths from pollution, the authors conclude.
 
The research, which is sure to be seized on campaigners and politicians opposed to Heathrow expansion, is the first to analyse the health consequences of aircraft fumes at the major airports of Britain. It reveals there would be major health benefits if Heathrow operations were replaced with a new hub in the Thames estuary.
 
"The main issue with Heathrow is it's essentially in the middle of a major population centre," says Prof Steven Barrett, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology laboratory for aviation and the environment and senior author of the study. "Also, because of the prevailing winds in the UK, emissions tend to get blown over the whole of London. An airport in the Thames estuary is well away from any major conurbation, and the prevailing winds would carry pollution out over the English Channel and North Sea."
 
The study, which has been accepted by the peer-reviewed journal Atmospheric Environment, focuses on the public health effects of operations at the 20 largest airports in the UK, in particular those around London. It is not only exhausts during landing and take-off that degrade local air quality. Taxi-ing, airport support equipment and the jet-fuelled auxiliary power units that generate onboard electricity also add to the pollution burden.
 
The researchers conclude that, based on 2005 data, UK airports contribute to 110 early deaths each year, mostly due to lung cancer and cardiopulmonary complaints. Of those, 50 can be attributed to Heathrow alone, they calculate.
 
With government figures projecting a more than 50% rise in air travel over the next two decades, the public health effects are also expected to increase. If Heathrow is expanded with a third runway to allow for unconstrained growth, the airport would be responsible for 150 early deaths; UK-wide deaths would be 260. Even without the third runway, mortality figures will rise substantially. The researchers expect 250 deaths UK-wide, though those directly attributable for Heathrow would be 110, as other airports would carry more traffic.
 
The researchers also modelled the radically different scenario of closing down Heathrow altogether and moving its operations to a new hub in the Thames Estuary - sometimes referred to as "Boris island" after the proposals by the London mayor, Boris Johnson.
 
That would save 60 lives UK-wide, and the new expanded hub itself would be responsible for 50 early deaths, the same as Heathrow now, the study found. Relocating the airport would not make a big difference to the airport's impact on climate change via CO2 emissions from planes.
 
The projections are likely to feed into the government's consultation on aviation and are due to be discussed next week by the London assembly's health and environment committee, according to its chair Murad Qureshi.
 
Epidemiologist Fintan Hurley, who led a major inquiry into pollution risks for the government's advisory committee on the medical effects of air pollutants (COMEAP), welcomed the report, but noted that the additional effects of car and lorry journeys to Heathrow had not been included in the analysis. Future changes, by the addition of rail links for example, should be included in any full comparison of airport plans, he said.
 
The committee study headed by Hurley concluded in 2008 that 29,000 premature deaths are caused annually in the UK by air pollution. He said: "While 110 deaths is small compared with air pollution deaths in the UK as a whole, there would be major investigations if we had 110 deaths annually in the UK from aeroplane crashes."
 
"Every death," said Barrett, "represents an average of 10 years of lost life."
 
Many of the deaths could be avoided by relatively simple measures, Barrett argued. Airplanes get their electricity from onboard auxilliary power units – small jet engines that are often left running while the planes are at the stands. Plugging into the airport electricity supply would reduce those emissions. As would the use of electric vehicles for airport support operations. And using desulphurised fuel would add only 2% to fuel costs, while reducing the health effects by 20%. Altogether, mitigation efforts could halve the pollution from airport operations.
 
A Heathrow spokesperson said: "Aviation is a far smaller contributor to air pollution than road traffic, however we are already taking significant steps to tackle the problem. For example, we subsidise local public transport so people can travel for free without the need for a car. We also charge airlines based on how green they are – so the cleanest aircraft are charged less to land at Heathrow."
Links of the Week
Himalayan Glaciers Debate: Melting or Growing?
By Smriti Mallapaty
 
Power it Up
By Prabal Adhikari
 
Editorial: City of Joy
QUIZ of the Week # 529
The Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology has recently upgraded the Nepal Vehicle Emission Standards (NVMES) equivalent to …………, to control emission from motor vehicles.
 
a) Euro 1
b) Euro 2
c) Euro 3
d) Euro 4
While sending your answer please mention “Quiz of the week#” in the subject line and please send your answer in cenews@cen.org.np
One lucky winner will get an attractive prized from Clean Energy Nepal.
 

Compiled and Edited by:
Sunil Acharya and Prashanta Khanal

Clean Energy Nepal (CEN) is an independent, not-for-profit organization working in the field of Energy and Environment.

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