Daily Archives: September 2, 2009

Kate Mackenzie


Artist impression. Source: USEF

Bloomberg reports that Mitsubishi, IHI Corp and 14 other unspecified Japanese companies are joining a project to build a solar power generator in space.

The 1GW station would involve four square kilometres of solar panels. It’s estimated to be about 2,000bn yen ($21bn) and 30 years away, and it would have to become much, much cheaper to get out there:

Transporting panels to the solar station 36,000 kilometers above the earth’s surface will be prohibitively costly, so Japan has to figure out a way to slash expenses to make the solar station commercially viable, said Hiroshi Yoshida, Chief Executive Officer of Excalibur KK, a Tokyo-based space and defense-policy consulting company.

“These expenses need to be lowered to a hundredth of current estimates,” Yoshida said by phone from Tokyo.

Something about this reminds us of Desertec: ambitious, expensive (though not in the same league as the €400bn Desertec), and with a bunch of big name vendors involved (apparently – there is no sign of it on either Mitsubishi’s or IHI’s websites). It’s also a long way off and far from certain.

Bloomberg cites confirmation coming from the Institute for Unmanned Space Experiment Free Flyer, or USEF, a Japanese government-funded non-profit organisation, that promotes research into unmanned space experiments. USEF does have a page about Space Solar Power Systems, which talks about the concept and gives a roadmap to a 1GW project. The Bloomberg story says a trade ministry document describes plans for launching a small satellite in 2015 to test beaming electricity through the earth’s atmosphere.

USEF’s working committee says the concept is technically feasible and would have lifecycle CO2 emissions similar to a nuclear power plant. The big problem, then, is the cost.

Related links:

The next challenge for that €400bn desert solar project (FT Energy Source, 13/07/09)
About USEF

Kate Mackenzie

Matthew Yglesias looks at last week’s report from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, which floated some ideas including piping algae around buildings, artificial roofs, and the seemingly innocuous white roofs. He concludes:

That said, trying to get people to paint roofs white seems like a total no-brainer and given how solid the science behind this is I don’t really understand why there isn’t more momentum behind it. Manufacturers of white paint need to hire some better lobbysist [sic] or something.

Of course, critics will find a reason to oppose any compulsory measures: the IME report itself acknowledged that it’s “Glare becomes a problem with light-coloured roofs when applied to steeper sloped roofs, and the adoption is not likely in housing, due to conventional aesthetic ideas.” And there are claims it actually increases heating costs in cooler areas.  But these complaints seem fairly minimal.  Perhaps those white paint manufacturers could learn something from those efficient light bulb manufacturers.

Kate Mackenzie

On FT Energy Source:

Comment: Searching in vain for the oil shock effect

Death print of an ETF

The cost of cutting (not curbing) China’s emissions

Markets: Oil prices climb after sell-off

BP’s Gulf of Mexico discovery: How giant is ‘giant’?

The sobering news about geoengineering

Further reading:

Business group whose members include Shell, BP and BG reportedly asked for al-Megrahi’s release (The Times)

The Guardian’s coverage of the 10:10 campaign to reduce GHG emissions 10 per cent in 10 years (Guardian)

So what happens if there’s no climate bill this year? (The New Republic)

US agriculture group are divided over climate bill (AP)

Bulgaria’s new government weighs up South Stream and Nabucco pipelines (UpstreamOnline)

IBM intrigued by energy from sea water (SeekingAlpha)

Khosla Ventures raises  $1bn for clean tech projects (CNet)

Japan’s biomass consumption falls (Argus)

WWF distances itself, very very far, from 9/11-themed climate change advertisement (GreenSheet)

EU plans delegation to persuade press US lawmakers on climate change (Cop15)

Debate: Should the EPA bow to Chamber’s demands? (National Journal)

Market regulators might not yet realise it, but it seems even the whiff of more regulation gets results these days. In the field of energy price speculation, nothing speaks as eloquently about the likelihood of impending new rules as the move by Deutsche Bank this week to scrap a product that lets investors bet on oil prices.

As the FT reported on Wednesday, Deutsche said it would redeem all its memorably-named PowerShares DB Crude Oil Double Long exchange-traded notes, which use leverage to double returns from price moves in crude oil. This makes it the first exchange-traded commodity product to go completely under –others so far have only suspended new share issues — as Wall Street braces for a potential regulatory crackdown on energy speculation.

Kate Mackenzie

China wants the developed world to spend 0.5 – 1 per cent of GDP helping developing countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions. This would cost more than $300bn a year.  But now a new report from China estimates that reducing net emissions in China alone will cost some $438bn a year by 2030, just to begin curbing the country’s reductions from 2030 onwards. That would be 7.5 per cent of GDP (although the study used a higher inflation rate than other studies) – not a cost China is likely to agree bearing on its own.

Indeed the study, by the People’s University of Beijing, is thought likely to be used in Copenhagen negotiations to add weight to the argument that the developed world should contribute to the costs of reducing carbon emissions in China.

FT Energy Source

By Neil Dennis

Oil prices nudged higher on Wednesday, striking a firmer footing after a three day sell off that drove the main crude contracts below $68 a barrel.

Recent falls in equity markets have been driven by concerns that the nascent global recovery may be stalling. These fears have fed through to commodity exchanges, and on Tuesday, the S&P GSCI, a closely-followed index of commodity prices, fell to its lowest level since late July.

Kate Mackenzie

BP has trumpeted a ‘giant’ discovery in the Tiber Prospect, in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. Giant is a fairly dramatic term.

The IEA’s last World Energy Outlook defines ‘giant’ fields as 500m to 5bn proven and probable barrels. The BP announcement, however, was short on numbers:

“Tiber represents BP’s second material discovery in the emerging Lower Tertiary play in the Gulf of Mexico, following our earlier Kaskida discovery,” said Andy Inglis, chief executive, Exploration and Production. “These material discoveries together with our industry leading acreage position support the continuing growth of our deepwater Gulf of Mexico business into the second half of the next decade.”

So how big is it?

Kate Mackenzie

So, geoengineering has had a good year so far. After some optimistic exhortations from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, the Copenhagen Consensus, and an encouraging mention from White House science advisor John Holdren, the idea of large scale interventions to offset the effects of climate change is having a good year.

However a year-long study by the Royal Society – the first comprehensive report by an influential science academy has not come up with such good news.

China’s high price for emission cuts
Beijing to call for help at Copenhagen (FT)

Virtue of thrift helps convince consumers
China collecting data to cut household emissions (FT)

Call to help developing world on energy
Emission cuts from poorer countries vital, economists say (FT)

UN official warns on Copenhagen deal hopes
Development chief calls for momentum before Kyoto expires (FT)

Sharp, Kyocera set to gain from DPJ emissions plan
Utilities to pay premium prices for solar power (Bloomberg)

Oil allies protesting US money for rivals
Obama administration grants $1.6m to cap emissions (NYT)

Lex: PetroChina
Growth problem of completing projects, not funding them (FT)

Lex: Eni
Should the Italian energy company be broken up? (FT)

Commodities at month low after crude falls
Sell-off in oil market pushes prices further down (FT)

Deutsche Bank scraps oil notes
Wall Street braces for regulation on energy speculation (FT)

Canada told to exert political will on Arctic gas
Construction of natural gas pipeline needs to pick up (Reuters)

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