Green Sunday: Good News on Clean Energy

1. Morocco has ambitious plans to be the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy. Its new agreement with the European Union removes tariff barriers, and it is importing huge amounts of German equipment for wind and solar generation. Morocco subsidizes the green projects, and plans to export electricity to Europe. ( Desertec is constructing a major solar electricity-generating plant in Morocco).

2. Japan’s Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda, has put in very attractive rates and incentives for solar power in Japan, such that it will likely overtake Germany as a solar energy market soon. Japan is still reeling from the loss of its Fukushima reactors in the tsunami and subsequent reactor failures. Public opinion in Japan has turned decisively against the nuclear industry, which had generated a third of Japan’s electricity. The Japanese government is therefore scrambling to go green, and taking very serious practical measures to promote that sector. Ironically, Japanese firms had been pioneers in solar panels and other green technology, but the government had been wedded to the nuclear industry or hydrocarbon imports. Japanese engineers and inventors are among the best in the world, and this transition has the potential, at least, to kickstart the Japanese economy, which never really recovered from the burst bubble of the early 1990s.

3. Crowdfunding could revolutionize the solar industry in the United States, according to Bloomberg study. Some $90 bn. could be injected into the industry in this way. Investments in solar on the part of individuals are also a good idea, since the returns will be decent.

4. US solar installations increased by 95% in the first three months of 2012.

5. A group of African and European companies is planning to install 365 wind turbines in a 64 square mile stretch in Kenya. In this desolate region, the wind is strong and regular. The complex will be Africa’s largest wind farm.

6. A US AID survey has found that Pakistan could generate some 346 gigawatts of power from wind energy. Punjab has been racked by electricity riots in recent weeks, as Pakistan continues to face outages and increasing removal of subsidies. If Pakistan’s politicians and businessmen were smart, they get those turbines up and running.

7. The Indian state of Gujarat is planning to put in a big wave-power installation. Given that India has an enormous shore line, wave power could be important to its future.

5 Responses

  1. “…the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy.”

    I know this is supposed to be a good thing, but the “oil curse” of Saudi Arabia, and other crude-exporting countries, could become a “solar curse” in Morocco. Exporting raw energy to the developed world brings in large amounts of foreign dollars, which is a certainly a good thing, but it does so in a way that produces relatively few jobs for the money, concentrates wealth at the top, and results in a larger number of well-educated people with a high standard of living but very limited job prospects.

    With the great energy resources available to it, and the foreign funding being used to develop those resources, Morocco should also be looking at developing a manufacturing sector that takes advantage of that energy, so they can also export something to Europe that actually involves employing large numbers of Moroccans.

    Still, this is great news.

    • I think that renewable energy will prove to be relatively labor-intensive, watt for watt, compared to fossil fuels. That’s why so many capitalists loathe renewables. They naturally want everything to be capital-intensive, giving them all the control. But we need jobs, and so do Moroccans. Converting solar and wind energy into electricity can be compared to farming or manufacturing a consumer good. Oil and coal are like siphoning gas tanks in an unguarded parking lot – very little work until you run out of tanks.

  2. Thanks so much for your ‘Good News on Clean Energy’ reports, Professor. They are heartwarming, especially when one reads about what a garbage dump the Maldives have become, or that there is 20 million tons of radioactive waste floating towards the U.S. Pacific Coast from Fukushima.

    Cleaning up our planet feels like a Herculean task—practically Sisyphean. But every bit of good news is great news. So thanks again.

    If we do not permit the Earth to produce beauty and joy,
    it will, in the end, not produce food, either.
    ~ Joseph Krutch, American Naturalist and Writer

  3. The Morocco part of this entry reflects a continuing problem with electricity supplies: the countries that are best at producing the energy collector (PV panels, wind turbines) are not the best places to locate the installations, and the best countries to locate the installations are not the places that have the most money to pay for the electricity (the West Texas wind problem). Fossil fuels are fungible, and so desirable that we don’t much care where they come from as long as they don’t get cut off. If we had reached that point in our thinking about renewables, then every PV panel made in Germany would get shipped straight to Morocco where it could be used with maximum benefit instead of wasting its time on a barn roof on the North Sea, and the electricity would go straight to Spain to enter an all-EU power grid largely used by Germany.

    But the world’s pipelines still have more reach than its power lines, until someone is willing to make all the investments to complete a modern energy system.

  4. Juan,

    It looks like some of the ‘Moroccan’ part of the DESERTEC plan includes the construction of wind-farms in Western Sahara. Doesn’t this pose legal and moral difficulties? Isn’t Western Sahara still a disputed territory?

    There is a map from DESERTEC’s site here (scroll down a bit):

    link to desertec.org

    Paul

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