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Coalition Announces Pledge to halve Carbon Emissions by 2025 - what role will Green IT play?

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Now that the Coalition has announced its pledge to halve carbon emissions by 2025, the next question is how is it going to be achieved. The devil, as they say, is always in the detail.

Winning the political battle in Cabinet - against, it has to be said, some pretty heavy hitters: Messrs Osborne, Cable and Hammond were reportedly against the plans for fear of affecting the economy - is one thing, Now the hard work starts.

Before the end of the year the Government will announce a package of measures to reduce the impact of government policy on the cost of electricity for energy intensive industries and to help them adjust to the low-carbon industrial transformation.

There is more detail on the announcement on the Department of Energy & Climate Change website.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who supported the targets, said, "When the coalition came together last year, we said we wanted this to be the greenest government ever. This is the right approach for Britain if we are to combat climate change, secure our energy supplies for the long-term and seize the economic opportunities that green industries hold.

"In the past twelve months, we have pursued an ambitious green agenda and today, we are announcing the next, historic step. By making this commitment, we will position the UK a leading player in the global low-carbon economy, creating significant new industries and jobs.

"The transition to a low-carbon economy is necessary, real, and global. By stepping up, showing leadership and competing with the world, the UK can prove that there need not be a tension between green and growth."

Energy & Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne said: "Today's announcement will give investors the certainty they need to invest in clean energy. It puts Britain at the leading edge of a new global industrial transformation as well as making good our determination that this will be the greenest government ever.

"The Coalition Government has set a fourth carbon budget level, in line with the advice from the Committee on Climate Change, that sends a clear signal about our determination to transform Britain permanently into a low carbon economy. By cutting emissions we're also getting ourselves off the oil hook, making our energy supplies more secure and opening up opportunities for jobs in the new green industries of the future.

"Through the Green Deal, electricity market reform and the Green Investment Bank we're already putting in place the tools that will help us meet this ambitious carbon budget. This and every future British Government will have to keep up the pace and put in place the most effective policies to tackle climate change.

"Under this carbon budget, Britain in 2027 will be a different place and transformed for the better with warmer homes powered by green energy, many more cars powered by electricity and far less reliance on fossil fuels to drive our economy."

Under the fourth carbon budget, government will aim to reduce emissions domestically as far as practical and affordable, but also intends to keep open the option of trading in order to retain maximum flexibility and minimise costs in the medium-long term.

Groundbreaking innovation will play a crucial role in helping Britain to decarbonise its energy supplies by 2027 in the most economical way. Today the Energy Technologies Institute is asking industry to design, build and test longer offshore wind turbine blades to improve performance. Currently blades are typically 40-60 metres long, but the next generation of turbines could have blades measuring more than 90 metres - almost the height of Big Ben."

It will be interesting to know what role Green IT will eventually play in hitting these targets. I came across this report, which serves as a reminder of some of the relevant figures. 

 

Cabinet agrees Climate Change 'Green Deal' - UK 'world leader' in cutting carbon emissions

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The Coalition is expected to announce this week that it has agreed a far-reaching, legally binding "green deal" that will commit the UK to two decades of drastic cuts in carbon emissions. The package, reported last weekend in The Observer, will, it is claimed, place Britain at the forefront of the global battle against climate change.

Huhne is now expected to tell parliament that the government will accept the recommendations of the independent committee on climate change for a new carbon budget. The deal puts the UK ahead of any other state in terms of the legal commitments it is making in the battle to curb greenhouse gases.

The new budget puts the government on target to meet a reduction by 2050 of 80% of carbon emissions compared with 1990 levels. The committee has said that to reach this target, carbon emissions should be cut by 60% by 2030.

The article says ministers believe that major companies involved in developing offshore wind technology - such as Siemens, Vestas and General Electric - will now be keener to invest in Britain, knowing it is committed to a huge expansion in renewable energy. It is also hoped that the commitment to renewable energy - the committee says 40% of the UK's power should come from wind, wave and tide sources by 2030 - will stimulate new industries.

These would include the development of tidal power plants, wave generators and carbon capture and storage technology - which would extract carbon dioxide from coal and oil plants and pump it into underground chambers. All three technologies, if developed in Britain, could be major currency earners.

The committee's report says the new carbon deal will require that heat pumps will have had to be installed in 2.6m homes by 2025. It also says that by the same date 31% of new cars, and 14% of those on the road overall, will be electric. Experts say a total of £16bn of investment will be needed every year to meet the commitment, with some of the money likely to be raised through increases in electricity prices.

The cost of wind power

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It would be a stretch to discuss a recent story that I read in the Daily Mail Online in the context of Green IT, though it fits into a green technology debate and is, I believe, worth pointing to.

The article discusses the process used to extract neodymium, the element needed to make the magnets in wind turbines.

The piece goes on to discuss how much energy wind turbines will actually produce. It's not a lot, and there are some who believe that money would be better spent developing tidal power.

The tides that surge around the UK's coasts could provide up to a quarter of the nation's electricity, without any carbon emissions. But as this article suggests, the sea environment is harsh and existing equipment - long-bladed underwater wind turbines - is prone to failure.

I wonder, two years on, what happened to this tidal turbine experiment?

 

Green Jobs: a different perspective

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With David Cameron's comments on green jobs in mind, I came across this interesting perspective on job creation from Andrew Winston. He believes that we've been talking about the new economy jobs entirely the wrong way.

He says, "Admit it, what do you picture when you hear the phrase "green jobs"? Mainly solar installers and wind turbine mechanics, right? In a recent, skeptical Newsweek article, the author laments that "green-tech workers - people who do things like design and build wind turbines or solar panels - now make up only 0.6 percent of the American workforce." When described this way, pursuing green jobs doesn't seem like much of an economic growth plan.

"Those clearly defined green jobs do lie at the core of this new world, and they are in fact growing fast, sometimes literally replacing what came before......But there are more subtle shifts in labor going on as companies that did one thing in the old economy are finding their skills useful in the new one. Another company, Global Marine Energy, has been installing and maintaining undersea cables for over 150 years. After serving the telecom and oil & gas industries for decades, it's now also stringing cable to offshore wind farms all over Europe.

"A new green economy is just that...a whole new economy, with job openings at all skill levels, from truck drivers to inventors of new battery chemistries. The solar or wind installer is just the tip of a very large iceberg that's coming our way. Will we let it pass by or take our piece?"

 

Putting the onus on green technologies to deliver green jobs

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I heard David Cameron speaking this morning to the CBI, saying that he wants to tap into green technologies. He also mentioned finding  £1bn for carbon capture and storage and £200m for low carbon technology and announced £60m to help with infrastructure for offshore wind infrastructure. The goal, it appears, is to create 70,000 jobs, which is fine and may be part of the much-discussed plan for the private sector to  create the jobs to cover for those being lost in the public sector.

 

"We need thousands of offshore turbines in the next decade and beyond, each one as tall as the Gherkin," he said.

"And manufacturing these needs large factories which have to be on the coast.

"Yet neither the factories nor these large port sites currently exist and that, understandably, is putting off private investors.

"So we're stepping in. To help secure private sector investment in this technology, we are providing up to £60 million to meet the needs of offshore wind infrastructure at our ports."

 

The Crown Estate would also work with ports and manufacturers to "realise the potential" of its sites.


I like the intention but it still all sounds pretty aspirational and 'conference-speak', and I'm just not sure yet that it's going to be quite so easy to link the theory behind the potential of 'green technologies' with the practical creation of tens of thousands of jobs. It'll be interesting to see what progress has actually been made on this in a year's time.


Nick Clegg, however, is talking up the potential.  

IT: succeeding where government fails

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I wrote yesterday about business's failure to lobby government on climate change. It would be wrong, however, to tar everyone with the same brush. The IT industry - IBM, Microsoft and Google - are all leading their own initiatives. IBM is delivering on Smart Planet; I'm looking forward to meeting up with Mary-Anne King, Microsoft's Head of Environmental Sustainability, at Green IT Expo next month; and Google too has been involved in a number of headline-grabbing developments.

This excellent piece by Andrew Winston in the Harvard Business Review blogs about how the IT business is driving development of a $5 billion "transmission backbone" for offshore wind farms along the US East Coast.

 

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