Rethinking African solar power for Europe
Emanuele Massetti, Elena Ricci, 23 July 2014
Concentrated solar power generation in Northern African and Middle Eastern deserts could potentially supply up to 20% of European power demand. This column evaluates the technological, economic, and political feasibility of this idea. Although concentrated solar power is a proven technology that can work at scale, it is currently four or five times more expensive than fossil fuels. Concentrated solar power could play an important role in Europe’s energy mix after 2050, but only if geo-political challenges can be overcome.
The DESERTEC Foundation has suggested that up to 20% of power demand in Europe can be obtained by connecting African deserts to European cities (Figure 1). The idea is to build a large number of concentrated solar power (CSP) plants in Middle Eastern and Northern African (MENA) countries, and to transmit electricity to Europe by means of very efficient high-voltage direct-current cables.
Topics: Energy, Environment
Tags: Africa, climate change, concentrated solar power, deserts, energy security, Europe, Middle East, photovoltaic, Renewable energy, solar, wind
Climate policy targets revisited
Richard S J Tol, 25 April 2014
The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report estimates lower costs of climate change and higher costs of abatement than the Stern Review. However, current UN negotiations focus on stabilising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases at even lower levels than recommended by Stern. This column argues that, given realistic estimates of the rate at which people discount the future, the UN’s target is probably too stringent. Moreover, since real-world climate policy is far from the ideal of a uniform carbon price, the costs of emission reduction are likely to be much higher than the IPCC’s estimates.
The Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change is the most famous economic assessment of climate policy (Stern et al. 2006).
Tags: carbon, climate change, cost-benefit analysis, emissions, externalities, greenhouse gases, pollution
Sustainable growth requires a long-term focus
Pascal Lamy, Ian Goldin, 28 March 2014
Excessive short-termism is always a problem for policy, but the Global Crisis has brought it sharply into focus. This column introduces a report that discusses how a shift to longer-term solutions is necessary and possible. A key message is that businesses as well as governments need to take a longer-term view. The report identifies ways to overcome the current impasse in key economic, climate, trade, security, and other negotiations.
Just when we thought high-frequency trading couldn’t get any faster, a US communications company is developing a high-speed laser network between the New Jersey data centres of the New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ stock exchange, to shave an additional few nanoseconds off high-frequency trading times.
Topics: Environment, Financial markets, Global crisis, International trade
Tags: climate change, corporate governance, environment, global crisis, growth, high-frequency trading, mark-to-market accounting, short-termism, trade
Nuclear expansion or phase-out? Costs and opportunities
Enrica De Cian, Samuel Carrara, Massimo Tavoni, 22 December 2013
After the Fukushima incident in 2011, many countries decided to shrink their nuclear power programmes. This article presents recent research on the optimal role of nuclear power in reducing carbon emissions. Phasing out nuclear power would be costly, since it is currently the cheapest low-carbon alternative to fossil fuels. However, these costs would be largely offset by the implicit subsidy to R&D in renewables, which suffers from innovation externalities. Still, carbon pricing and explicit R&D subsidies would be a more efficient way of determining the future of nuclear power.
"We learned from Fukushima that we have to deal differently with risks… We believe we as a country can be a trailblazer for a new age of renewable energy sources… We can be the first major industrialized country that achieves the transition to renewable energy with all the opportunities – for exports, development, technology, jobs – it carri
Topics: Energy, Environment
Tags: carbon pricing, climate change, climate policy, energy, energy mix, environment, nuclear power, R&D
California energy efficiency: Lessons for the rest of the world, or not?
Arik Levinson, 9 August 2013
Efficiency standards appear to be at the centre of US climate policy. But is this policy effective? This column argues that, thinking laterally, evidence suggests that there are reasons to be suspicious. If the US is to focus so heavily on energy efficiency, we ought to have a better understanding of its effectiveness.
Energy-efficiency standards for buildings and appliances and vehicles appear to be a central component of climate policy in the US.
Tags: climate change, energy efficiency, US
Facing up to uncertainty in climate-change economics
Geoffrey Heal, Antony Millner, 13 June 2013
Uncertainty is intrinsic in climate-change economics. This column argues that it’s here to stay. There will be no accurate predictive tool for predicting economic growth, the emergence of clean-energy technology, or economic vulnerability in light of climate change in the near future. But this is not an excuse not to think about climate economics. Research and policy would do well to be more explicit about what we don’t know. We should avoid subjective guesses, and focus more on credible forecasts from empirically sound, if uncertain, models.
Uncertainty is intrinsic in climate change economics. We know that increases in greenhouse gas concentrations are causing shifts in the climate, but not precisely how large these shifts will be, nor when and where they will occur. Neither do we understand fully the social and economic consequences of these changes, or the options that will be available for coping with them in the future.
Tags: climate change, uncertainty
Four changes to trade rules to facilitate climate change action
Aaditya Mattoo, Arvind Subramanian, 4 May 2013
Global climate cooperation has collapsed but the need for action has not disappeared. This column argues that only radical technological progress can reconcile climate-change goals with development. It argues that four changes in WTO trade rules could facilitate climate-change action and technological advances without unduly damaging trade.
The research on the links between trade rules and climate-change action has mostly been concerned with how far climate-change action is constrained by current trade rules pertaining, for example, to border-tax adjustments (Horn and Mavroidis 2011), subsidies (Green 2006) and exports of natural gas (Levi 2012 and Hufbauer et al. 2013).
Topics: Energy, Environment
Tags: adaptation, climate change, technology
Geoengineering and abatement: A ‘flat’ relationship under uncertainty
Johannes Emmerling, Massimo Tavoni, 17 April 2013
Implementing comprehensive policies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions has proved to be difficult. Such sluggishness has increasingly led analysts and researchers to consider geoengineering – the deliberate reduction of the incoming solar radiation – as a viable alternative. Geoengineering used to be seen as somewhat of a ‘last resort’ in terms of climate policy because its implementation would reduce the urgency for current abatement efforts. However, under uncertainty, research suggests that substantial abatement in the short and medium term remains optimal due to the long lead-in time needed for geoengineering projects.
The slow progress in climate-change mitigation policies aimed at reducing greenhouse-gas emissions has fuelled the discussion about alternative policy options in order to cope with the impacts from climate change. The better known one is adaptation, but most recently ‘climate geoengineering’ has begun to attract increasing attention.
Tags: climate change, geoengineering
The sordid history of Congressional acceptance and rejection of cap-and-trade: Implications for climate policy
Richard Schmalensee, Robert N. Stavins, 7 March 2013
Not so long ago, cap-and-trade mechanisms for environmental protection were popular in Congress. Now, such mechanisms are denigrated. What happened? This column tells the sordid tale of how conservatives in Congress who once supported cap and trade now lambast climate change legislation as ‘cap-and-tax’. Ironically, conservatives are choosing to demonise their own market-based creation. The successful conservative campaign that disparaged cap-and-trade means it may now be politically impossible to promote it in the US. The good news? Elsewhere, cap and trade is now a proven, viable option for tackling large-scale environmental problems.
In both his second inaugural and his fifth state of the union addresses this year, President Obama renewed his commitment to address the risk of global climate change, due to increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, largely (but not exclusively) a consequence of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions linked with burning fossil fuels to generate energy.
Topics: Energy, Environment
Tags: Cap-and-trade, climate change, US
Moving to Greenland in the face of global warming
Klaus Desmet, Esteban Rossi-Hansberg , 16 January 2013
There are two ways to deal with climate change: mitigation and adaptation. This column argues that in order to adapt, we need to take another look at an age-old coping mechanism: migration. Indeed, if overall hotter temperatures lower productivity in hot regions but raise productivity in what are currently cooler regions, the negative economic effects of climate change are likely to stem from frictions preventing the movement of people and goods. Without these frictions, adapting to climate change becomes that much easier. Climate change policy ought to aim at alleviating mobility frictions.
If populations don’t move, global warming is likely to have disastrous consequences.
Topics: Environment, Migration
Tags: climate change, migration, trade