Canadian Institute for Business and the Environment
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Vol. 14, No. 6, August 18, 2009
Honoured Reader Edition

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In this issue we have sought to provide an in-depth but high level overview of the current state of knowledge regarding non-renewable and renewable fuels. This fall, the Copenhagen conference on climate change, the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change scheduled for December 7 to 18, is likely to mean that energy issues dominate the environmental policy agenda. Gallon Environment Letter is not expecting much in the way of agreement on a post-Kyoto strategy in Copenhagen but we are somewhat more optimistic that Copenhagen will set the stage for an accelerated schedule of negotiations which could lead to an agreement by fall of 2010.
Our high-level overview of energy looks at projections from the National Energy Board, The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, and many other sources. Trends are obvious and Canada's problem is illustrated by our willingness to join China, Russia, Mexico and Saudia Arabia as countries not participating in the new International Renewable Energy Agency. We also provide a brief overview of the new Ontario Green Energy Act, legislation which removes citizen freedom of information and right to environmental assessment. It is amazing how ready some governments and some energy and environmental activists are to remove hard won environmental assessment and public participation programs. Our review of some of the issues associated with wind power illustrates why we think the Ontario government initiative to remove requirements for environmental assessment from such installations is a bad idea.

Energy is such a comprehensive topic that it can lead to entire books, and in this issue we briefly review one good one, Sustainable Energy - without the hot air, by Professor David MacKay. The extent of the topic also means that it has taken up the entire space of this issue of Gallon Environment Letter. Next issue we will look again at some of the environmental aspects of cities and catch up on some of the news that has been happening over the summer.
Last year, as the recession deepened and environment remained a more high profile public policy issue than in any previous economic downturn, there was some hope that economic recovery might come with a real move to a greener economy. Now, as economists increasingly talk about the 'green shoots' of an economic recovery, it is clear that, growth, at least in Canada, is likely to be comprised mostly of the same old environmentally destructive industries as have existed in the past. This is despite the fact that both the environmental and economic signals are pointing towards the need for change.
Regular readers of Gallon Environment Letter are well aware that signals of a climate 'tipping point' are becoming more clear, that water supplies are depleting to critical levels in many parts of the world, that surface waters are experiencing contamination with potentially endocrine disrupting substances, that the battle against air pollution is failing in many major cities and in downwind rural areas, and that, globally, generation of waste is increasing. Technology exists to address many of these problems yet reinvestment is going at least as much to older polluting technologies as it is to the technologies that can improve environmental quality and quality of life. There is not enough being done in North America to educate investors on the opportunities in the field of greener technology.
The economic signals are even more interesting. In the last month many publicly-traded companies have been reporting their second quarter financial results. Quite a number have reported increased profits arising from lower sales. It is too early to declare a trend but if the phenomenon continues, it may suggest that a number of otherwise environmentally disinterested CEOs have stumbled into one of the basic concepts of ecoefficiency or Sustainable Development. Sustainable Development does not mean constraint on absolute economic growth but it does mean constraining use of non-renewable resources and getting maximum value out of the smallest amount of material. If CEOs see increased profits after eliminating material inefficiencies then perhaps they will be encouraged in future to do more to reduce, reuse, and recycle in ways that will, over the long term, reduce costs and increase profits.
It is truly disappointing to see how little green leadership is being provided by Canada's political leaders. Spending of so-called 'infrastructure funding' provides an ideal opportunity for senior governments to require municipal governments and the private and non-profit sectors to improve the environmental performance of projects. Regrettably, this ball has been dropped and many of the projects being funded are likely to meet bare minimum environmental standards. Not only will this further impair Canada's environmental quality but it will increase operating costs in the future, contributing to tax increases and higher user fees.
At this stage it is difficult to compare Canada's performance in greening the economic recovery with that of other countries but anecdotal evidence from western Europe and from the US indicates that we are lagging. The food industry is a major component of economic recovery in Europe and is moving strongly towards innovative lower-environmental-impact packaging and storage systems. Major efforts are being put into reducing waste and using all edible components of farm production. As a result, food self-sufficiency is substantially increasing in Europe. Both Europe and the US are increasing renewable energy use in a much more aggressive way than Canada. Our failure to launch a crash program for renewable energy may yet prove to be one of our largest mistakes in re-empowering our economy.
Colin Isaacs

Our extensive use of non-renewable energy is one of our most environmentally damaging activities, contributing to such results as climate change, air pollution, loss of biodiversity, social injustice and social and economic inequality for many people in developing countries. Renewable energy can help solve these issues and can also contribute to a greener economy. Energy efficiency and energy conservation are also often considered to be alternate sources of energy, sometimes expressed as 'negawatts', or provision of new energy supply through elimination of wastage of energy. Sooner or later, depletion of conventional energy resources will force global conversion to new forms of energy. The only non-renewable energy sources that are not facing major depletion within this century are coal and fissionable materials, primarily uranium, for nuclear power plants.
The list of terms for alternative energy is wide-ranging and often applies a different mix of sources, differing also in geographic regions. Terms might include renewable, ecoenergy, clean, green, sustainable, low-emitting, low-carbon, zero emissions and unconventional. Fossil fuels, waste to energy and nuclear energy are often included in the definitions, for example as-yet-distant-carbon capture and sequestration CCS such as CCS coal ("clean coal") or other fossil fuel power generation. For developing countries, just improving the energy efficiency of fossil fuel power sources rather than renewables might be in the cards for decades as our story on India illustrates. In this GL, we will touch on some of the differing definitions for energy of the future. GL also explores some of the issues which suggest while it is important and critical that the world moves towards alternative energy, there is still a lot of learning and R&D required along the way in order to implement sustainable energy and to avoid creating even more problems.

The G8 meeting held last month declared that "We recognise the broad scientific view that the increase in global average temperature above preindustrial levels ought not to exceed 2°C. Because this global challenge can only be met by a global response, we reiterate our willingness to share with all countries the goal of achieving at least a 50% reduction of global emissions by 2050, recognising that this implies that global emissions need to peak as soon as possible and decline thereafter. As part of this, we also support a goal of developed countries reducing emissions of greenhouse gases in aggregate by 80% or more by 2050 compared to 1990 or more recent years." They also said they would meet mid-term reductions not specified. Other parts of the declaration related to energy such as energy efficiency, renewable energy and moving away from fossil fuels.
Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of the Nobel-Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said at a press conference that the G8 pledges are fine as far as they go but there are "glaring gaps." The aspirational goal is for 2050 but the IPCC's formula shows that to keep the temperature increase to 2 deg C, emissions must peak no later than 2015. The G8 has no roadmap to match the aspirational goal to action. Clean technologies that can contribute to the aspirational goal are already available or on the verge of commercialization.
In the face of considerable uncertainty, even 2 deg C cannot be regarded as "safe" as small islands threatened with inundation are telling the world. A letter to Nature in April with lead author Malte Meinshausen of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research in Germany gives a mathematical picture of reducing emissions to heading off dangerous climate change. The calculations based on published climate sensitivity studies show that the probability of exceeding 2 deg C can be limited to below 25%* if the cumulative CO2 emissions in the years 2000-2049 from fossil fuels and land changes (e.g. deforestation) are below 1,000 Gt CO2. The researchers explored what would happen if all the proven fossil fuel reserves (defined as those which are economically recoverable with current technologies and prices) were burned. Again using the published literature, they used a mid-estimate of 2,800 Gt CO2 estimate which would "vastly exceed" the allowable CO2 emission budget.
About 234 Gigatonnes of CO2 were emitted between 2000-2006. Assuming constant rates of 36.3 Gt CO2 yr and a probability of 25% for exceeding the 2 deg C, the CO2 budget would be exhausted by 2027. Carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas but other gases covered by Kyoto protocol such as methane are also presented. The researchers estimate that the probability of exceeding 2 deg C is 75%** if 2020 emissions are not lower than 50 Gt CO2 equivalent (25% above 2000). They conclude, "Given the substantial recent increase in fossil CO2 emission (20% between 2000 and 2006), policies to reduce global emissions are needed urgently if below 2 deg C target is to remain achievable."
*the literature range of probability of exceeding 2 deg C was between 10-42%; 25% was chosen as an illustrative default case.
**the literature range of probability of exceeding 2 deg C was between 53-87%; 75% was chosen as an illustrative default case.

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The world's largest publically-traded oil and gas company, Exxon Mobil, is seeking technologies to locate and extract those oil and gas reserves which are described as "unconventional" because of they are ""located in challenging environments such as deepwater, heavy oil/oil sands, tight gas and Arctic regions" or which need special recovery methods such as tight gas*, heavy oil and oil sands. The company, which is known for its powerful lobbying against action on climate change, sees these energy sources as key to the energy future of the world. Exxon's Outlook for Energy which projects to 2030, says there must be an expansion of all economically viable energy sources - oil, gas, coal, nuclear and alternative and renewable sources such as wind and solar and biofuels.
The company announced in July that it would invest in long term research (GL notes the emphasis on long time into the future) with the biotech company, Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI), to research and develop next generation biofuels from photosynthetic algae. The capability of Exxon Mobil in fuel production, transportation, distribution and at the pumps could bring biofuel in the form of bio-oil into large scale use. Exxon also has other alternative energy interests such as solar.
Exxon Mobil is also active in energy efficiency for its operations, which in 2008 consumed approximately 1.5 billion gigajoules of energy. The company is on track, it says, to improve energy efficiency of worldwide refining and chemical operations by 10% between 2002 and 2012. Since 2004, it spent about $1.5 billion to improve energy efficiency including for consumers and plans to spend another $500 million over some unspecified time.
*Tight gas doesn't have a consistent definition but is natural gas in reservoirs have low permeability requiring special technology such as horizontal gas wells for extraction.
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The Government of India has received a $180 million loan from the World Bank and a $45 million grant from the Global Environment Facility. The funds are for modernizing old and inefficient coal-fired plants. While India may move to more alternate energy in the long term, its energy shortage is currently hindering development. Forty percent of homes do not have electricity and 60% of industrial power consumers use captive (e.g. textile factory generating its own power) or backup generation (e.g. diesel generators). Roberto Zagha, World Bank Country Director for India said, "More than 400 million people do not have electricity in India. This is the same as switching off power for the combined populations of the US, UK and France."
India set ambitious targets for universal power access by 2012. The policy is showing results including less system losses and power exchanges between regions and states. The aim is to add 80000 MW of additional capacity by 2012, renovate 27,000 MW of old coal-fired generation plants and increase efficiency of transmission and distribution. Demand side measures such as energy efficient gadgets for consumers are also targeted.
India's installed electricity capacity is 145,000 MW. Electricity contributes 50% of India's carbon emissions due to indigenous coal generation and small inefficient and polluting back-up generators. About 80% of electricity comes from coal-fired plants of which about a third are inefficient. This funding for the renovations of three coal-fired plants with 200-220 MW capacity each is expected to increase their efficiency by 10-15% and reduce direct greenhouse gas emissions by almost half a million tons of CO2 equivalent annually. The work funded by the World Bank and the GEF will also improve particulate emissions, water treatment and ash disposal.
Coal is likely to continue to be a major source of electricity and is expected to account for nearly 42% of total energy consumption; in other scenarios as much as 65% of total energy is coal. Currently other fossil fuels gas and diesel supply about 16,000 MW, nuclear 4000 MW, large hydro 36,000 and other renewables about 12,000 MW.

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Canada's National Energy Board has issued a report which identifies the following as a trend in government policy, "Energy and the environment are becoming increasingly interconnected. Indications suggest that North America is on the cusp of significant environmental policy changes. These changes could have a profound influence on how Canadians produce and consume energy."
Among these policies and announcements have been:
Many of these policies do not include operational programs but are seen as indicative of future direction. Several key federal policies especially are not final and in their stage of development lack the detail needed by the NEB to create scenarios. The report also discusses stricter building codes, efficiency standards for energy-using equipment, regulations promoting more use of renewables, and the carbon tax in BC and Quebec.
*British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Arizona, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington
** non-conventional oil like oil sands are presumed not to be comply but the carbon intensity value must be documented and officially accepted or more likely, not accepted..
The NEB, a federal government agency, projects energy use for the period 2007-2020. It points out that what actually happens depends on many trends such as government programs and policies (see above), global energy supply, demand and pricing, and technology development. The economic growth rates in China and India of 7% annually between 2000-2007 increased global demand but the biggest economic recession in 50 years has affected them as well.
While between 1990-2007 energy use increased by 1.6 % per year, the 2007-2020 estimate is lower at .7 % per year. Energy intensity or the energy used per economic output is predicted to decrease by 1.3% per year. If the slowing energy demand continues the greenhouse gas emission growth rate will be lower than 1990-2007, but, according to the NEB, it will still be a growth rate. Two thirds of total natural gas production compared to one third now will be from shale and tight gas. Natural gas exports will stabilize rather than decline sharply as was originally expected.
Conventional oil and gas production is expected to continue to decline. While oils sands contribute less than 50% to Canada's production of oil now, they are expected to contribute three quarters in the forecast period.
The retirement of Ontario's coal-fired power plants is expected to result in lower GHG emission intensity from the electricity sector. Reduced demand for electricity due to energy efficiency is also expected.
Fossil fuels will be the dominant form but increases in hydroelectric, nuclear and natural gas capacity are expected. The share of unconventional emerging technologies is expected to remain at less than 15% by 2020 but the magnitude of these is projected to increase:
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Canada's and the world's economy needs to be decoupled from its reliance on fossil fuels, Canada's National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy wrote in its report on carbon pricing, "The scale of the transformation and the underlying technology deployment to achieve this decoupling should not be underestimated. The necessary investment throughout the economy may need to increase by $2.2 billion per year in the medium-term and $2 billion per year thereafter." This could mean that capital expenditures on low-emitting technology would be 5% higher annually than they otherwise would have been between now and 2030, and 7% higher annually in the longer-term. Much of these expenditures must occur in the electricity generation and biofuels manufacturing sectors with significant outlays in industrial sectors for CCS (carbon capture and sequestration). While most sectors can expect an increase in investments, decreased investment in the transportation sector is also likely due to a shift toward smaller, less expensive vehicles as well as movement toward greater use of public transportation.

Some of the technology trends identified include:
A lot of uncertainty is inherent in these scenarios: government shouldn't pick winners but allow a broad range of technologies to emerge but on the other hand, government needs to ensure the specific barriers and potentials are addressed with support. Carbon pricing alone will be insufficient to drive the transformation needed. A full permit auctioning system could generate $18 billion or 16% of total government receipts and can be used wisely to meet the sustainability goals.
National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. Achieving 2050: a Carbon Pricing Policy for Canada. Ottawa, Ontario: April 2009.
The founding conference of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) was held in Bonn, Germany in January 2009. As of June 30, 136 countries joined, including EU countries, the US, Japan, Australia, India, Chile, Jordan and Kenya. Among those not joining were Canada, China, Russia, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. The goal is to foster the widespread and sustainable use of renewable energy worldwide in both industrialized and developing countries.
Ms. Hélène Pelosse is the interim Director-General, she was in the office of the French Minister for Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and Town and Country Planning and designed the Renewable Energy Plan for France. The new home of the agency is in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates while Bonn, Germany will host IRENA's centre of technology and innovation and Vienna, Austria will host the liaison office linking to other international agencies.

According to the brochure produced for the founding conference, the world's energy needs could increase by 50% or more by 2030. Greenhouse gas emissions will increase up to 60% by 2030 if current demand continues. Over 1.6 billion people have no access to electricity and 2 billion rely on wood and dung for energy. Traditional uses of biomass are often inefficient and non-sustainable with pollution harming the environment and human health. Conventional energy is priced without accounting for the environmental and health costs. Renewable energy becomes competitive if these costs are included in the price.

Renewable energy has to potential to supply many times the current global demand. Renewables include solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, ocean and wave energy, biofuels and hydro energy. Global renewable energy capacity from 2002-2006 grew 15-30% annually for many technologies such as wind power, solar hot water, geothermal heating and off-grid solar PV. Renewables contributed 18% of global final energy consumption in 2006. Almost three-quarters of the renewable energy contribution was due to traditional biomass. Fossil fuels were 79% and nuclear 3%. In the last few years, the share of renewables as a percentage of total global energy consumption has not increased.
One of the roles of IRENA is to remove barriers to the global development of renewable energy.
Structural political and market barriers: Fossil fuels have strong market structures, powerful companies and financial subsidies and incentives. Costs for these don't usually include the environmental and health costs and the companies have control of the service and distribution infrastructure.
Lack of information: Needed are best practices for policies such as legislation, market incentives and institutional frameworks, research, requirements for the industry to prosper.
Technical know-how: New approaches to design and management of energy systems and grids. Developing countries lack the resources to buy, install and maintain the technology - they need not only market access but capacity to produce the technology themselves and to use it.
An international organization such as IRENA is seen as being needed to close the gap between what countries say they want to do and what needs to be done.
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Membership in the new International Renewable Energy Agency was the subject of a private member motion No. 295 moved by the "Hon. member for Saint-Laurent-Cartierville" which read, "That, in the opinion of the House, the government should increase its support of Canada's renewable energy sector, allow our country to participate in the worldwide effort to develop renewable energy sources and enlist Canada as a full member of the International Renewable Energy Agency." Still green shifting, former Liberal leader Stéphane Dion who moved the motion spoke on June 11 of the government's opposition to the motion, "The government has two points against the motion. The government does not want to be part of IRENA, the new international renewable energy agency, because it claims it duplicates organizations that already exist. The government claims that it is doing enough about renewable energy and feels it does not need to add to that. All colleagues who have spoken about these points have made it very clear how wrong the government is in its assertions. I do not want to repeat many of them, but it is clear that IRENA is welcomed by the very organizations that the government claims will be duplicated and overlapped. They are welcoming IRENA as an umbrella institution that will coordinate the booming file of the renewable energy sector. This argument does not hold. More countries are coming to IRENA one after the other. Why would Canada be the last? Why is the government always a laggard instead of a leader?"
He said that the programs the Conservatives had brought forward such as the $3.6 billion ecoEnergy initiatives had been introduced by the Liberals and the Conservatives rebranded them. Most of the clean technology investments introduced by the government in 2009, he said, having nothing to do with renewable energy. Of the $2.5 billion announced for clean energy over five years, $800 million is for development and demonstration of large scale carbon capture storage CSS projects, not renewable energy. To raise the current 73% of electricity from non-emitting sources to the government target of 90% by 2020, the government's plan is to use nuclear and CCS for coal, neither renewable energy. Both nuclear and CCS have long timelines; it is impossible to build a nuclear plant by then and CCS is even further away if ever. In contrast, wind can be built now. ecoEnergy funding is likely to run out by the fall and the government has taken no action to renew this program.
The Motion passed June 17, 2009 carried by the vote of 146-141. Conservatives, including the Prime Minister, Environment Minister Jim Prentice and Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt, voted nay. The speaker declared the motion carried.
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The Ontario's Green Energy and Green Economy Act is lauded by the Canadian Renewable Energy Alliance (CanREA) for its feed-in-tariff FIT program and fixed premium rates for 20 year contracts, The program sets standards, standard contracts and standard pricing by energy source or fuel type, generator capacity, and which generation facility is used, deployed, installed or located. Transmitters and distributors will be allowed to connect generation facilities to transmission systems or distributions systems if specified criteria are satisfied. CanREA said this would allow , "any renewable power system, from the smallest household solar system to large off shore wind farms in the Great Lakes, to connect to the grid and make a reasonable return on investment. The Ontario Power Authority set new draft rules and prices July 10 and a streamlined FIT for small renewable energy projects August 14. The Act also includes measures to accelerate the adoption of energy conservation measures, including the labelling of homes and buildings with their energy consumption."
Other say there may be a high cost to pay in terms of loss of public involvement, increased government secrecy and lack of accountability, usually not a good sign for protecting the environment. For example, a Renewable Energy Facilitator Office will be set up to facilitate green energy projects and will generally be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.
The Act itself changes the following bills: Electricity Act, 1998, Ministry of Energy Act, Ontario Energy Board Act, 1998, Clean Water Act, 2006, Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993, Environmental Protection Act, Ontario Water Resources Acts,Co-operative Corporations Act,,Building Code Act, 1992 and the Planning Act.
Some of the regulations of the Green Energy Act posted until July 24 in the Environmental Bill of Rights removes most renewable energy projects from the environmental assessment process. While applicants for a renewable energy facility have to meet the various requirements including public notice, posting on the Environmental Bill of Rights Registry and public consultations and how the public concerns are addressed,  the right of appeal under the Environmental Bill of Rights has been removed - instead third parties have just 15 days to appeal from the date of notice of the Ministry of Environment approval.  Municipalities are already complaining that current deadlines such as 30 days are insufficient for appeals. Facilities under the act include landbased or off-shore turbines, biogas anaerobic digesters, biomass thermal treatment, landfill gas facilities, hydro electric facilities and photovoltaics and may include other operations. The exemption from the EA covers a number of situations. Exempted are renewable facilities and testing facilities carried out by the Crown, municipalities or public bodies. Also exempt are associated elements such as access road, dock, disposition of crown land, and water crossings. Waste disposal sites e.g. thermal treatment of biomass are also exempt. New hydro electric facilities of 200 MW or larger and expansions to existing facilities that would result in a 25% increase in capacity to 200 MW or larger will still require EAs.
Various elements of the Planning Act do not apply to renewable energy projects, for example Section 24 which requires public works and by-laws to conform with official plants, demolition control by-laws, zoning by-laws. Also anybody handling goods or technologies under this legislation is exempt from bylaws (except those required under provincial law), encumbrances on real property or rules made by condominiums. The Association of Municipalities of Ontario corresponded with City Councils about the regulation posted on the Environmental Bill of Rights. Specifically AMO wanted:
Mark Mattson, Waterkeeper and President of the environmental group Lake Ontario Waterkeeper expressed a number of concerns regarding the fast tracking of the bill which he suggested seemed to be run through the Green Energy Act Alliance rather than the government. He objected to the characterization of people as either for or against, say wind energy. He gave the example of the Premier saying "NIMBYism will no longer prevail" and Minister Smitherman saying that residents opposing industrial wind on the Scarborough Bluffs should know that only safety and environmental concerns are legitimate objections, "by inference this statement suggests that concerns about such wind plants are not rooted in safety or environmental concerns." In regard to the revision of the Planning Act, he wrote, "The removal of local power to control and plan the environment via Official Plans and by-laws is an affront to the principles of democracy. It removes the people with the most direct knowledge of an area and those who will experience any consequences of a project from the decision-making process. It goes against a fundamental principle of all green movements: think globally but act locally."
GL is not sure what problems the Ontario government is trying to solve by setting up yet another system, no doubt costly in administration, for project approvals which purports to speed up the approval process so much that it basically minimizes public oversight and puts an inordinate amount of power in the hands of the minister. If the Environmental Assessment process is too slow, there are many environmentally and socially important projects which are held up not just green energy so fixing the EA process would be a better approach. The green energy area is still relatively new and there is still much that we don't know about what its impact are. Environmental assessments is a good mechanism for analyzing and learning both what the impacts are and how to monitor and mitigate them.
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Nova Scotia Power operates one of three tidal power plants in the world, according to the company. The Annapolis Tidal Power Plant began operating in 1984 and has a capacity of 20 megawatts. While it used to be that tidal power required a dam or land into which water could be funnelled into the generating plant, new technologies use floating tidal turbine or turbines anchored to the sea bottom.

In 2008, Minas Basin Pulp and Power was given the right to construct a tidal power demonstration and research facility in the Bay of Fundy. The Fundy Tidal Energy Demonstration Facility will have three underwater berths for tidal in-stream energy conversion (tisec) devices is subject to environmental assessment. The EA will evaluate impacts on the marine environment, community acceptance and socio-economic benefits in the surrounding areas. Factors in selection of the site will include ocean current, tidal flows, sediment, seabed habitats, fisheries, ships, underground cables, ocean bottom and water depth.

Three candidates, representing technologies from Canada, UK. and Ireland, are in negotiations for first occupancy in the proposed facility:
• Clean Current (Clean Current Turbine)
• Minas Basin Pulp and Power Co. Ltd. (Marine Current Turbines)
• Nova Scotia Power Inc. (OpenHydro Turbine)
The preliminaries of a public open house and environmental assessment are in progress.
Seeing the tide come into the Bay of Fundy ought to be on one's 50 Things I Must Do list. According to the Nova Scotia Department of Energy, "100 billion tonnes of seawater flows in and out of the Bay of Fundy each tide cycle - more than the combined flow of the world's fresh rivers. The vertical tidal range can be over 50 feet - giving the Bay of Fundy the highest tides in the world. The horizontal range can be as much as 5 kilometers, exposing vast areas of ocean floor." The current is fast as much as 10 knots.

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Energy and water are linked and dependent as large quantities of water are needed for the development of energy and energy is needed to pump, treat and distribute water. Demand for both water and energy has created serious supply constraints for both. The US Energy Information Administration is projecting the need for 259 gigawatts of new electricity generating power between 2007 and 2030 or the equivalent of 259 large coal-fired power plants. The US Government Accountability Office, a unique independent government service agency which provides research advice to federal legislators on their request, has produced some preliminary observations on links between water and biofuels and electricity production. GAO reported on the energy-water nexus between three issues:
1. biofuel and water
2. thermoelectric power plants and water and plans to report on
3. oil shale and water later.
Most of the ethanol produced in the US is 98% from corn produced in the Midwest; the rest is soybeans. While data for corn ethanol and water use is somewhat known, little is known about the next generation of feedstocks such as cellulose or algae produced on the large scale. Water use for corn ethanol has a wide range from 7 to 321 gallons of water needed at the corn production stage per gallon of ethanol produced. The higher levels of water use are for areas where irrigation is applied. About 3 gallons of water per gallon of ethanol produced are needed at the conversion process. Breeding corn to use less fertilizer and to be more drought tolerant could reduce the impact of corn-ethanol on water and other resources. Improvement in corn ethanol production has reduced the consumption of water but corn ethanol production uses freshwater from local aquifers some of which are not replenished.
Cellulosic feedstocks include annual or perennial crops such as switchgrass, forage sorghum, and miscanthus; agricultural residues such as corn stover (the cobs, stalks, leaves, and husks of corn plants); and forest residues such as forest thinnings or chips from lumber mills. While there are some pilot cellulosic ethanol projects, there are no commercial-scale facilities in the US. Federal renewable fuel standards for 2010 require cellulosic ethanol. The Department of Energy is funding four small biorefineries for $272 million to use cellulosic feedstocks.
While many assume that perennial feedstocks such as grasses will rely on rain, others suggest that additional yield gains will require irrigation putting increased pressure on water supply depending on geographic areas such as the depleting Ogallala Aquifer serving eight states such as Nebraska. Using corn stover and other agricultural waste will reduce organic material returned to the soil reducing soil quality, increasing need for fertilizer and increasing sediment runoff into streams, rivers and lakes. Researchers are working on developing data to indicate how much residue needs to be left and what else needs to be known to produce cellulosic feedstocks in a sustainable way.
Algae can produce oil for refining into biodiesel with a potential to yield 10 to 20 times per acre of other feedstocks. Cultivation can be in open ponds or enclosed systems. Algae selected for high oil content may need to be produced in closed systems to prevent the regular algae from taking over the pond. Even less is known about algae than cellulosic feedstocks. Algae can be grown in low quality water which is an advantage. Some of the issues still to be addressed:
For cellulosic conversion, current estimates are for 1.9 to 5.9 gallons of water per gallon of ethanol depending on the technology. Siting facilities should consider the impact on the local aquifers.
More research is needed on storage and distribution of biofuels. Ethanol is highly corrosive so is a serious risk for damage to pipelines, underground and above-ground storage tanks which may lead to releases polluting underground and other water sources. Regulations mandating higher fuel blends may lead to incompatibility of biofuels with existing infrastructure such as tank systems.
Thermoelectric uses fuels including coal, natural gas, nuclear materials e.g. uranium, or the sun to heat water into steam which turns a turbine connected to a generator which produces electricity. Water is used to cool the steam so it turns back into water for reuse. Water may also be used for purposes such as in pollution control equipment. Such electricity plants accounted for 39% of freshwater withdrawals in the US in 2000 although the actual water consumed is less.
One advanced cooling technology using air instead of water was found in use which reduced the freshwater use at thermoelectric power plants. This technology however, may increase the cost of building the plant, use more land, and consume more electricity to operate. The technology may provide benefits of reducing costs and challenges associated with use of water and allow the siting of the facility where water is in short supply. Currently, the forms collected by regulators from power plants doesn't include the listing of this technology so nobody knows how commonly it is installed in the US.
Other water sources could also reduce freshwater use. Examples are effluent from sewage treatment plants or industrial water such as from extracting oil and gas. They have the disadvantage of requiring treatment to ensure the power plant equipment isn't damaged and create problems about what to do with wastewater no longer needed. The siting of the facility would have to be near the alternate water source. About 38% of power plants were reported in a 2007 report to be using municipal wastewater.  And ditto for regulators not collecting this information from power plants.

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The European Union has a mandatory target of 20% share of total energy consumption supplied by renewables in the Community by 2020 and a mandatory 10% of renewable energy in transport consumption by all Member States by 2020.
The EU-27* had 65 GW of wind power capacity installed by the end of 2008 supplying 4.2% of the EU electricity demand. The potential for raw wind energy in the EU is large but in practical terms other factors constrain the development. A new report by the European Environment Agency evaluates the environmental and social constraints of wind sector development both on land and offshore including noise, visual impact, death of birds and bats flying into the blades as well as future costs and competitiveness. It highlights the importance of environmental assessment impact due to wind energy on a large scale being relatively new leading to considerable gaps in knowledge.
The calculations excluded areas protected for biodiversity from potential siting for wind farms. Environmental constraints reduced the wind energy potential by less than 14% although social constraints such as public objection to the visual impact could reduce the potential further onshore. Limits on offshore sites include shipping lanes, military areas, offshore oil and gas, protected areas and tourist areas. The offshore constraints reduced the potential for offshore by more than 90%. Despite these constraints, economically competitive wind power in 2020 is expected to be more than three times the projected demand in 2020. The costing does not include the support systems, for example, major expansion of wind power requires extensions and upgrades of transmission and distribution grids and power flow to balance electricity generation and consumption. While the report examines the issues on the European scale (the EU27, Norway, Turkey and Switzerland), it suggests more assessment is needed of impacts at the regional, national and local scale in order to make decisions about wind farms. There are many uncertainties in physical, technological and economic variables but the most uncertain are human choices in the social and political area.
One of areas of environmental constraint discussed is biodiversity,

Among the potential negative issues associated with wind power development on biodiversity are:
Among the positive benefits of wind energy developments are:
The report explores some of the policies relating to biodiversity and wind farms:
Comprehensive and long-lasting studies on birds are so rare only one was identified. About 1,500 to 2,300 golden eagles in the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area in California have been killed by collision over 20 years or so. Operating since the 1970s, the number of turbines peaked at 7,300 in 1993 operating in the Coast Range Mountains in California in an area of 150 square km. The death rate in a population of 35,000 to 100,000 birds led to a decline attributed in part due to the wind farm. Other studies have found high numbers of collisions at large wind farms located in mountain regions where birds funnelled through a mountain pass or used wind to rise above mountain ridges during migration. Lower mortality rates have been found elsewhere but it is thought that the methodology of counting carcasses underestimates mortality as scavengers would eat small birds quickly. In German, bird fatality was found to be less than one bird per turbine per year while a few wind farms had more than 50 birds per turbine per year.
Eagles, vultures and some other birds aren't bothered by wind turbines and seem to get killed more by them while geese and waders are disturbed by them and are not commonly killed. However, waders and geese are more likely to be displaced. Even if each turbine has a small displacement impact, cumulatively it is not know what the consequences of such displacement are for breeding and survival.
Bats may not use echolocation which would help them avoid wind turbines when travelling long distances as in migration. One estimate is that there are 16.4 bat fatalities per turbine per year at 16 study sites in Germany.
The most important measure to reduce wildlife impacts are to avoid siting where negative impacts on biodiversity occurs. If prevention cannot avoid negative impacts, measures include alignment so turbines are not perpendicular to the main flight of birds. In some locations, the turbines should be as close together as possible to reduce the overall footprint or be arranged so there is a flight corridor of the right width between clusters of turbines.


Neighbours tend to complain about noise often at night in rural areas where there are low background noise levels. Some studies have indicated that the wind turbine developers have in some cases underestimated the wind speed at the hub which was 2.6 times higher than predicted creating noise levels of 15 decibels higher than expected. High wind speeds at the hub level can mean noise levels above the expected threshold at distances of 500 - 1000 metres quite a bit further than the setback often required for wind turbines.
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Taking Britain as an example, Professor David MacKay does a whole bunch of number-crunching to illustrate the extent of impact and possibilities for alternative energy. His book Sustainable Energy - without the hot air is dedicated to "those who not have the benefit of two billion years' accumulated energy reserves." MacKay is Professor at the Department of Physics at the University of Cambridge and is a member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Climate Change. He discusses current energy consumption (shown as a pink box) and conceivable energy production (shown as a green box) and works out everything from nuclear power plants, cars, planes, wave power and toasters in "kilowatt- hour per day". Usually he expresses this as per person so readers from elsewhere can do the same arithmetic. The book is rich in data and the associated references e.g. how much energy does a transport truck use per tonne-kilometre or what's the embedded energy of PET, how much power can be produced per unit of land by a particular solar unit.

If you think this is some boring (albeit useful) text, think again, MacKay is a very personable writer who writes with verve and vigour yet conveys details about how the energy works, the real-life performance of hybrid cars or electric cars, how to cope with lulls and slews of renewable energy, storage options and so on. Although numbers are key, he provides a lot of detail about current and potential energy sources, including "Stuff". Water is part of "stuff" such as toilets for "taking a pee" and water supply through desalination. Compared to 40 kWh/d per person for the car, he figures making Stuff costs 48+ kWh/d per person and transporting stuff costs 12 kWh/d per person. He is fearless and fascinating especially if one agrees that meaningful numbers and facts are needed to inform.
He develops five plans for Britain. His rough numbers cover wind, hydroelectricity, wave, tide, solar voltaics and thermal panels on roofs. He concludes that neither Britain or Europe can live on its own renewables if what is needed is to supply the average European level of 125 kWh per day per person. "So if the aim is get off fossil fuels, Europe needs nuclear power, or solar power in other people's deserts." Redoing the calculation for North America, he cuts the average North American 250 kWh/day per person to "the misery of living on the mere 125 kWh/d of an average European or Japanese citizen.". In the mix are included wind, offshore wind, geothermal, and hydro and he concludes, "North America's non-solar renewables aren't enough for North America to live on. But when we include a massive expansion of solar power, there's enough. So North America needs solar in its own deserts, or nuclear power, or both." A calculation for the world concludes that one or more solar powers must be in the mix or nuclear or both.

MacKay, David JC Sustainable Energy - without the hot air. Cambridge, England:UIT Cambridge Ltd, 2009.
[Although GL paid for the hardcover and GL readers can pay by ordering on the website, this is a free book]

Increasingly one sees labels on products related to the energy used to produce them. One example is for Cascades Tissue Group bathroom tissue, paper towels , paper napkins and wipers headed by Powered by change, "The first towel & tissue brand made with 100% green-e certified wind-generated electricity. Clean. Renewable. Emission-free."
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