Friday, April 18 2014

Tag » renewable energy

Canada can lead international reform on energy subsidies, says leader of International Institute for Sustainable Development

Bullfrog Power has long advocated that subsidies on fossil fuel-based energy generation be reduced. Subsidies help feed a reliance on polluting forms of energy generation (and energy waste) and do not motivate Canadians to develop or champion alternate (currently, more expensive) renewable energy options.

Franz Tattenbach, president and CEO of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, recently made a case in the Toronto Star for subsidy reform. According to Tattenbach’s article, reform has the potential to bring about two critical benefits:

  • It’s a powerful solution to climate change. The phase-out of subsidies for fossil fuels could provide over 40 per cent of the greenhouse gas reductions required by 2020 to limit the global temperature rise to around 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
  • Subsidy reform is good economic policy. With the current subsidies, governments are giving $312 billion of taxpayers’ money annually to fossil fuel producers. Governments give producers an additional $100 billion annually. Eliminating subsidies would allow these funds to be directed towards much more sustainable uses including transitioning to a low-carbon economy.

Tattenbach also thinks that Canada is in a position to lead on subsidy reform. All of our political parties have in one way or another supported reform, and the country, through its membership in the G20, has agreed with the international community that action is required. Further, Tattenbach states, “As the one of the world’s largest producers of oil and gas, Canada’s commitment to act on this issue positions it as a credible leader in international discussions and negotiations on subsidy reform…”

The article was written and published prior to the recent election. Is there a good chance the author’s vision will come to fruition in this new parliament – or is he being optimistic?

Tom Heintzman
President, Bullfrog Power

Posted on May 9, 2011

Increasing energy efficiency in China: uncovering the hidden costs of energy

This morning’s Globe & Mail article on China’s order to close more than 2,000 antiquated and energy intensive factories is a strong reminder that the developing world understands that the world is transitioning to a low-carbon economy, in which energy prices will take into account the costs to health and the environment – costs that are currently hidden.

The Globe reports that China has ordered more than 2,000 iron, steel, cement and other energy intensive factories be shut down by the end of September. The purpose of the order is to ensure that China increases its energy efficiency and also transitions to cleaner production methods. The order will help China achieve its goal of improving energy efficiency by 20% in 2010 compared to 2005 levels.

The order is noteworthy on several fronts. It will certainly have an impact on the economy, but the Chinese are prepared to accept that short-term loss in order to support a longer-term transition to more efficient modes of production. The number of factories and industries covered, as well as the speed with which the order must be complied, also stand out.

Two other points in the story are worthy of note because they emphasize that the Chinese understand the world is moving to a low-carbon economy, in which energy efficiency will be very important and energy will be priced appropriately. First, China’s Minister Of Industry And Information Technology, Li Yizhong, is quoted as saying of the plants and factories being ordered to close: “They reflect the very crude and quantitative mode of economic growth.” This comment implicitly recognizes the importance of full cost accounting, where the health and environment costs of production are considered, rather than overlooked as an economic externality. Second, China is aggressively removing subsidies from the cost of electricity. Last week, China’s National Development and Reform Commission announced that it had ordered 22 provinces to stop providing electricity at discounted rates to high-energy consumption industries such as aluminum.

At Bullfrog, we are always interested in uncovering the ways in which energy is being subsidized here in Canada, as well as around the world. Increasingly, we’re seeing a commitment to identifying those hidden health and environmental costs that aren’t reflected in the price of energy. Which subsidies or economic externalities are you most concerned about? Can you point us to specific examples, and help us quantify the value of the subsidy?

Tom Heintzman
President, Bullfrog Power

Posted on August 10, 2010

Carbon tax to drive domestic productivity and strengthen trade with Europe, according to new article in the Toronto Star

We encourage you to check out the article “Hamilton: It’s time to talk carbon taxes” in yesterday’s edition of the Toronto Star.  In this bold article, the Star’s Energy and Technology Columnist Tyler Hamilton takes a strong position on a carbon tax—as a solution to Canada’s innovation and productivity challenges (Hamilton cites the report, Carbon Pricing, Innovation and Productivity, the subject of our last blog post), as a better alternative than a cap-and-trade system when it comes to energy and climate change policy, and as a transparent and effective program that has simply been undersold to Canadians.

The article also points out that carbon pricing is vital to maintaining our healthy—and growing—trade relationships with Europe. Our inaction on the environment, on the other hand, may hinder international trade, affecting the success of Canadian exports in Europe. From the article:

The European Union, which had already committed to reducing its greenhouse-gas emissions to 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, now plans to increase that target to 30 per cent below 1990 levels. Canada’s goal is a laughable 2.5 per cent below 1990 levels.

This huge gap – let’s call it a “carbon gap” – could cause some major trading pain with Canada’s second-most important trading partner, which is growing tired of doing all the heavy lifting on the climate-change file. In fact, it has led to calls within the EU for serious consideration of border adjustments, which are taxes (tariffs) imposed on goods imported from non-EU countries, such as Canada, that have less stringent greenhouse-gas controls.

Read the full article here and let us know what you think.

Tom Heintzman
President, Bullfrog Power

Posted on July 6, 2010

Transitioning to a more renewable Canada

At Bullfrog Power, our vision is for a Canada, that one day, in the not so very distant future, runs almost entirely on renewable energy. We know it sounds a little crazy at first, but it is technically possible. Canada has abundant renewable energy resources. Cost and energy storage have been the big barriers. These barriers are beginning to fall.  Even transportation fuel, always the hardest challenge, is transforming, as the transportation sector is starting to  invest in new vehicles (such as EVs) and fuels (such as bio-diesel and even bio-jet fuel).

Smart businesses and investors know that energy infrastructure that made sense in 1970 won’t make sense in 2030. That’s why it is interesting to see TransCanada Corp transforming itself from a focus on fossil fuel pipelines to renewable energy “pipelines”.  A case in point is the progress it is making on a $3-billion (U.S.) project to move renewable electricity from Wyoming to where it is needed in Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Phoenix.

It is very interesting to watch as traditional energy companies use their traditional competencies – such as asset management, financing and ability to partner with developers – to enter new markets for renewable power. Enbridge announced intentions to increase investment into electricity a few weeks ago. We look forward to seeing more established energy players participate in the transition to a renewable energy future.

Greg Kiessling
Co-founder, Bullfrog Power

Tom Heintzman
President, Bullfrog Power

Posted on May 26, 2010

Reflecting on our health and the real cost of conventional energy generation

Tom HeintxmanRespiratory problems have long been associated with pollution from the burning of fossil fuels, but new research now indicates impacts on cardiovascular health as well. Recently, the American Heart Association announced strong evidence that the use of fossil fuels may be a contributing factor in cardiac disease – read more here. The group says that when fossil fuels are combusted for things like electricity generation or transportation, fine particle matter can enter the body, disrupt cardiac activity, and provoke heart attacks and strokes.

One of the themes of our Pay More for Energy campaign is the concept that conventional energy is artificially cheap. This is in part because of the many subsidies given to the oil, gas and nuclear industries. Equally important, however, is the concept of economic externalities.

Externalities are costs that are not included in the price of a product or service. In the context of electricity, examples of externalities include the health and environmental costs to society that result from the burning of fossil fuels. For instance, our discussion paper refers to evidence from the Toronto Board of Public Health demonstrating that air pollution caused by, among other things, coal-fired electricity generation results in respiratory illnesses affecting tens of thousands of Torontonians each year. The costs associated with caring for people with respiratory illnesses are not reflected in the price we pay for electricity.

Just like illness and hospitalization resulting from pollution-related respiratory disease, the costs associated with caring for people who have had heart attacks and strokes are not reflected in the price we pay for conventional energy. If the price for conventional energy included these costs, it would be significantly more expensive and renewable electricity would start to look much more affordable in comparison.

Tom Heintzman
President, Bullfrog Power

Posted on May 17, 2010