What a fantastic week. I’ve made significant progress in my work, I met the US Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, went sledding in the Alps, AND went to the Geneva Motor Show. I swear I am interning and doing research out here.. I swear!.
Let’s start with the fun stuff: Policy making….
This last week, I spent most of it reading many, many, many different reports from International Energy Agency (IEA), International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21), and scholarly works. All of the reports dealt with existing/proposed/hybrid policy mechanisms that promote the uptake of renewable energy, example case studies, and basically tried to provide some sort of road map for implementation. Which is exactly what I have to do but specific to the 56 countries within the UNECE.
As it turns out that maybe I have (and I hope many of my fellow Patel Colleagues) have actually learned a thing or two about renewable energy policies. As I am reading I am saying to myself… “oh yeah!…. Hey I remember that!… wait, that is not what Dr. Philippidis said about subsidies”….. just kidding! It felt pretty great to read through the vast amounts of material, understand (most of) it. One tasks I had coming out of this research, was writing up a case study on the most popular policy mechanisms within the UNECE region. After doing some data crunching, turns out that Feed-in Tariffs (FIT) and Competitive Tendering are some of the most common tools used by member states. Now I needed to do some MORE research to find information on prime examples of these tools being utilized in a member state.
To cut to the chase, turns out France recently had great success with competitive tendering; between 2011-present, France has had two calls for proposals that yielded significant project proposals. Between the two rounds, France was able to secure six GW of offshore wind energy by 2020, while creating over 16,000 jobs in the construction, transportation, and maintenance of the wind farms. The tendering process allows for competitors to offer up their lowest price to build and maintain the wind farm, by optimizing all costs of the enterprise, thus, creating the most affordable per kWh price to consumers.
In Britain, they’ve had incredible success in the implementation of a Feed-in Tariff scheme. Essentially, if someone would like to install up to five MW of renewable/low carbon producing energy systems, the owner of the system is guaranteed a premium per KWh price for energy produced and supplied into the electrical grid. To highlight the success of this law, within the first year, solar PV installations increased by 500% the first year, and another 300% the second year. Holy cow, that is crazy! In two short years UK went from having 40 GWh in 2010 (before the law was passed) to 1188 GWh in 2012……
The case studies were fun to do in the sense that I reviewed some real great examples but now it’s time to get down to brass tacks. I’ve done a lot of research, but now I need to start thinking about this “Menu of Technology and Policy Options”. Essentially, I need to research how can I outline all of the various technology options, the policy mechanisms, and the key elements of nations that contribute the most to promoting renewable energy technologies. The end result should be something in which a polcymaker or anyone can look at and say, “well, I want more solar in my country” – A drop down of policy options shows up – “hmmm, I do not want to subsidize projects, I don’t want to give out grants, oh! How about this whole feed-in tariff? – Another drop down with best case examples, asking which is most like you? – “well, I would say our country is most like X” – OK, based on your results your country would be best suited to implement a hybrid FIT/tendering system that promotes both large and small scale installations.…. Something like that, except I need to review all the in between parts, figure out how to weight them, and ensure that the option presented is the best option. *Sigh*
On other, pretty great news, I got to meet the US Ambassador to the UNOG!! It’s a great story – last Thursday, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour came to the UN to debate with the High Commissioner on Human Rights along with the High Commissioner on Refugees, regarding the many issues the world is facing now. As this was my first opportunity to go to a fairly high level event, I thought it would be cool to see, plus, the event was being held steps from my office…
I ended up scoring great seats near the front row. A woman approached me and asked, “Are these seats for Ambassadors?”…. “Um what?!” I stuttered a bit and said, “As far as I know, it is reserved for someone important, and I think you may qualify for that.” She laughed, sat down and I immediately asked where she was from, turns out she was the Ambassador of New Zealand! Too cool! After telling her about myself, she said, “Come with me.” She takes me across the isle and she pointed, and said “David, meet your Ambassador” before she could finished I practically shouted, “Madam Hamamoto, what an honor!” They all laughed, and I also had the pleasure of meeting the permanent deputy to the US Mission, Peter Mulrean. Both were incredibly nice, happy to hear of the work I was doing and after a short discussion, we all went back to our seats for the debate… Dude I just met the US UNOG Ambassador, directly appointed by President Obama! Holy Sh**! Too cool. And yes, of course I had to get a picture to prove it.
The Swiss Life – Friends, Fast Cars, and the Alps
To top off a busy week, I got the chance to road trip to Les Dialeblerets in the heart of the Swiss Alps. This stereotypical Swiss mountain town, complete with intricately carved wooden chalets, offered a 4.5mile track down the mountain in a “luge”. Basically, a wooden plank with metal feet that allow you to FLY down the track. I thought the expereince would be very slow, drink in the scenery, and crawl down the mountain…nope. Man, it was a hell of a lot of fun though! The view from the top was absolutely staggering. I thought I had seen some mountains before, but these were monsters compared to anything I’ve ever seen… Enjoy the next few pictures, I think they explain the whole experience better than I can. I’m still speechless.
……Need I really say more? I didn’t think so! And yes, I was there to take those pictures (some were taken with my Portuguese friend’s camera but they are authentic! I swear!
Geneva Motor Show
One thing I have loved my whole life: Cars, very fast one, specifically. This may be taboo in the realm of sustainability and reducing our use of fossil fuels but my one guilty please has always been cars. My M.O. has always been, if you are going to inefficient with gas, you might as well be traveling over 200mph… but I digress. The motor show was crazy, automakers big and small were there, and a lot that I have read about but are not offered in the USA, which was pretty cool to see.
This year, apparently, was the year of alternative fuel vehicles. Each maker had at least 2-3 hybrid or electric vehicles and these were drawing nearly equal attention as the myriad of hyper cars that were there. However, one of the most intriguing items at the show was not a car at all, it was a tire produced by Goodyear. The tire, made from recycled rice husks, was engineered to transfer the rolling heat generated during use into electrical energy that would then be stored in the hybrid battery system. Crazy! And just look at it, it looks like something out of a sci-fi film!
Another nice touch at the show was that each car had a little placard that rated the fuel economy and CO2 emission against industry norms. The amount of vehicles in the upper percentile was pretty remarkable. I know we all don’t need cars, and some would be happy to see them go away, but it’s nice to know the cars being manufactured now are more fuel efficient, emit less GHGs and still offer incredible technological features.
Here are some cool shots for the Auto Show. Warning – for those who hate cars that, frankly, could care less about CO2 – avert your eyes. Some of these cars may be disturbing for viewers.
That’s it for now – my next post will be delay because I will be traveling to London AND Paris! I got invited to attend a workshop and meeting in Paris with some fellow UNECE staff, so why not make a weekend out of it? Stay tuned!