President's Message 1st Quarter 2016

By Robert Thornton posted 06-16-2017 20:35

  

From District Energy Magazine, First Quarter, 2016


Juan Ontiveros

The United Nations 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) was the largest single gathering of countries in recorded history. Never before have so many heads of state come together collectively to address a single issue. The two-week conference culminated Dec. 12 with the signing of a historic agreement by 195 nations to limit emissions of greenhouse gases in order to mitigate climate change. Frankly, it is remarkable that a unanimous global agreement was achieved, calling for transparency, regular review periods, and the sharing of responsibility between developed and developing nations. Had one party declined approval, the whole agreement would have collapsed, much like the calamity of COP15 in Copenhagen, which I witnessed firsthand in 2009. From my view, the Paris Agreement is a very positive outcome for district energy/CHP, requiring that we redou­ble our efforts to leverage favorable policies to accelerate the growth of district energy systems. Personally, this moment of global agreement punctuates my career in clean energy since 1978 and provides for me a defining pivot from the noise and nonsense of denial to a dedicated focus on deployment of proven district energy solutions. I agree with former Gov. Schwarzenegger that we must get on with it.

IDEA was invited to participate in COP21 by the United Nations Environment Pro­gramme (UNEP) and ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability with whom we have part­nered on the District Energy in Cities Initiative. IDEA released a special video for COP21 and I was honored to provide opening remarks and moderate a panel discussion involving Maryke van Staden of ICLEI; the Hon. Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh, mayor of Malmö, Sweden; Peter Krahl Rydberg, environmental strategist of the city of Gothenburg, Sweden; Anne Hunt, environ­mental policy director, city of St. Paul, Minn.; and industry leaders Ahmad Bin Shafar, CEO of Empower Energy Solutions, Dubai, UAE, and Paul Voss, managing director of Euroheat & Power, Brussels. The panel session highlighted the variety of innovative solutions within our industry and around the globe.

In Malmö, 90 percent of the residences use district energy, 60 percent of which comes from recovered waste heat. In Gothenburg, an industrial port city, district heating service sup­plants idling ship boilers when docked at port and surplus heat from local industry provides baseload community energy, strengthening the circular economy. In St. Paul, regional wood waste has displaced over 240,000 tons per year of coal use, dramatically cutting emis­sions and nearly doubling efficiency through district energy/CHP. In just 10 years, Dubai has deployed over one million tons of district cooling capacity to literally halve peak electric demand and displace substantial downstream emissions. Anne Hunt of St. Paul was kind enough to offer a timely shoutout inviting the audience to IDEA2016 which St. Paul will be hosting this spring.

Unlike prior COP sessions, this was argu­ably the first time that subnational entities, such as cities and the business community, had a substantial voice to influence the process. Mayors from 440 cities around the world gath­ered for a "Day of Action" to demonstrate their common interest in climate mitigation and adaptation. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Paris Mayor Hidalgo were quite prominent during COP21, making the case that mayors must be pragmatic and solutions-oriented. Cities hold 53 percent of global population, consume 70 percent of the world's energy and produce over 80 percent of global economic activity. Many of the recognized "Cli­mate Cities" like New York, Paris, Copenhagen, Malmö, Vancouver and Boston fully embrace district energy and their leaders appreciate the advantages it brings to their communities.

Mayors readily acknowledge their direct responsibility to citizens for the impacts of climate change including more frequent and severe weather events, increased flooding, economic disruption and risk to constituent safety. They are sharing technology and financing strategies while mobilizing decisive actions to cut emissions and harden infrastructure. Here in the U.S., where partisan bickering in Congress often delays federal action, municipalities and states will likely drive infrastructure investment.

During the summit, Mayor Bloomberg announced the aggregate impact of city commitments to the Compact of Mayors - the world's largest coalition of cities committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and tracking progress. C40 Cit­ies released a video outlining Bloomberg's vision that Compact-committed cities can deliver half of the potential global urban greenhouse gas emissions reduc­tions available by 2020. Reflecting on the historic COP21 agreement, Bloomberg reiterated his belief that future success will be contingent upon city action.

"This groundbreaking agreement on climate action - together with the com­mitments made by cities and businesses around the world - sets the world on a new and hopeful pathway," Bloomberg said. "The agreement not only unites all nations in the battle against climate change, it also sends a clear signal to markets about the direction of govern­ment policy, which will help spur greater private-sector investment in low-carbon technology. Like any agreement, it's not perfect, but it also includes a built-in remedy that many city leaders strongly supported: regular re-evaluations of national goals and transparent report­ing of progress, to ensure that we are on track to hand a safer, healthier and more prosperous world to our children."

Previous climate agreements have required developed economies to take action to mitigate greenhouse gas emis­sions, but exempted developing coun­tries such as China and India, from such action. The Paris Agreement requires action in some form from every country, rich or poor. The primary aim is to begin leveling off the rise in fossil fuel emis­sions enough to stave off an increase in atmospheric temperatures of 2 degrees C (3.6 F). That is the tipping point at which, scientists say, the planet will be locked into a future of devastating effects from global warming. The new accord sets a schedule for those countries to return to the negotiating table every five years with plans that would ratchet up the stringency of their existing polices. Moni­toring and verification are also required.

Some elements of the accord are voluntary, while others are legally bind­ing. That hybrid structure was specifically designed to ensure support from the U.S. An accord with legally binding targets would be interpreted as a new treaty and thus subject to Senate ratification, an unlikely scenario in today's political climate. As a result, all language relating to the reduction of carbon emissions is voluntary, assigning no concrete targets to any country. Instead, each govern­ment has crafted a plan detailing how it would lower emissions at home, based on what each head of state believes is feasible given the country's political and economic situation. Heading into Paris, many multinational corporations, includ­ing large oil and mining concerns, also signed onto compacts calling for a deci­sive, transparent global agreement that would provide clarity and consistency to enable longer-term investments to lower carbon emissions and drive the transition from a fossil-based economy.

Similarly, here in the U.S., utilities and industry alike foresee the impact of policies like the Clean Power Plan accelerating a transition to cleaner, more distributed generation. During 2015, IDEA worked in collaboration with groups like the Urban Sustain­ability Directors Network, EcoDistricts, Microgrid Resources Coalition and C40 Cities to expand awareness and develop more capacity for district energy and microgrids. We signed an MOU with parties from Korea, China, Mongolia and the EU to collaborate on district energy/ CHP deployment. Our members across the Middle East are driving expansion of district cooling. Looking ahead to 2016, IDEA anticipates signing MOUs with the Edison Electric Institute to collaborate on district energy/CHP deployment; with ASHRAE on multiple provisions; and with the U.S. Green Building Council on treatment of district energy in LEED and accelerating adoption of PEER for more resilient, sustainable energy grids. We plan to expand our activities with UNEP and ICLEI to work together on appropri­ate capacity building and policies.

District energy is definitely on the radar of city leaders, planners and policy makers, as well as those organizations actively supporting clean energy evolu­tion. It will be important for IDEA members to be actively involved in these con­versations, bringing to bear experience and operational insight if we are to be effective partners in accelerating district energy deployment. The offshore wave of momentum I mentioned in this column a year ago is cresting with new-found power and urgency. It feels like this next (final?) chapter in my career will be marked by tangible progress, meaningful results and accelerated investment. We have worked hard to earn this opportunity and, like the Governator, I look forward to what the future will bring.



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