Energy Business Groups Call for Protection of American Energy Transition and Opportunities to Improve Trade Relations with China
Washington, DC – A coalition of energy groups submitted written comments on May 11 to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to express the concerns of a broad range of U.S. energy interests regarding the potential impact of proposed trade tariffs with China on the growing American clean energy industry.
The groups, which include the Advanced Energy Economy (AEE), the Alliance to Save Energy, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE), spoke to the strength of the clean and advanced energy and energy efficiency resources in the United States, representing $200 billion of economic activity and employing more than 3 million workers across the country.
“Energy-efficient products help consumers and businesses save energy and money, and we should be thinking of ways to increase those opportunities, not hinder them. Unfortunately, these proposed tariffs would make it more difficult and more expensive for Americans to access the long-term savings of these energy-saving technologies,” said Alliance to Save Energy President Jason Hartke. “Moreover, the U.S. energy efficiency industry, and the more than two million jobs it supports, uses many of these products to deliver energy savings and we don’t want to see that success disrupted or that industry weakened. It is important that the administration understand the potential negative effects of tariffs on energy efficiency.”
“Businesses in the energy efficiency, natural gas and renewable energy sectors are committed to growing the U.S. clean energy economy and are participants in the global economy – with component providers and customers throughout China,” commented BCSE President Lisa Jacobson. “We recognize that the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) is a critical component of business operations and development in any country, and fundamental to energy innovation. We seek opportunities to work with the Trump administration and Chinese government leaders to implement improved trade relations.”
Costa Rica’s vision is to become “a laboratory for the world’s economy deep decarbonization process, working with civil society, the private sector, academia, and the international community…” With this vision come enormous business opportunities for American clean energy technologies and low-carbon transportation solutions. Earlier this year Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) members and GHG Engineering, LLC, met with the Embassy of Costa Rica to discuss these potential opportunities.
Here are some facts that reflect Costa Rica’s accomplishments, challenges, and opportunities for decarbonization in both the power generation and the transportation sectors.
This Central American country, somewhat smaller than Switzerland and roughly twice the size of Vermont, has achieved notable sustainable development goals in the electric generation sector by historically generating most of its electricity from renewable sources. In 2015 and 2016 Costa Rica generated about 98% of its electricity (10,700 GW-h, 2015) from hydroelectric, geothermal, wind, and biomass energy resources.
In 2007, Costa Rica pledged to be carbon neutral by 2021. It is also a country that has a transportation sector that is close to 100% dependent on (imported) fossil fuels, creating a an almost impossible hurdle to meeting this goal of carbon neutrality by 2021. However, Costa Rica has recently recognized that realistically it will take decades not years to accomplish carbon neutrality.
In 2015 Costa Rica consumed close to 307 million gallons of gasoline, approximately 8% more than in 2014, driven by an increased number of automobile imports. The approximate carbon emissions from 2015 gasoline consumption equates to about 2.73 million metric tonnes CO2e. As of 2016, Costa Rica had about 915,000 automobiles. Of significance is that the diesel related CO2e emissions for the same period were about 1.3 times that of gasoline. Diesel is mostly used by light and heavy trucks, and public transportation buses.
The energy contained in the gasoline consumed by Costa Rica in 2015 equates to about 10,150 GW- h which is about the same amount of electricity generated by entire power sector. However, because of the increased efficiency of electrical vehicles, GHG Engineering has estimated that to electrify Costa Rica’s 2016 automobile fleet, about 3,000 GW-h/year of new generation would be needed. To supply this additional electricity, approximately 500 land based wind turbines (2 MW each) would be needed and such an installation is estimated to require 150 km2 of land or about 0.3 % of Costa Rica’s territory. The equivalent solar facility would occupy an estimated 50 km2. All these figures should be considered preliminary estimates.
Solar energy as a percentage of the electrical generation mix is less than 0.2%, which is considered very low for a country like Costa Rica. The National Institute of Electricity reported that the 2015 residential (not utility scale) solar electricity generation potential of Costa Rica was about 0.220 GW-h/year which is nil compared to the total electrical energy consumption. Therefore, it would appear that there is a significant solar electrical power generation potential in Costa Rica that is untapped.
One of the takeaways from the meeting at the Embassy of Costa Rica was the need to better understand Costa Rica’s transportation sector in terms of factors including energy consumption, infrastructure, transportation modes, and the regulatory environment. It was also discussed that an effective and sustainable transportation sector is vital to the country’s economic growth.
The author believes that to achieve carbon neutrality within the next decades Costa Rica will need to approach decarbonization of its transportation sector (and other sectors) by developing and implementing a plausible low carbon development plan (LCDP). This means that Costa Rica’s aspiration of carbon neutrality by 2021 will most likely not be achieved in the next four years. But it can be achieved within a few decades through careful planning and unwavering stakeholder support.
In very broad terms, a low carbon development plan (LCDP) is a multi-stakeholder and multisector undertaking that defines and evaluates different plausible economic development scenarios that can significantly reduce a country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while decoupling emissions and energy demand from long term economic growth and population well-being.
A complete LCDP typically includes the analysis of the transportation, household, power generation, industrial, and agricultural sectors. A LCDP links all these economic sectors and is often developed for planning horizons spanning 20, 30 and/or 50 years. To be successful, a transportation focused LCDP will require political will and tenacity, intensive stakeholder participation, and viable funding mechanisms, among others. This will be a difficult undertaking but certainly not insurmountable.
About the Author
John A. Mosheim, P.E.,CEM, GHG Engineering, LLC
GHG Engineering is an engineering consulting firm specializing in water conservation, greenhouse gas emissions management, and sustainability. The ideas and comments expressed in the blog are the author’s alone, and should not be construed as anything else. Additionally, the author bears the responsibility for any potential inaccuracies. John can be reached at jam[at]ghgengineering.com with any comments.