DOE Secretary Steven Chu and IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri speak at Bright Green by Rebecca Lutzy on 12/14/2009 15:27 0 comments , 739 views Categories: Headline, Carbon and De-carbonization, Politics & Legislation, Green Business, Energy, Energy Investing, Climate Tags: ipcc, department of energy, steven chu, copenhagen, rajendra pachauri, cop15, lutzy_cop15, bright green Last night in Copenhagen, Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Chairman Rajendra Pachauri spoke back-to-back about emissions reductions, low-carbon technologies, and business opportunities at the Bright Green side conference. Both powerful speakers, Chu and Pachauri emphasized the urgency of the climate problem, shared insight about leading low-carbon technologies, and imparted a sense of optimism about the role that the private sector in partnership with governments. Secretary Chu focused on low-carbon technologies and DOE's game-plan for accelerating deployment and market growth of existing and breakthrough solutions. Pachauri spoke about the scientific evidence, the urgency of the problem, and why climate solutions must be a business imperative. Chu spoke first and walked the audience through DOE priority areas - wind, solar, geothermal, transportation, energy storage, advanced biofuels, new nuclear, and carbon capture and storage. "The U.S. goal is 80% emissions reduction by 2050," he said, "requiring research and development, new science, new technologies..." as well as deployment of existing technologies. Solar: Chu spoke at some length about DOE initiatives to spur rapid movement down the "learning curve" to reduce costs of crystalline silicon and thin-film solar PV from $2/Wp to $1/Wp over the next 1-2 years. Batteries and Energy Storage: Chu also emphasized batteries and energy storage. With the U.S. working toward rapid vehicle electrification, he said we need batteries with "5,000 deep discharges" capable of 2Wp/kg (600Wh/kg). He expects a doubling in the energy density of batteries used for transport over the next few years. In the power sector, at greater than 20-25% renewable energy generation we need greater means to store energy and smart grid to deal with variable generation. Compressed air storage (~60% efficiency) and pumped storage (70-85% efficiency) were two technologies Chu highlighted. Bio-energy: DOE is focusing on agricultural waste, wood chips, and energy crops that don't compete with agriculture or require major energy, fertilizer, or water inputs. Chu was animated describing new synthetic biology approaches to scale up advanced biofuels. Based on how rapidly technology development is moving, he predicts quick deployment of the synthetic bioenergy approaches that pan out. Nuclear: "Nuclear has to be part of our energy future," Chu said, but dealt in cursory terms with reducing nuclear waste and solving complex nonproliferation challenges. He sees safety at nuclear plants as a non-issue that's been solved. Carbon capture and storage (CCS): With three-quarters of known coal reserves in the U.S., China, Russia, and Australia, Chu sees coal as part of our energy future. The U.S./DOE has invested $4B in CCS (through Recovery Act), and $7B in matching private funding for deployment. "Our aggressive goal is 8-10 years to commercial CCS deployment," Chu said. "Whether this happens or not I don't know, but that's our goal." In closing, Chu shared three examples of breakthrough technologies funded under ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy): 1) Mg/Sb batteries that separate charge by density (prototype works) and could store electricity off the grid at $50/KWh; 2) synthetic enzymes modeled after human respiration enzyme to absorb and release pure CO2 without paying huge CCS energy penalty (needs to work in flue gas environment), and 3) grasses bio-engineered to activate enzymes that degrade cellulose after harvest for biofuels. ----- Pachauri began by calling Chu "a good friend" and "a hard act to follow," and said that "the business community has to be deeply concerned about climate." He quoted WBCSD President Bjorn Stigson - "business cannot succeed in a society that fails" - and highlighted the real danger of failures across societies, with increased floods, droughts, heatwaves, and economic impacts that require businesses to act. Pachauri spoke specifically about business vulnerabilities from sea level rise, a climate impact that "has an enormous amount of inertia," because even if we cut emissions dramatically today, we're locked in to significantly higher sea levels, and business may find it difficult to remain in operation in low-lying areas. With greater optimism, he spoke about business opportunities and the "capability of technology to bring about a major transformation of human society," comparing the coming social transformation to the "magic of agriculture" (green revolution) and the industrial revolution. He used his home country India's recent Cabinet approval of solar energy policy provisions for the development of 20,000 megawatts of solar capacity over the next 11 years as an example, and asked the audience to imagine the cost, complexities, and opportunities associated with similar clean energy initiatives across the globe. He pointed to examples in Denmark, Germany, and Japan of proactive acceleration of large-scale renewable energy without negative economic effects at lower costs than expected. "All of this will happen in the next 10-15 years," he emphasized, because stabilizing temperatures at 2 degrees C above today will require emissions to peak no later than 2015. The business community needs to act as quickly as possible. Pachauri also spoke of the need for a "new process of dialogue between government, businesses, and civil society...we need a great deal of commitment on all three sides if we really want to see the kinds of innovations discussed in Secretary Chu's talk." He concluded by saying that "I believe that you cannot rely purely on the nation state to solve this gigantic problem of climate change." Grassroot, business, and other actions are all needed to provide the momentum and move things in the right direction. Although implied, neither Pachauri nor Chu spoke about the gap that will widen between business winners and losers with the global transformation they envision. Those companies that have gotten out ahead - including companies like Siemens and GE and innovative start-ups - will have increasing opportunities. Companies behind the times in their approach, products, and services will likely fall further behind as government policies and regulations tighten globally.