Pubblicato il 05/07/2016

Energy & Environment Post


Here below we publish parts of the opening speech held by Corrado Clini, the Italian former Minister for the Environment, at the “Urban Ecology and Energy Conservation” conference organized by Tongji University of Shanghai on 7th June 2016. 

China’s 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) 
“Development remains the number one priority, but development that is innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared”. By 2021, the country aims at achieving another doubling of its economic size and per capita GDP over 2010 level, and officially enters middle-class country league. China will actually reduce its carbon intensity 48 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and it has already made substantial progress under the 12th Five-Year Plan, surpassing its targets for energy intensity (down 18.2 percent) and carbon intensity (down 20 percent), according to official figures. Consumption of coal leveled off in 2014, and declined by an estimated 3.7% in 2015, China is investing in clean energy and installing wind and solar power at world-record levels, making the country the global leader in solar power capacity last year. China leads the world in the deployment of renewable energy; in 2015, the country invested some US$110 billion — twice as much as the United States. 


Total carbon emissions in China already equal the emissions from the U.S. and the E.U. combined, however, the per capita emissions are still significantly lower than that of the U.S., but are approaching the average level of the E.U. countries. Given the magnitude and growth rate of China's carbon emissions, the country has become a critical partner in developing policy approaches to reducing global CO2 emissions. About twenty-five percent of China's carbon emissions are caused by manufacturing products that are consumed abroad. These, so-called virtual emissions, which are "embodied" in international trade, lead to China having the world's most unbalanced virtual emissions trade with its emissions associated to exports being 8 times higher than its emissions associated with imports. 

New research argues that rapid growth in China’s carbon dioxide emissions is a thing of the past. Many specialists now think that Chinese emissions are already nearing their peak, or perhaps have even levelled off — well ahead of schedule. (Nature,531,425, 24 March 2016).  
Nevertheless fired coal power&heating plants are still the main source of the emissions affecting the urban environment, together with traffic. 


Reducing pollution drives good health 
There is evidence that reducing the sources of pollution drives improvements in health. In Beijing , during the 2008 Olympic Games, the efficient city management, the intelligent transportation system adopted to meet the population and the visitors demand, the traffic control, the reduction of the pollution sources from the industrial activities and from housing, the improvement of the quality of fuels for energy services, achieved positive outcomes in the air quality and a significant reduction in black carbon and exhaled nitric oxide, a biomarker of acute respiratory inflammation, in schoolchildren. In general, all the available informations on air quality and health of population show that the figures are better in comparison with periods before and after. 

By 2030, 60 percent of the world’s population will live in cities, up from about 50 percent today 70% of primary energy consumption and 80% of global greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions are derived from cities, 30% of it from transportation and about 40% from buildings&housing. According to WHO, air pollution in the urban areas, the other «side» of GHG emissions, is responsible in 2014 of seven million premature deaths. By 2030 it is expected that more than two billion people, mostly living in cities in emerging economies, particularly China and India, are likely to improve their economic situation. This will drive the increasing demand: for energy supply of heating, cooling, lighting, electric devices; of cars, mainly in the emerging economies: cars are expected to increase from about 70 million a year in 2010 to 125 million by 2025. Today’s 1.2 billion global car fleet could double by 2030. 

This is not «the future we want». The challenge is decoupling the economic growth from GHG emissions and pollution, in order to meet the increasing demand of energy and mobility in the cities without affecting the urban and global environment. 

To reduce the risks of air pollution to health, as well as to limit GHG emissions, cross sectoral and long term policies are needed to address the multiple sources of pollution : energy, transportation, housing, management of urban areas. The common background of such policies is mostly the reduction of fossil fuels consumption and the enlargement of carbon sinks. Energy Efficiency and Renewables, together with a re-thinking of urban life, should guide the policies and technologies to address the cities’s challenges in the 3 main areas: Distributed Energy and District Heating systems; Buildings; Mobility.  

Distributed Energy and District Heating Systems. 
Renewable energy sources, hybrid systems combining renewables and natural gas, and hydrogen fuel cells too, power district energy systems that can efficiently supply locally heating, cooling and electricity from networks of buildings up to neighborhoods. Smart grids are the “natural” infrastructure of distributed energy systems. The low carbon content of the systems and the efficiency improve the air quality, reduce emissions and increase energy security. Furthermore, the new “multipurpose ” technologies and batteries to supply energy both to vehicles and at home suggest that the next future of energy in the cities will be more oriented towards local generation and storage systems placed at or near the point of use then to the construction of large, central power plants and high-voltage transmission lines. 

Towards zero Energy buildings 
40% of final energy consumption and 36% of greenhouse gas emissions is in houses, offices, shops and other buildings. According the European Commission (July 2014) “the majority of the energy-saving potential is in the building sector”. The European Directive 2010/31/ requires Member States to "ensure that: (a) by 31 December 2020, all new buildings are nearly zero-energy buildings; and (b) after 31 December 2018, new buildings occupied and owned by public authorities are nearly zero-energy buildings”. A Nearly zero energy building (NZEB) is usually defined as a building which produces enough renewable energy to meet its own annual energy consumption requirements, thereby reducing the use of non-renewable energy in the building sector.
The combination of technologies for energy efficiency and the use on site of renewables is able to meet the requirements of NZEB in the new buildings. The challenge is to restore the existing buildings, built in the last 60 years without any consideration about efficiency and energy saving. Experiences and best practices in the building energy restoration, research and development on the innovative solutions, will help. But incentives to support the costs are necessary, because the work to done in general is not “usual maintenance” : advanced insulation, reduced thermal bridging, air tightness, use of the thermal mass, daylighting and ventilation strategies, energy-efficient lighting and appliances. Besides renewable energy appliances (e.g., thermal collectors, PV). In Italy a credit tax has been introduced to support the investments in “greening” the buildings. 

Mobility - Electric vehicles 
Annual sales of battery-powered electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrids (PHEVs) are expected to increase from about 2.3 million units in 2014 to 11.5 million by 2022, or 11 percent of the global market. Electric power trains can significantly increase the energy efficiency of the car while decreasing the pollutants emitted. In addition, battery costs are falling faster than even the most optimistic predictions, so the economic trends are shifting in favor of EVs in the mid- to long term.The outllook for 2020 is that EVs and PHEVs could be close to, or already will be, cost-competitive with conventional vehicles powered by fossil fuels. While shorter-term forecasts of EV sales remain significantly lower than their less expensive fossil-fuel counterparts.