Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Grid parity and Copenhagen

Posted by butalidnl on 12 December 2009

The world is about to reach grid parity – that is the point when alternative energy sources, notably solar energy, would cost the same as the energy coming from traditional fossil-fuel sources.  The way that trends are going, this point is expected to be reached between 2012 and 2015.  In the light of this, is it still necessary to come to a world-wide agreement on green house gases?

Grid parity
I think so. For one thing, grid parity is a situation that will stretch out for a long time. As renewables go down in cost, so too would fossil fuels, until they reestablish price parity. This will go on for a long time, and it is quite easy for people to simply stay on the fossil fuel “side of the fence”. However, with binding agreements on reduction of green house gases, energy producers would be pushed to go to renewables – which actually would then cost the same as fossil fuels – when they would otherwise not do.

Another point re grid parity, is that it covers electricity. But global warming is concerned with much more. Take transportation, it will be some time  before cars become mostly electric, so laws on mileage will still be important. Or household heating, this is a big source of greenhouse gases, and this also needs to be tackled. And of course comes industrial processes such as steel making, which require huge amounts of coal to produce. These all go into the CO2 accounting of a country, and will be included in the measures that countries take to lessen greenhouse gases.

Third World
Then, there is the participation of Third World countries in reducing greenhouse gases.  Probably the biggest contribution would be in the countering of deforestation. Forests absorb CO2, and if Third World countries are given sufficient motivation to do so, they will reforest their countries to get necessary cash. Also, many of the world’s deserts are in Third World countries. These deserts are perfect places to place solar power projects.

But beyond this is the possibility of Third World countries to skip the polluting form of development altogether. If Copenhagen or future treaties make this possible, then it would indeed help them achieve development for their peoples without going through the process of polluting the environment first.

Then, there is the question of energy efficiency, which will play a big part in national plans for meeting the CO2 targets. This is independent of grid parity, which is mainly concerned with the generation of energy. Carbon dioxide production will be reduced with increased efficiency. Recycling too would lower green house gases, since with recycling, we save in the energy needed to produce these materials. Even organic wastes becoming compost would save energy, which would have been spent in producing fertilizers.

So, while grid parity would contribute to reducing greenhouse gases esp. in the long run,  the Copenhagen process would help reduce greenhouses gases now in many  different sorts of ways.


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