Gigaton Throwdown


photo: Wikimedia Commons

While attending the two-day “Pathways to a Clean Energy Future” symposium put on by the Philomathia Foundation and U.C. Berkeley last week, I made a note to look up a recent initiative called the “Gigaton Throwdown” that was mentioned by Professor and Senior Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas Fellow Dan Kammen, during his talk.

The Gigaton Throwdown Initiative is essentially a collaboration of a diverse group of academics and business/investment professionals, that spent 18 months looking at what it would take to bring nine clean energy technologies up to a gigaton threshold of power generation (one billion metric tons) by the year 2020. The nine technologies include biofuels, building efficiency, concentrated solar power, construction materials, geothermal, nuclear, plug-in hybrid cars, solar pv and wind. The technologies were selected for the capacity-building study because they already have a market presence and are able to attract investors.

The aim of this exercise, according to the Gigaton Throwdown website, is “to educate and inspire investors, entrepreneurs, business leaders, and policy makers to “think big” and understand what it would take to scale up clean energy massively over the next 10 years.” And really, in the face of the daunting challenges for the future of energy industries and policy, who can’t use the inspiration?

The GTI issued a report documenting the findings of their process. Key points center around the critical need for a cross-collaborative policy and investment framework to assist in the transition to a cleaner energy future.

Read the full report here.

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A few weeks ago, Dan Kammen, who leads the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at UC Berkeley, was appointed by the World Bank to be its first Clean-Energy Czar. At the time, we pointed readers to a couple interviews, which you can read here.

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Cap and Trade


This post is part of our definitions series on “eco-lingo” and technical terms.

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photo credit: David Iliff, Wikimedia Commons

Cap and Trade (C&T) is also known as “pollution credits” or “emissions trading”. The basic premise of C&T is to provide a means for reaching mandatory pollution reduction targets in an incremental (and thus cost-saving) fashion. In a cap and trade system model, a regulatory entity (typically a governmental body) will assign a limit to the amount of pollution that certain high-impact industries can emit. High polluters can then essentially raise the ceiling on their allowable limits by engaging in a specialized market activity, i.e., buying shares or credits from those others who operate below their allowable limits. The regulatory limits are the “cap” and the market activity is the “trade”.

C&T activity is thus designed to reward those industries and companies that are aggressively exceeding their environmental performance goals, while charging a premium to those who do not stay within their assignations (because they have to purchase credits to make up for their overage). The idea is that purchasing pollution credits will literally buy time for polluters to clean up their act, and indeed a C&T program may include “caps” that step down over time to meet tighter standards.

While C&T is not limited to “greenhouse gas emissions” or carbon dioxide, the specialized trading done around these types of pollutants is one common example, and is referred to as a carbon market. Global carbon markets have taken off hugely among European and other nations that have signed the Kyoto Protocol (adopted in 1997, in force as of 2005) pledging targeted reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

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What exactly does “sustainability” mean? How about “green”, “eco” or “environmentally friendly”? The truth is that these terms are just vague enough to mean many different things to many different people. With the staggering array of “green” products, ‘lifestyles’ and concepts being promoted by marketers and environmentalists alike (as well as the necessary coining of new terms to match new ideas) our definition series aims to make sense of the rising tide of “eco-lingo” and technical terms.

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