Dan Delurey op-eds

Archived Op-eds from “Update on DR, DER, and Grid Developments”

Twice a month, the Wedgemere Group publishes the “Update on DR, DER, and Grid Developments.” In each issue of the Update, Wedgemere President Dan Delurey writes an op-ed about his thoughts on electricity sector trends and policy developments. You can view past op-eds by clicking on the links below:

A Hot Topic – May 1, 2017

Do You Really Want What You Want? – April 16, 2017

Of This I Am Certain – March 30, 2017

Winner Take All, Winner Do All? – March 16, 2017

Step On The Gas Or Ease Off? – February 28, 2017

Congress And The Cybersecurity Of Things – February 13, 2017

The Smile Is So Wide I Can See It From Here - January 30, 2017

Alexa – Optimize My Energy Use – January 18, 2017

2017 – For Your Consideration - January 1, 2017

Where I Went Last Week….And Why Aretha Wasn’t There – December 17, 2016

Reactive or Proactive? – December 1, 2016

Electricity, the Election, and Barron Trump – November 13, 2016

Don’t Forget to Put an “E” in Infrastructure – October 26, 2016

Utilities and Innovation – It’s Complicated - October 12, 2016

Another COP?  Another OP? - September 27, 2016

“Secret Codes for Creating Smart Buildings? - September 12, 2016

Slices of Time – August 1, 2016

Cows, Commons and Carbon – July 19, 2016

Competition Part 3: Eating the Pie – July 6, 2016

Making DER Hay While the Sun Shines on Solar – June 20, 2016

Looking for New Revenues? It’s a Great Big World Out There – June 7, 2016

Hamilton and the Future of the Electricity Sector - May 23, 2016

The Next Chapter in the Chronicles of Non – May 10, 2016

Searching for Meaning in the Electricity Space – April 26, 2016

Competition is Dead! Long Live Competition! (Part 2) – April 13, 2016

Competition is Dead! Long Live Competition! (Part 1) - March 29, 2016

Why Is Electricity Resilience So Hard? - March 15, 2016

When 1 + 2 Doesn’t Equal 3 - March 1, 2016

Everybody be Careful and Everybody Will be OK - February 18, 2016

The Supremes Put Out a (DR) Hit - February 2, 2016

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Final Report on Paris – The Nations are United

Dan Delurey Posts from COP-21 in Paris

Monday, December 14

COP-21 – The Nations are United

When I learned on Saturday that a Climate Deal had been agreed to at COP-21 by all 196 nations attending, I had only one regret – that I had had to return to the states before the final “overtime” day and did not get to personally see a gaggle of always-staid and dignified diplomats high-fiving each other.   As I reported at the mid-way point, everyone at the COP thought a deal coming at the end of the two-week process was a certainty, but I also saw a lot of fingers crossed as I walked around the facility at Le Bourget.

So what happened and what does it mean to you and the electricity sector?

First, let’s look at some of what I think are the key elements of the agreement:

Emissions

In a big move at the end, the agreement calls for “efforts” to try to limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100, while effectively committing to a target of 2.0 degrees.

It is important to understand that the crafting of the deal has never talked about about tons of CO2 reduced.  It has relied on a computation that is made that combines tons of CO2 or (CO2-equivalent) reduced combined with other efforts that might create a “sink” and take greenhouse gasses out of the atmosphere, e.g. forest growth and expansion.  That computed number is then tied to outcome scenarios such as sea level rise, icecap melting, etc.  A poignant fact at the COP was that no one disputed this method, and no one disputed that a number of island nations would disappear under the 1.5 degree scenario.  Moreover, no one disputed that the emissions reduction pledges made by countries prior would not even keep things at a 2 degrees scenario unless efforts are wratcheted up beyond what is in the final agreement.

Transparency 

Commitments are great, especially when no one really ever checks to see if you are keeping one that you made.  This was a major issue right up until the end, with a push from the U.S., EU and developing nations for a monitoring process, but also a review of contributions process every five years where nations would have a more serious review.  The five year mark is also discussed as a time when additional contributions might be brought forth if the need for such is demonstrated.

Funding 

Everyone tried to follow the money during the two weeks of COP 21, and as with everything else in life and business, that is a good thing to do.   There was a tremendous amount of anteing up by the private sector and by various governments during the 2 weeks, but everyone knew and agreed that it was not enough.  The final deal has a large target of $100 billion. That money has to come from a lot of places and it has to come fast.  There is not a lot of detail on that in the final deal, and not a lot of teeth for extracting it.  But the mood at the COP was not dampened by the unknowns regarding this issue.

But where will the money necessary for the Global Green Fund and other funding mechanisms come from?  Will it ever come?

To answer the second question first, I personally cannot think of a scenario where it will not happen based on the seriousness of the situation.  That may sound like I am suddenly suffering from blind optimism.  But just as countries and sub-national entities have played chicken and exercised brinkmanship on emissions reductions, they will certainly do the same when it comes to forking over money.  But I look at the funding situation glass as half-empty.  Like a battleship making its well-known slow turn, the Paris Climate Accord is going to cause all sorts of funding channels and mechanisms, both private and public, to shift where money goes, and funding climate mitigation and adaptation is going to rise in the priority ranking.

Is the Deal Real?  Will it Stick?

Can you name the last time 196 nations agreed to the words on any one document?  I can’t.  Given the seriousness of climate change scenarios, I cannot see this deal getting scuttled or getting stuck on shelf.  My view is that it will not only stick but It will be modified to get more aggressive over time as more climate data (and awareness) exists and a greater need for such is identified.

In my earlier post I described the structure of the then-likely deal to be akin to a funding or reduction policy “vehicle” that is often created in Washington.  One established, the gas pedal can be stepped on if the situation calls for it, and/or more fuel can be put in the tank if necessary.  The important thing is that you don’t have to go back and build a new car each time you want to do something or react to something.

Will Countries Cheat on their Commitments and Obligations?

Of course they will try.  But the key thing about COP-21 is that no country was against a deal even before coming in to Paris.  No country at the COP was denying climate change.  No country is unaware that when it comes to climate change, the whole world is now watching the whole world.  And the deal does contain provisions on transparency and reviews.

There is the obvious question of whether a country might simply change politics and adopt a denial position.  But while some in a legislative body (like our Congress) might maintain denial, will a national leader do that in the face of rising public awareness and support for addressing climate change, and see themselves judged for having led their country in the wrong direction?  I think not.   See the recent examples in Australia and Canada (and its province of Alberta) on this point.

So what does all this mean to you as someone involved in the U.S. electricity sector?

Here is my take:

  1. The EPA Clean Power Plan is now embedded even stronger than before based on a global agreement being in place.  The idea that the U.S. should not act on carbon has been fading anyway but now one of the key practical reasons that opponents have used is gone, i.e. that the U.S. would be acting unilaterally and that the rest of the world would be free riders.  Another argument, that it is too costly and uneconomic, also loses more steam as apparently the entire rest of the world would be doing something “non-smart” while we are the only smart ones.  Yes, there is always a strain of isolationism embedded in the U.S. and some will still make the argument that we shouldn’t or don’t need to do anything, but the existence of a global agreement, combined with the data bolsters the CPP and makes it harder to see it go away, even under a new President who may not like it.

One interesting development, based on my numerous discussions in Paris with delegates from other countries, the U.S. may get a lot of visitors in the near future as others look at our CPP and how States are putting together their plans.

  1. Climate is going to increase in prominence as a filter, screen or criteria in all sorts of decision processes and decision-making – including on funding.  One of the things that has been happening somewhat under the radar in recent years is the sharp attention that the financial sector – in particular the insurance industry – has been paying to the risk of climate change.   This started to become more evident over the past year (even at the World Bank) but burst onto the Paris scene with a high degree of visibility.    Financing and issuing insurance is, at it should be, a cold-hearted business that relies on numbers and time periods.   That sector is starting to act based on both when it comes to climate as they further analyze the risks of climate change and the potential for stranded assets.   The potential for stranding of a carbon-based asset, like a coal-fired power plant, is higher than it was before the COP agreement.   You can’t draw a straight line between the two, but the indirect impact will start to show up.
  2. There will be more support for carbon pricing.  As I said in my previous post, this was a main topic of both formal and informal discussions at the COP.   Page 19 of the Agreement includes the following provision:  “recognizes the important role of providing incentives for emission reduction activities, including tools such as domestic policies and carbon pricing”.

To be clear, carbon pricing does not refer only to a carbon tax.  Cap and trade is considered carbon pricing, and there was a lot of discussion about what the governments of Quebec and Ontario, and the State of California have been doing in that area.  The little-known success of the carbon tax in British Columbia was also talked about.

Most people, once they step over the line on the need to address climate change, gravitate towards the sensibility of a carbon tax or some other way to embed carbon pricing. Various business executives over the years, including some prominent ones from the utility industry, have talked of a carbon tax as being something that makes sense if something needs to be done.  I see the Paris agreement as a new platform for some of the groups in the U.S. that have been quietly working behind the scenes to find a way to monetize carbon, whether it be in a CPP State Plan or a change at the national level unrelated to it.

  1. The opportunities for cleantech and smart grid companies abroad ought to increase significantly.   Remember, key to this deal was assuring the developing world (including India, which some say will overtake China at some point as the number one emitter, yet for UN classification purposes is a developing country) that they can join the “developed” world.  Get familiar with the words “energy access”, as that is what these countries will be trying to give their people, while also building their economies and also keeping their emissions in check.   That will be no easy trick, but it opens up a lot of opportunity for U.S. companies.  As I noted in my previous post, one of the things that stood out for me at this COP was the high level of interest among delegations from countries around the world in what the U.S. is doing in areas such as demand response, microgrids, DER, etc.

Part of the post-COP world will be countries trying to refine their individual country plan that they submitted to the UN going into the COP.  They are hopefully taking back some of the ideas and examples they learned about at the COP.   Institutions like the Global Green Fund and the World Bank, and programs like Power Africa and the various efforts of USAID and the U.S. Trade and Development Administration have already talked about how they are gearing up to help.

  1. R&D is getting more validity because of Paris.  Everyone agrees that there is no lack of technology options to address climate change – both in terms of emissions reductions and sequestration.  But in the informal discussions at the COP and in the words there of Bill Gates and his new band of funding brothers, the need for new “things” is becoming accepted as something that will be necessary to reach the 2 degree cap.  That means that the electricity sector is going to be looking at even more technology options coming down the road that will help it lower its emissions further and better optimize its operations.
  1. The COP raised the level of awareness of adaptation and resiliency as not just side issues of climate change.  The essence of the agreement is built upon adaptation, particularly in the developing world. My own experience in the U.S. in putting on the National Summit on Smart Grid and Climate Change has been that people were most surprised to find it had a separate track on resilience, and came away from it with increased understanding of how more attention needs to paid to it.  In the U.S. utility and electricity sector, the COP will help support the need for “grid smartening”, and not just
    “grid hardening” when it comes to resiliency, since the former helps with mitigation as well as adaptation.

In my first Washington event since returning from the COP, I attended an electric utility industry event today that featured several utility executives and other industry experts.  The topic was not about Paris or even climate change in general, but when it came time for Q&A, someone in the audience asked what they thought of the Agreement reached there.    The responses were what I will label “pre-COP” answers in that they ranged from comments about the economics, and the willingness of the rest of the world to do something, and the caution and deliberation that the U.S. should exercise in addressing climate change.

It will be easy for some to label COP-21 as a protected bubble where everyone was drinking the same green kool-aid. But that falls apart when you look at the make-up of the people who were there inside the blue zone and the many other zones and conferences around the city.  It was not just environmental activists.  The utility sector was there.  The financial sector was there.  Local governments, including many U.S. governors and Mayors were there.   This was not some temporary feel-good tent-city.  This was an assembly of the people that understand climate change and how to address it.  It was the creation of not only a common worldwide platform and framework for addressing climate change, but a partnership among nations, business and NGOs that is only going to grow.

Climate Change in one sense is an illness that has symptoms and which needs options for treating it.   It may be that one of the ways that Paris will be remembered is as something akin to a medical convention where all the doctors in the world agreed that an outbreak was underway that required intervention before serious consequences occurred.   Paris will be remembered as where the world started to take its medicine and got on the path back to good health and the prosperity that comes with it.

Postscripts

Here are a few random thoughts as I reflect on COP-21.

U.S. Business was there.  The business presence overall from around the globe was huge, with the U.S. being amply represented.  And what business was saying is that they are ready to move forward.  It almost felt at times like business was impatient for government to act.  In other words, as they look at the data, they know that government will have to act, and they understand that action will be required.  Many seem to be saying “let’s just get on with it”.

Non-Feds were also there.  COPS usually draw a fair amount of U.S. Federal Officials and Staff, and there is always a delegation of Members of Congress and their staff.  But this year saw Governors from many states, and Mayors from many US Cities, here to talk about what they believe they are facing, and what they are planning and doing in their jurisdiction to address climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Uncle Sam Scored.  The Clean Power Plan meant so at COP-21 in so many ways.  The U.S. has not always been seen as wearing a “white hat” at COPs.   Much of that was due to our insistence on the need for all countries to do something before we did much ourselves.  Some of it was due to the tension between our country and China.  It has to be remembered that not so long again in Copenhagen, China was still considered to be part of the Group of 77, which were developing countries that formed a block within a COP.  That’s right, China was considered to be in the same category as a country like Botswana.   That of course is not the case now, with China being the biggest emitter of them all and hardly a non-developed country.  With China and the U.S. having become climate change pals earlier this year and showing off that friendship in Paris, and with the Clean Power Plan on its way towards implementation, that made all the difference in the world….and to the world.

The World is discounting our Congress.   I was not of course behind the closed doors of the negotiations, and was not always talking to foreign delegates about the negotiations and the Text.  So I don’t know what kind of questions may have been asked of U.S. negotiators regarding the threats of our Congress to not play ball.  As I mentioned in my previous posts, I was often trying to support the US delegation and interact with other countries and NGOs to educate them about how they can introduce new technologies to their electricity system and see climate benefits.  But I have to say, never once did anyone ask me during the two weeks if the U.S. would pull back on its announced and planned climate efforts because of opposition in the Republican Congress.  I am sure it came up in a few conversations that U.S. Officials found themselves in, but in my case it simply never came up.  In reflecting back, it is almost like that opposition is so unfounded and irresponsible at this point that other countries see it as not worth thinking about.  They are focused forward on what to do and how to do it fast.

French COP.   Our oldest ally did a fantastic job.  Every accredited person got a metro pass for the two weeks and the rail system worked perfectly.  Lines were short, food and food options were plentiful.   The layout of the many Halls and meeting rooms was great.  Everywhere you went there was an official greeter to say Bonjour!, even if you had a dead giveaway that you were not French.    The worker were not just nice, they were happy and cheerful in a way that could not have come from strong orders to “be cheerful”.

French Resistance.  Many of us arrived from elsewhere thinking that we would be going into the midst of a populace that was still in mourning due to the terrorist attacks.   We also expected to be find an armed, locked-down city, with soldiers on every corner or at least at every metro station.  Neither was the case.  Taking the last one first, there was certainly a presence, but not a militaristic one, and it was obvious that they were picking their spots to make a showing of force. As for the people themselves, it was Paris as one wants Paris to be, happy people out and about doing happy things.  The terror attacks did not take away the Joie d’Vrie.  Tres bien, Paris!  Merci!

COP 22.  Next up is Marrakesh.  Morocco will be hosting and the dates will be in November instead of December.  I visited the Moroccan pavilion to talk with some representatives there and they were eager to try to match the content and competence on display here in Paris.   Some say at this juncture that we are in a cycle of big COPs (like Copenhagen and Paris) and smaller recent COPs like Cancun and Durban.  I think differently.  I think that nothing can match a COP in terms of bringing together the business, NGO and governmental community on climate change, including the business side of it.  I also think that from an emissions and adaptation standpoint, there is a lot of work to do and it needs to be done fast.  I think they all the COPs will be big going forward.

 

Third Report from Paris – One Week Down, One to Go

Monday, December 7

COP-21 – One Week Down, One to Go

There is guarded optimism here in Paris that things will end well.  The question is only how well.  The Text (Agreement) is now in the hands of the Ministers, with their staff having completed a Draft of it on Saturday.  Here is a quick take on where things stand on the negotiations, and then let’s take a look at that “other” COP going on here – where most attendees seem to not care if they ever talk to a negotiator but where they have plenty to say to each other.

The Negotiations

The first sign that things were going to be serious this time was an announcement by Christine Figureos, UN Climate Chief, that the government delegates were counted as 20,000, and the NGO observers and media were at 10,000.  She said this was the highest ratio ever and interpreted this as I would, that governments saw a need to be there because an agreement was likely.

The best sign to me that things were going well came on Friday night.  I had to the opportunity to attend a small dinner being put on by the one of the lead Business NGOs that works with the delegates and the negotiators, the US-based Business Council on Sustainable Energy (BCSE) As is always the case when inviting VIPs, one hopes that actually come.  In the case of the lead negotiators, the expectation had to even lower, because they were scheduled to work through the night to get their Draft Text ready to hand over to the COP President for formal conveyance to the Ministers for final negotiations.

Just before dinner, in walked the lead negotiators from numerous countries, including some of the most crucial, and including the Co-Chair of the Working Group that has been in charge of sheparding development and completion of the Draft Text.  There presence alone demonstrated good news, but their remarks to the group were positive as well, and there was an congratulatory mood in the air.

During the dinner I sat beside the chief negotiator for one of the large countries that has not been an early mover on making commitments, and that has been vocal about the need to recognize its need to grow and provide energy access to its citizens, most of which do not have it presently.   Wearing my demand response and smart grid “hat”, I talked about the looming rise of air conditioning, in addition to basic energy access, in his country and how challenging that will be.  He acknowledged that but was very conversant in the opportunities that my area presented and saw them as the right way, and low-emissions way, to develop and we talked a lot about microgrids.  As for reaching an Agreement, he talked a lot about the funding that would be needed to help countries, not only his, to do things right – both reduce emissions and grow an economy.  Most important to me, he agreed with my characterization as being a “vehicle” for reducing emissions and creating and distributing funds to help developing countries.  I spoke of how in Washington-speak, a vehicle is often the key thing.  Once it exists, the gas pedal can be stepped on and/or more fuel can be added in response to needs and conditions, without having to go back and create a new vehicle.

As Monday, begins, I cannot find any negotiator, or insider-type NGO who thinks that there will not be an Agreement at the end of this week.  But there are key components for which the details are important and there is still time for argument and debate – and for watering things down.   An example of such a key provision is review of progress towards fulfilling commitments.  This gets to the issue of trust and transparency, which are words you hear in conversations with just about anyone here, i.e. what kind of tracking and monitoring process will there be to assure that none of the 184 countries that offered up commitment before this COP will actually do what they have said.

Another example is one that always matters in an agreement – money.   Everyone here thinks the funding announcements on Day 1 of the COP were good, but not enough.  With the Climate Funding commitments made in Copenhagen to help developing nations not fully funded, and with no country wishing to fork over too much before someone else does, the money issue will be key this final week.  The fact that the Republican-controlled Congress in the U.S. has threatened to block any such funding gets mentioned here, and not just by US folks who are here.

Finally, there is a lot of talk about carbon pricing relative to the Text.  There actually is a general statement acknowledging it in the Text that came into the COP, and a number of NGOs are trying to make that stronger.  Outside of the negotiating rooms, pricing has been talked about a lot, and the efforts of California, Ontario and Quebec (and Manitoba, which just joined with those provinces in their trading program) are cited in many presentations and conversations.

The other COP

I mentioned above the high number of credentialed attendees (30K).  But there are tens of thousands more attendees here and so many going on in so many places that it is mind boggling. An example of the latter is the entire conference within a conference that a number of business organizations are putting on inside one of the giant halls here.  The groups, examples of which are the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA), the International Energy Agency (IEA), are putting on stellar sessions separate from the UNFCC Side Events that part aimed at impacting the Text of the Agreement and part aimed at facilitating business understanding, advocacy and deal making.  Many nations have their own pavilions with full day programs of presentations and speakers.  There hundreds of NGOs from around the world that have exhibit booths staffed by experts to talk to.  Even the UN has two tracks going on.  In addition to the official Side Events, the Lima-Paris Action Agenda, a pathway to channel solutions into the overall implementation of all facets of the agreement, has its own multi-day, full day set of meetings, presentations, etc.  But that is only in the blue zone.  There is also Le Gallerie, a trade show that features top-level exhibits from major companies and organizations, and which also has an all-day, every-day set of presentations.  Then there is the Green Zone, also known as the climate generations area, where there are many, many exhibits and meetings sponsored by organizations focused on  youth, environmental health, women, energy efficiency, social behavior, etc.  There is also, starting today, inside the Green Zone is a full conference called Caring for Climate, a business forum sponsored by the UN Global Compact.  But wait….there is more.  Starting today there are 5 different conferences/events starting up in downtown Paris.

So what is happening at all of these things?  Certainly a lot of information dissemination and sharing.  Certainly a lot of business-to-business and business-to-government networking.  It is the latter that I want to comment on.  One of the reasons that I started coming to COPs is that not all of the Delegates attending from countries are negotiators.  Many members of a foreign delegation are there to learn what other countries are doing so they can bring ideas and solutions back to their country and apply them.   These delegates are not the negotiators, but the designers and implementers of the climate action plans that a country will be pursuing.  Think of it like the Clean Power Plan in the US.  There is the top level policy (CPP), and then each State has to develop a plan to implement it.  Same as with a UN Climate Agreement.

So just as in the US, I am here to talk to people, especially foreign delegates, about why they should look at smart grid, demand response, microgrids, etc. as something to put into their climate plans – both for purposes of climate mitigation and climate adaptation/resilience.  I have made two formal presentations at events so far, and it was these types of delegates that were most interested in hearing about what is happening in the US in these areas.  Some had their eyes opened.  One energy ministerial staffer from a key central european country was fascinated to learn more about demand response, and he actually attended both of my presentations just to get clearer on things.

Panels at the Official UN Side Events, have certainly included talks on renewable energy and energy efficiency, as one would expect.  But their presentations could be said to be “same old” and that has been a problem at COPs, i.e. they are still stuck thinking that those are the only two buckets.  This is primarily, in my opinion, a case of the country representatives attending being much more likely to come from an environmental than energy ministry.

A few days ago, one panel showed that the Delegates may want more than that.  After the type of presentation I mentioned above, a Delegate from Kenya took the Q&A session opportunity to say that for her country they needed energy storage and that they also needed to think about energy access.  One of the speakers on the panel was from Schneider Electric, who had actually talked a bit about microgrids during her presentation, and she expanded on smart grid technology solutions and after the session ended, she had quite a few people who wanted some of her time.

The example of Schneider and microgrids is not the only example I have run into here on that topic.  In a typical COP encounter, while I was eating lunch and catching up on some work, environmental ministry representatives from two different developing countries sat down at my table in succession.  As we chatted about our respective work, there was immediate interest in talking about microgrids, particularly as a means of improving energy access for their citizens.

Another topics showing up in both official and unofficial side events is carbon assets, and the stranding thereof.   Lead person on this is non-other than Al Gore, who seems to be everywhere here.  In this talks, he combines his climate credentials with his new financial/investment experience to talk about climate change in business terms and the need for businesses with carbon-related assets, utilities and others, needing to recognize what is happening, and plan and act accordingly.

So that is my quick snapshot on what it is like to be here as a smart grid/DR/DER advocate.  It is exhilarating and rewarding and I can’t wait for the remainder of my time here.

 

 

Second Report from Paris – The COP Unfolds

Thursday, December 3

With the announcements of Monday long forgotten based on all of the activity and distractions here, the COP Policy Work and Business Networking is in full swing, with the former mainly in closed sessions at this point but the latter extremely visible.  An example of the latter is the entire conference within a conference that a number of business organizations are putting on inside one of the giant halls here.  The groups, examples of which are the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA), the International Energy Agency (IEA), are putting on stellar sessions separate from the UNFCC Side Events that part aimed at impacting the Text of the Agreement and part aimed at facilitating business understanding, advocacy and deal making.

Here is an update where things stand based on briefings by the COP Presidency and others last night and this morning to the energy industry groups such as mine that are in attendance.

  • The subgroups (think issue or section groups) of Parties (countries) working on different sections of the Text (Agreement) have been told to speed up in the preparation of language options that can be presented to Ministers for decision making.
  • More specifically and significantly, however, all of the subgroups have been told that they must work overnight to complete new drafts by 10:00 a.m. tomorrow (Friday).  Then there will be a 24 straight negotiation period to produce a new draft by Saturday at 10:00 a.m.
  • On Saturday afternoon, the President of the COP (a French official) will formally receive the Text and decide how it will be finalized over the course of the remaining days.  The Plan will include however a target of Wednesday for issuing the final text and then Friday for adoption.

How to interpret this:  The above is obviously mostly about process.  But that is not odd at this point.  The Party negotiators are keeping content close to their vests and many of their meetings are closed.  But as a colleague noted to me:  the Parties look tired, which is a good sign that have really been working on things.

There are indications, however, that one content issue may end up in the Text that has not been talked about that much in the US as far as I can tell.  That issue is peaking emissions, i.e. when global emissions will hit a peak.  The Text could include numerical objectives to reach by 2050

Here are some of my other thoughts and reports at this juncture:

  1. No one I have talked to thinks the “money” announcements of Monday were anyway near enough to do anything other than prime the pump.  But in that vein, they have been welcomed.  There have been events on the Green Climate Fund, but the one I was able to attend was quite murky.  I plan to talk to the Principals
  2.  One of the interesting things being pursued in terms of Text language right now is carbon pricing.   The group mentioned above, IETA, is spearheading this, and they were successful in getting a bit of language into the text that came into this COP and are now trying for more.  The language is simply a general acknowledgement but it would be significant.  Overall, there is a lot more talk about carbon pricing at this COP than in past.
  3. Panels at the Official UN Side Events, starting yesterday, included renewable energy and energy efficiency speakers.  Their presentations could be said to be “same old”, and that has been a problem at COPs, i.e. they are still stuck thinking that those are the only two buckets.  This is primarily, in my opinion, a case of the country representatives attending being much more likely to come from an environmental than energy ministry.

Yesterday one panel showed that the Delegates may want more than that.  After the type of presentation I mentioned above, a Delegate from Kenya took the Q&A session opportunity to say that for her country they needed energy storage and that they also needed to think about energy access.  One of the speakers on the panel was from Schneider Electric, who had actually talked a bit about microgrids during her presentation, and she expanded on smart grid technology solutions and after the session ended, she had quite a few people who wanted some of her time.  Tomorrow, I will be on a panel that is more focused on smart grid, and it has been selected by the UN to be one of the primary panels of they day, in terms of the way they are promoting it.

  1. The incident I just mentioned involving Schneider and microgrids is not the only example I have run into here on that topic.  In a typical COP encounter, while I was eating lunch and catching up on some work, environmental ministry representatives from two different developing countries sat down at my table in succession.  As we chatted about our respective work, their was immediate interest in talking about microgrids, particulary as a means of improving energy access for their citizens.
  2. Just before filing this Report, Al Gore spoke to a group of us here about the issue of stranded assets, as in stranded by actions to reduce carbon.  He talked about that issue but also touched upon actions that needed to happen.  One of those was time-based pricing.  The idea of stranded assets seems to be another new topic you hear people talking about here.

First Report from Paris – First Impressions

December 1, 2015

This year’s COP started out differently from in the past, especially different from the well-known Copenhagen COP15.  At Copenhagen, and at previous COPs, President Obama and other heads of nations came at the end of the conference, and there was a build-up to announcements.  The quick take-away yesterday was that the front-loading here may work better.  The presence of all the leaders here yesterday, including some current friends and foes, may have gotten things off to a good start by showing not only a bit of unity, but also a sign that there is growing recognition among countries that the game of brinksmanship that has been played to date, where no one wants to move ahead of anyone else, may have run out of time.

There is a discernible uptick in focus and content on adaptation and resilience here, which is likely also a sign of the overall forecast for climate change impacts.  While some funding was put forth by different sources yesterday, it was not a lot, and some looked at it as not even moving the needle.  In the type of chance encounter that happens at COPs, I sat next to a journalist from Bangladesh yesterday on the COP shuttle bus yesterday.  His first comment was “not enough assistance is being provided to countries like mine”.  He also said that one day in, this COP was feeling like Copenhagen all over again.  He talked about how the commitments submitted to the UN ahead of the COP were not enough, collectively, to keep temperatures where they needed to stay.  But when pressed, he admitted that perhaps this new model of commitments and financial instruments would serve as a structure or platform, into which can be added more commitments and funding (as opposed to having to develop an entirely new structure again.

As for the negotiations themselves, the word as of this morning is that the Text of the Agreement will not change over the course of the next few days and will likely emerge in its present form on Saturday.  At that time, France as the lead Party, will control the Text and begin meeting with the other Parties one-by-one to seek their approval.  One view is that the Text will be presented in a take-it or-leave it fashion.  Another is that any Party seeking changes will have to take the initiative to achieve a consensus of the other Parties in order for the change to be approved.

There is not much in the way of events today on the electricity sector.  Those start tomorrow.

For those looking for more information about COP-21, the best general source is a special UN site at http://newsroom.unfccc.int/cop21parisinformationhub/.

Specific questions can be emailed to dan.delurey@wedgemere.com or sent to @dandelurey.

 

Pre-Paris – What is a COP?

 

November 28th, 2015

I will be heading to Paris tomorrow, and I thought it might be good to offer a little bit of background information on the question of “What’s a COP?”

COP stands for “Conference of the Parties”, with the Parties being the countries that belong to the United Nations.  The COP is first and foremost an event where national representatives work on crafting agreements – not only on emissions reductions but on other ancillary aspects like providing financial assistance to developing countries to help them with both emissions reductions and adaptation.

The meeting in Paris is COP-21, meaning it is the 21st COP in a series of such annual events.  But a COP is not the only gathering of the parties each year.  The hammering out of a climate agreement has actually been a continuous process, with representatives meeting several times a year to try to make progress that would set up an agreement to be reach at that year’s COP.  The key phrase in the months leading up to a COP, and during the COP, is “Text”, with the Text being the agreement that will (or will not) be signed off on.

Previous COPs have tried to focus on agreements that would result in commitments on emissions reductions for each country by a date certain, i.e. “targets and timetables”.  With that having not worked, the process leading up to COP-21 has instead focused on voluntary commitments.

COPs have another side to them, however.  Not all attendees are official representatives of the Parties.  Thousands of others attend, and their purpose generally falls into two categories.  The first is to try to influence the Parties on what positions they take on the Text as they negotiate with the other Parties.   The second is to accomplish educational and networking objectives with the other non-Party attendees.

From all of the invites to events that have been coming into my in-box over the past week, it looks like attendees will have a wealth of opportunities for learning, especially about what people in other parts of the world are doing in the same area they work in.  I am looking forward to see just how much is going elsewhere in terms of trying to use smart grid, DR, DER, etc. to achieve emissions reductions and an increase in resiliency.

Dan