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Published on January 20th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan


Exclusive Interview: Connie Hedegaard On EU 2020 Renewable Energy Target & Climate Change Messaging (VIDEO)

January 20th, 2013 by  

In addition to the videos I recorded of Connie Hedegaard’s keynote speech at the start of the World Future Energy Summit (part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, hosted by Masdar), I also got to sit down with her after her speech, ask her a few questions, and videotape it all. My initial question (not included in the video) was about the EU’s 2020 CO2 emissions reduction target — in particular, whether or not the push for an increase in the target from 20% to 30% might soon meet success; if it seemed that it might be possible to soon convince some of the blocking countries (most notably Poland) to get on the bandwagon. As mentioned in the video, studies have shown that Poland would actually experience a net economic benefit from an increased target. Here’s the video:

All of Connie’s points were excellent. She’s one of the best around. But some of my favorite points she made in this interview were:

  • There are a ton of different ways to make climate action progress; if we run into difficulty with one, that doesn’t mean we can’t change the way we’re addressing the problem and still make significant progress.
  • We need to make it very clear to people that there are huge costs to “doing nothing,” or business as usual. She made this point very well in her speech, as you’ll soon see. In short, we need to really draw people’s attention to the cost of superstorms like Sandy, flooding that makes billions of people evacuate their homes and causes trillions of dollars in property and economic damage, droughts and heat waves that destroy crops and drive up the price of food, dwindling water supplies in the midst of a growing global population, and more.
  • We also need to think and discuss in a more integrated, holistic way. With regards to climate change and clean energy, we need to also focus on the tremendous economic benefits and job growth that comes with a clean energy revolution, the tremendous health benefits, and the tremendous quality of life benefits in general.

Those were the key points I got from the interview. And simply that Connie totally rocks! More to add?

For more content from Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, check out our archive pages for Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, for the World Future Energy Summit, and/or for the International Renewable Energy Conference.

Full Disclosure: my trip to Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week was funded by Masdar. That said, I was completely free to cover what I wanted throughout the week, and at no point did I feel under pressure to cover any specific events or Masdar in any particular way.

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • Daniel Coffey

    What is absent from most discussions is a clear explanation of the real methods used to successfully deploy the new energy systems – how they are actually being built. Who, what, where, why, HOW, etc.

    One thing which crops up all the time is a debate about solar on rooftops as the answer. However, if you look at how most solar is deployed, it has nothing to do with rooftops. Instead, its large-scale deployments. Thus, the environmental myth and desire delays decisionmakers from approving projects on the theory that another method might exist. This is a common mistake, one most attributable to large environmental groups.

    These same groups are also key to the message that, if we use solar and wind to produce power, the world will be grey, dull, expensive, a drudgery, etc. There is nothing more core to typical environmentalism these days than the demand that people “conserve” – which always means give things up. It is actually a false message, but one based on simplistic analogies draw from other kinds of experience. Between the delays and the demand that I give stuff up, I have a hard time liking environmentalists – and, at heart, I am one.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I think the reason we’re seeing large solar “farms” is simply economics and I think it’s likely temporary. Large scale installations are cheaper and when solar was quite expensive the cost of rooftop slowed down those installations.

      With rapidly falling prices we’re starting to see residential and commercial rooftop taking off. Once installers get efficient, rooftop is going to be very competitive with solar farms.

      Rooftop goes in at the end-user level. It’s competing with the retail price of electricity, not the wholesale. And there are no “permission” or transmission issues, no real estate costs.

      I’d bet on rooftop becoming dominate.

      “These same groups are also key to the message that, if we use solar and wind to produce power, the world will be grey, dull, expensive, a drudgery, etc.”

      You know, I’ve never seen an environmental group suggest that a renewable world would be “grey, dull, expensive, a drudgery, etc.”

      I’ve seen pro-coal and pro-nuclear people say that. Often.

      Every environmental group I’ve had contact sees a world in which we have all the electricity we want to use, at a decent price, and none of the health and environmental problems we now get from fossil fuels.

      ” There is nothing more core to typical environmentalism these days than the demand that people “conserve” – which always means give things up.”
      I think that’s totally incorrect. There certainly is a call to conserve and to use energy and other things more efficiently. To walk, bike, ride share, use public transportation more and to drive more efficient autos, but not to stay home and do nothing. To eat better but not to starve. To live in a comfortable, enjoyable home, but not a cave.

      It’s very clear to most environmentalists that we can have a very high quality life without wrecking the planet.

    • You might want to dig in more on those initial questions you put forward. We have looked at this closely. Some places, like the US, are starting with large-scale projects. Others, through feed-in tariffs, are predominantly installing solar on rooftops (this includes solar giants Germany, Italy, and Australia). As Bob notes, as the price of solar comes down, more owners of rooftops will see the benefit of installing solar power systems and i think rooftop share will increase. We’ll see.

      That said, utility-scale certainly has its place and will be critical to us getting off fossil fuels in time to avert societal collapse, assuming we actually do that.

  • Chris Taylor

    Connie Hedegaard is in the business of empire building. By 2050, 80% of our energy needs are meant to come from renewables or nuclear. Her and her ever growing department intend to do this by Cap & Trade, and huge subsidies. Cap & Trade means eventually every business, company, factory, producer etc will have to be monitored and checked to see that their CO2 caps are not exceeded or that the correct number of CO2 permits have been purchased. At the moment, a lot of this is being achieved through self monitoring, which is the same as cooking the books. When the EU do get around to monitoring all these users of energy, can you imagine how huge and expensive that department is going to be. Well that’s what we call empire building, and empires such as these are only there to secure the jobs of those at the top. Cap and trade was put in place by EU parliamentary wimps, and the powerful banking and fossil fuel lobbies. The banks know that trading billions of dollars of carbon credits is going to make them a fortune, all paid for by the end users of energy. The fossil fuel lobbies are confident that the system will fail. All ready permit prices have collapsed, but even as this market picks up again, fossil fuel companies know the public will not accept ever increasing energy price hikes, as the cap is screwed further down. Cap & Trade is the best bet for fossil fuel companies, who are hell bent on extracting every last bit / drop of fossil fuel.

    The answer is not Cap & Trade, but Fee & Dividend. This would put an annually rising fee on fossil fuels as they are imported or extracted. This fee would then be paid directly back to that country’s citizens, which would protect them from the inevitable price increase passed on by the fossil fuel company. Eventually a tipping point would be reached where renewables and nuclear will be able to compete with fossils, without the need of any tax paid subsidies.

    It’s a no-brainer to everyone, except governments, banks and fossil fuel companies.

    • In my opinion: Connie is not interested in “empire building.” She, and others working with her, are interested in addressing the global climate problem. In some instances, that means making political compromise in order to generate actual action. She is a level-headed, reasonable person who is doing her best to address this societal problem. Are there better systems in theory? Yes. Are there better systems that could actually be implemented in this day and age? I don’t think so.

      • Chris Taylor

        So Zach, what do you have against “Fee & Dividend”?

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