Secretary Chu Announces Climate REDI Today

Today the U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced an initiative called “Climate REDI,” which stands for Climate Renewables and Efficiency Deployment Initiative. Secretary Chu announced the initiative during a U.S. Center event at the COP15 entitled “Leading in energy efficiency and renewables.” Those in attendance for the announcement were the President’s Science Advisor John Holdren, NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, U.S. Ambassador to Denmark Laurie Fulton, members of the press, and twenty “lucky” observers (I was the last one let in the event after waiting for over an hour in line). In addition, Italian Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, and a representative from Australia attended the event and each said a few words about their commitment and contribution to the initiative.

The initiative aims to help speed up the use of renewables and other clean energy technologies in developing countries. The specific goals of the initiative are to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, bring energy and lighting to the people that need it, and improve public health throughout the world. It is expected that over $350 million will be budgeted for the initiative over the next five years, $85 million of which will be from the U.S. The initiative is composed of four programs described here:

The first program is called the “Solar and LED Energy Access Program.” The goal of the program is to help provide, at a cheaper price, solar home systems and LED lights to those areas of the world without electricity. It is hoped that such a program will reduce the use of hurricane lanterns and other forms of lighting, reducing dangerous indoor pollution from kerosene. By providing cheaper and safer energy and lighting, the program will provide substantial economic and health benefits.

The “Super-efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment Program” is the second program part of Climate REDI. This program aims to increase the efficiency of appliances through the use of the market and the combined power of the Major Economies Forum (MEF). Through the implementation of standards the program will improve the efficiency of equipment and appliances (Secretary Chu gives the example of the evolution of refrigerators). Secretary Chu states that through improvements in efficiency the program has the ability to decrease emissions by up to 1.6 Gt CO2e.

The third part of the initiative is the “Clean Energy Information Platform” (CIEP). CIEP will be an online platform in which MEF countries will be able to exchange technical expertise, policy experiences (this is something that I think will be especially beneficial), and the necessary communications to make coordination possible in initializing renewable and clean energy technologies.

The “Scaling-up Renewable Energy Program” (S-REP) is the forth and final part of the new initiative. S-REP will provide technical and policy support to low-income and developing countries that are trying to set up national renewable energy approaches. It is also expected that the program will help to underwrite additional capital costs associated with clean energy technologies. This program will be in conjunction with the World Bank’s Strategic Climate Fund. $50 million of the $85 million in U.S. contributions to the initiative will support S-REP.

Climate REDI is set up to provide a “quick-start” initiative that can work in parallel with any future international agreement on climate, including any agreement that may come out of this week’s negotiations at the COP15. During his talk Secretary Chu mentions the importance of renewables and clean energy, and states that the U.S. Recovery Act will double the U.S. renewable energy generating capacity by 2012. Secretary Chu states that he believes that U.S. prosperity depends upon the research and development of renewables and clean energy technologies.

In addition to the announcement of the Climate REDI initiative, Secretary Chu announced today that he and the U.S. will host the first ever Clean Energy Ministerial in 2010. The event will aid in the deployment of global clean energy technology and will be open to MEF and all other countries that want to apply.

Overall, the announcements today are a “step” in the right direction for the U.S. and the world. However, I think it is important that we remember that such an initiative represents only a tiny part of the solution and the contribution is orders of magnitude smaller than an international climate agreement would be. While it is a step in the right direction, there is still a long way to go in the development of clean energy technologies and an international agreement on climate.

Written by KEVIN REED.

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