Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity



December 12, 2008

Desert Power: The Economics of Solar Thermal Electricity for Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East - Working Paper 156

Senior fellow David Wheeler and Kevin Ummel argue for rapid, very large-scale deployment of existing solar thermal technology. Using maps of solar radiation and project finance calculations, they show that with modest subsidies solar power generated in North Africa and the Middle East could meet the needs of 35 million Europeans by 2020. At that point, solar power would be cheaper than fossil fuels and future projects would no longer require subsidies.

August 11, 2008

Biofuels and the Food Price Crisis: A Survey of the Issues - Working Paper 151

While the precise contribution of biofuels to surging food prices is difficult to know, policies promoting production of the current generation of biofuels are not achieving their stated objectives of increased energy independence or reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Reaching the congressionally mandated goal of blending 15 billion gallons of renewable fuels in gasoline by 2015 would consume roughly 40 percent of the corn crop (based on recent production levels) while replacing just 7 percent of current gasoline consumption. The food crisis adds urgency to the need to change these policies but does not change the basic fact that there is little justification for the current set of policies.

May 20, 2008

Calculating CARMA: Global Estimation of CO2 Emissions from the Power Sector - Working Paper 145

In November 2007 CGD’s Carbon Monitoring for Action (CARMA) provided the first global database on CO2 emissions from the world’s 50,000 power plants and the firms that own them. CARMA was widely welcomed as a tool for public education and as an important first step toward reliable, consistent information on plant-level emissions that will be crucial for future international agreements to cut greenhouse gas emissions. In this new working paper, CGD senior fellow David Wheeler and co-author Kevin Ummel describe CARMA’s methodology, assess its strengths and weaknesses, and test its accuracy across countries and at different geographical scales. They also invite power companies that have verified emissions data to submit them for inclusion in CARMA.

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February 15, 2008

Crossroads at Mmamabula: Will the World Bank Choose the Clean Energy Path? - Working Paper 140

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for a revolutionary change in the world's energy mix. So why is the World Bank conducting business as usual? This new working paper by CGD senior fellow David Wheeler focuses on the bank's latest proposed venture, a huge coal-fired plant to be fueled by the Mmamabula coal field in Botswana. Using current cost estimates for coal-fired and low-carbon electricity, Wheeler calculates that a CO2 accounting charge of only about $35 per ton would be enough to make solar power competitive with coal. The difference, he argues, could easily be covered by the bank's Clean Technology Fund and other sources. He urges the bank to quickly adopt an explicit carbon accounting charge for all energy projects and says that given the current scientific consensus it would be very surprising if this is below $50/ton of CO2.

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