The nineteenth session of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC 19) to the UNCCD was organized online from 15 to 19 March 2021. Science Policy Circle evaluated the land use for energy generation, transmission, and distribution during this year's CSO representation at the UNCCD sessions.
With the expansion of distributed energy resources (DER) and systems, related land management has become an important issue. Stanford University points out that, Many new energy technologies, such as biofuels and solar farms, require enormous amounts of land if deployed at scale, putting them in competition with other land uses like growing food. Additionally, the land is frequently used for large-scale power generation plants, electricity transmission, water accumulation for hydropower generation, and for the mining of materials related to energy. A famous example of the variation in Land use is the Fukushima reborn to the solar hub, which is estimated to generate about 600 megawatts, or equivalent to two-thirds of a nuclear power plant. However, the reactors of Fukushima Daichi used to produce 4576 megawatts, almost 8 times the amount of power the solar panels farm will produce for the same space allocated.
The US transforms an average of 0.000099 acres of land per megawatt-hour for surface mining according to the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the US describes that coal is typically mined by two methods. Firstly, surface mining is used to extract seams of coal that are up to 200 feet deep, and secondly, underground mining is used to access coal that can be up to 1,000 feet below ground. For coal, storage takes up land use as well. Finally, the coal waste, which is of low energy value is removed from the mine and dumped in massive piles.
The challenge we are faced with is that wind and solar generation require at least 10 times as much land per unit of power produced as coal- or natural gas-fired power plants. Another challenge is the DER-related distribution cannot be planned significantly ahead due to the continuous expansion of small-scale generation units. At the same time, the land use from non-renewable energy has significant soil and water implications as pointed out by UNCCD and IRENA. They point out that at the same time, non-biomass renewables typically have small direct footprints, although like pointed out before, required spacing suggests a dispersion over large areas.
Offshore wind, tidal energy, and floating solar are some of the energy generation methods that would minimize land use in energy generation. geothermal power plants don't use much land compared to coal and nuclear power plants. A more attractive method is multi-use of land alongside renewable energy generation. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has looked at such methods which facilitate plant growth. There have been multiple solutions in terms of Solar PV such as PV systems with trackers that will help move the shadow throughout the day allowing more light to hit the crops beneath - up to 75% for double-axis trackers. comparing it to a tree the double-axis tracker will co-exist with corps, however, it is not cost-effective nor easy to install and operate, there have been some new growing techniques that grow under solar PV systems but it’s not all corps. Choosing plants that do not need many hours of direct sunlight can also be a solution.
We need to realize that not all land is equal as Solar farms tend to be built where they are most efficient which typically means at deserts, a nonproductive land, solar PV can be installed at rooftop taking no land at all, Tesla roof is an early example, which may be said to consume no land. Wind farms are located in places where there is minimal human activity. The land used for renewable power generation is not entirely used because it can coexist with other things and sometimes it can enhance them. as the oil and nuclear plant make the land out of use for years and sometimes decades, the solar PV land can be used in farms as cows sheltering from the sun. Another good example is that by providing shade in warm, arid regions solar panels can actively encourage the growth of grass (and potentially other plants) underneath them as their shade ensures that less water evaporates and that, rather than available sunlight is the limiting factor for growing many desirable and thirsty plants. The case is similar to the wind turbines as farmers can put wind turbines on their farms and make money from it while farming all around the turbines, all while doing nothing to lower the land available.
The work related to the COP26 is gearing up as the sessions draw closer. Although there are some doubts still in the air regarding the dates of the event, non-governmental organizations are striving to enhance meaningful participation as much as possible, given the COVID-19 pandemic. Although physical participation is quite uncertain, mainly for youth, and non-governmental sectors, there is an urgent need to push for more ambition from the member states.
The Science Policy Circle is contributing to this year's COP in several avenues. SPC has joined hands with the Center for Environment and Development (CED) in Sri Lanka for a regional NDCs analysis specifically focussing on the impacts of the ongoing pandemic. SPC members will support this effort with research and evaluation. SPCM has collaborated with CED a few times before on key publications in climate financing, local resource mobilization for inclusive transformation, and voluntary people's review for the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Furthermore, two of the SPC members are currently serving as the Global Focal Points of the SDG7 youth constituency of the Major Group for Children and Youth. They have been selected to participate and support the technical working groups of the High-Level Dialogue on Energy (HLDE) which will take place during the General Assembly 2021. The outcomes of the HLDE will also feed into the COP26. Additionally, the two young people have been included in the recently established Global Commission on People-Centered Clean Energy Transition by the International Energy Agency (IEA) which further provides an avenue for them to include inputs strengthening the youth perspective in the climate-energy conversations.
SPC is, therefore, in an ideal position to provide effective inputs to the upcoming climate meeting in Glasgow, at the moment planned to take place from 1-12 November 2021. We wish to post further updates as we go forward in the year.
Outcomes of the COP25: https://sdg.iisd.org/news/chilemadrid-climate-change-conference-closes-with-limited-ambition/
Brazil, China, Colombia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Germany, Iceland, India, Japan, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Morocco, Nauru, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, the Russian Federation, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom are right now onboard as the global champions for the High-Level Dialogue on Energy (HLDE) which will take place during the general assembly week in 2021. HLDE is convened as the first global gathering on energy under the auspices of the UN General Assembly since the UN Conference on New and Renewable Sources of Energy in 1981.
These member states will also look into mobilizing voluntary commitments in the form of Energy Compacts that the Member States, businesses, cities, and other stakeholders will present for the High-level Dialogue. Global Champions will also co-host a series of ministerial-level thematic forums which are oriented towards creating more awareness as well as attracting other member states for further ambitious commitments in the energy transition.
The high-level dialogue is structured with five thematic and technical working groups. 1) energy access; 2) energy transition; and 3) enabling the SDGs through inclusive, just energy transitions, 4) innovation, technology, and data; and 5) finance and investment. The first three thematics will focus on advancing substantive progress on each technical area, and the final two thematics will be focussed on the cross-cutting subjects. The member states have taken up different thematics to focus on, as the reports from the technical working groups will feed into the ministerial forums.
Energy Access: China, Japan, Kenya, Malawi, Netherlands, Russian Federation
Energy Transition: Brazil, Colombia, Denmark, Germany, India, Nigeria, Spain, United Kingdom
Enabling SDGs through inclusive, just energy transitions: Iceland, Nauru, Panama, United Arab Emirates
Innovation, technology, and data: Mauritius, Morocco Russian Federation
Finance and investment: Dominican Republic, Netherlands, Pakistan
We expect to see further strengthening of the groups as more member states join the process as global champions in the next two weeks. Most importantly there are key engagements of youth at the technical working groups that were announced a few weeks back. We will continue to strive for more spaces for young practitioners in energy spaces at the global level.
The Youth Sustainable Energy Hub is the first of its kind global platform showcasing the work of youth practitioners in the sustainable energy sector. The event will be a celebration of youth action toward advancing SDG7 and an opportunity to show intergenerational solidarity in ensuring sustainable energy for all.
YSEH has been developed by SDG7 Youth Constituency in partnership with SEforALL, UNIDO, UNICEF, IEEE-PES, SDSN Youth, and Climate Tracker. During the Launch, the organizing partners will unveil the platform, featuring approximately 100 youth projects selected from over 250 submissions received earlier this year.
Keynote speakers for the event are the Special Representative of UN Secretary-General and CEO of Sustainable Energy for All, Ms. Damilola Ogunbiyi, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory Director, Dr. Martin Keller.
Moreover, selected youth projects will present their work, and representatives of partner organizations will deliver their remarks:
Dr. Tareq Emtairah – Director at Department of Energy, UNIDO
Gautam Narasimhan – Senior Adviser for Climate, Energy, Environment & DRR, UNICEF
Dr. Shay Bahramirad – Vice President of New Initiatives and Outreach, IEEE-PES
Sam Loni – Director, SDSN Youth
Date and time: November 11, 10:00 EST / 15:00 UTC
Since April 2020, Science Policy CIrcle has been the Global Focal Point Organization of the SDG7 Youth Constituency
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