Historically, California has always been a leader with regards to utilisation of renewable energy technologies. Stemming from concerns of fossil fuel dependence in the 1970s, soon-after began the expansion of California’s solar and wind industry. Currently, under Senate Bill 350 (SB 350) (Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015) California has set an ambitious target of increasing their renewable energy production to 50% of their total power supply by 20301. This target has been extended and adapted from the 2020 target, which was originally set under Assembly Bill 32 (AB 32) (The Global Warming Solution Act of 2006). AB 32 was the first of its kind to be implemented in The United States. The bill stated that it was a requirement for California to significantly reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, in a long-term and sustainable manner. Through a variety of methods, including the successful Cap-and-Trade Program, the Renewable Portfolio Standard and other incentive-based schemes, California has managed to significantly increase their renewable energy supply.
California’s oil industry experienced its peak expansion in the 20th century. The growth in oil occurred as a result of the discovery of new oil fields and the increased demand to power automotive vehicles. However, this rapid expansion soon ended following the impact of the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill. This oil spill, which occurred in Southern California, was the largest of its time to have occurred in the United States3. The large spill had a major impact on marine life and resulted in a large environmental movement involving the implementation of environmental legislation.
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With vast natural resources and access to advanced energy technology the United States is in prime position to take a leading role in the renewable energy industry and in climate change mitigation. As a nation, the United States has acknowledged that they may experience many negative effects if world temperatures continue to rise, including higher risk of natural disasters and flooding as well as having to manage the relocation of possibly millions of affected people. In the past few years the United States has taken their role as a global leaders in combating climate change seriously. They are signatories of the Paris Climate agreement and have accepted the challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% (from 2005 levels) by 2025.
The United States has an abundance of renewable and non-renewable resources. In 2015, renewables (including hydro power) accounted for 10% of total energy consumption and renewable energy’s share of electricity generation has been increasing over time. Traditionally the United States has relied on coal fired power plants to contribute the largest portion for electricity generation but its share has been steadily decreasing. By 2015 the portion of electricity generation from coal decreased so much that it was matched by electricity generated from natural gas, each generating 33% of the nation’s electricity. The natural gas industry has certainly expanded rapidly in the past few years however the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that this growth in gas sector has actually been exceeded recently by growth in wind and solar. More than 50% of new installed capacity for the grid in 2016 came from renewable energy , indicating how big the industry is becoming in the nation.
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Located in Eastern Asia, Japan’s large population in proportion to its small land-mass has resulted in the delayed implementation of renewable energy techniques. The current renewable energy target for Japan states that by 2030, renewable energy will account for 22% to 24% of the country’s power mix . When this target was set in June 2014, renewable energy accounted for approximately 15%, and imported fossil fuels accounted for a large majority of Japan’s power generation. A further Intended Nationally Determined Target aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26% from 2013 levels by 20302 . In order to achieve this, a self-sufficiency sub-target has been set. The sub-target aims to increase Japan’s renewable energy production by reducing the amount of imported fossil fuels following the closure of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant following the 2011 Fukushima earthquake. This target is progressing well due to the recent spike in solar installation in 2014 and 2015. Although there was some scepticism around Japan meeting its renewable energy targets, following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the recent shift towards renewable energy is a step in the right direction.
Prior to the 2011 Fukushima earthquake, Japan’s energy mix was highly dependent on coal and nuclear power, with minimal contributions from renewable energy technologies. In years preceding 2011, the renewable energy mix consisted mainly of hydropower and biomass. Following the Great East Japan Earthquake, Japan saw a major shift to oil and natural gas. The unexpected nature of the earthquake resulted in Japan having no choice but to import large quantities of oil, natural gas and coal.
Following this event, Japan imported approximately 84% of its energy supply. During this period, Japan received majority of its oil from the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia and imported coal from Australia. This illustrates the highly dependent nature of Japan’s energy mix, demonstrating why a large emphasis has been placed on the self-sufficiency target. Japan’s dependency following the Fukushima earthquake provides an explanation as to why the implementation of renewable energy technologies has been delayed.
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The Philippines is a tropical country made up of thousands of islands in the Pacific ocean. Its location makes it susceptible to natural disasters but it also bestows it with vast natural resources. The nation has acknowledged that it is especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, particularly rising sea levels and increasing disaster risks, and in light of this the Philippines has made commitments to limit increasing temperatures and switch to a cleaner energy supply.
The Philippines has abundant renewable energy resources and very limited availability of fossil fuels but the current energy use patterns do not reflect this, with the bulk of electricity generated in the Philippines coming from coal fired power plants. The Philippines has only a small amount of locally available coal so it imports the majority from Indonesia, China and Australia. Historically, oil-based power generation has also contributed a great deal to the energy mix and in the past 15 years, natural gas has been used more and more . The cost of electricity and fuel in the Philippines has long been high and as demand for energy continues to increase the Philippine government needs to improve the nation’s energy security by changing the energy portfolio to include more locally available resources and reduce expensive fossil fuel imports.
The Philippines is a signatory of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, where the main goal is to reduce the threat of climate change by limiting increasing global temperatures to below 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. The Philippines released its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions in October 2015 stating they would undertake a greenhouse gas emissions reductions of 70% by 2030 (relative to the business-as-usual scenario of 2000-2030) . Further to this the Philippines has set ambitious goals to become a leading clean energy nation in Southeast Asia. Their aim is to increase the renewable energy share of the portfolio by 200% in 20 years but it is yet to commit to any quotas.
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