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Category Archive: Energy

  1. The world’s first “negative emissions” plant has begun operation—turning carbon dioxide into stone

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    Akshat Rathi October 12, 2017 read full Quartz article here

    …We produce 40 trillion kg of carbon dioxide each year, and we’re on track to cross a crucial emissions threshold that will cause global temperature rise to pass the dangerous 2°C limit set by the Paris climate agreement.
    …On Oct. 11, at a geothermal power plant in Iceland, the startup inaugurated the first system that does direct air capture and verifiably achieves negative carbon emissions. Although it’s still at pilot scale—capturing only 50 metric tons CO2 from the air each year, about the same emitted by a single US household—it’s the first system to convert the emissions into stone, thus ensuring they don’t escape back into the atmosphere for the next millions of years.
    …Climeworks and Global Thermostat have piloted systems in which they coat plastics and ceramics, respectively, with an amine, a type of chemical that can absorb CO2. Carbon Engineering uses a liquid system, with calcium oxide and water. …
    …Each of the startups has built a functional pilot plant to prove their technology, with the ability to capture hundreds of kg of CO2. And all boast that their tech is modular, meaning they can build a direct air capture plant as small or large as somebody is ready to pay for. Even at $50 per metric ton of capturing emissions, if we have to capture as much as 10 billion metric tons by 2050, we are looking at spending $500 billion each year capturing carbon dioxide from the air. It seems outrageous, but it may not be if climate change’s other damages are put in perspective—and that’s what these startups are betting on….
  2. Electric Vehicles Expected to Push Oil Demand Down

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    • With China now planning to phase out gas-powered cars, automakers are talking about an all-electric future. It could mean a big drop in emissions.
  3. In a Stunning Turnaround, Britain Moves to End the Burning of Coal

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    Britain is phasing out its coal-burning power plants, with the last one slated to be shuttered by 2025, if not sooner. It is a startling development for the nation that founded an industrial revolution powered by coal.

    ….The coal-devouring behemoth, and the endless trains of railroad wagons feeding it with fuel from coastal ports, is suddenly a relic of the past. In one of the greatest and fastest energy turnarounds in the developed world, the country that brought the world the industrial revolution – a revolution founded and sustained by burning coal – has cut the cord. King Coal is, almost overnight, being banished from Britain….

    …The collapse of coal, the dirtiest of the fossil fuels, has resulted in a sharp drop in Britain’s CO2 emissions from electricity generation. Those emissions fell 50 percent between 2010 and 2016. The average Briton is now responsible for only about a third the CO2 emissions of the average American…

    …Last year was the first during which Britain got more energy from wind than coal – 11.5 percent compared to 9.2 percent…

    The lingering effect is that Britain is responsible for 6 percent of all the industrial CO2 in the atmosphere today – more per head of population than any large nation, the U.S. included. Yet thanks to the demise of coal, Britain’s emissions are now lower than they have been for more than a century, and they continue to fall. The world needs to follow.

  4. The Great Decoupling: the story of energy use, economic growth, and carbon emissions in four charts.

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    July 2017 see article and visualizations at AnthropoceneMagazine here

    …For the past 15 years, global economic growth rose twice as fast as global energy demand and CO2 emissions. The changes have been the most dramatic since 2010. And within the past three years (2014–2016), emissions stabilized—at least temporarily—while the global economy continued growing. That is a first.

    ….Energy efficiency is responsible for most of the decoupling to date. But the transformation to zero carbon fuels must dramatically accelerate to keep up with growing energy demands and increasing world population. Only then will decoupling be complete….

  5. Utilities Grapple with Rooftop Solar and the New Energy Landscape; first steps toward decentralized energy

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    …The combat trope isn’t entirely wrong. The utilities have successfully waged battles to squelch rooftop solar in states such as Arizona and Indiana, mostly by wielding political muscle to reduce compensation to customers for electricity fed back into the grid. This has helped hobble solar companies, and after four years of growth that averaged 63 percent a year, U.S. rooftop solar growth dropped to 19 percent last year, and this year is projected to be flat.

    But the metaphor begins to break down here, since utility company opposition isn’t the only reason for the slowdown in rooftop solar. According to Shayle Kann, head of Greentech Media Research, a leading electricity market analysis firm, two of the nations’ three biggest rooftop installers, SolarCity (now owned by Tesla) and Vivint Solar, shifted the emphasis of their business models from growth to profitability. In addition, in California, home to nearly half the nation’s rooftop installations, rooftop’s growth has tapered off as solar companies have run out of early-adopter customers. In any case, the decline is almost certainly temporary: GreentechMedia projects that rooftop solar’s growth in the coming years will rebound to a healthy 10 to 15 percent annually…..

    …For all the conflict surrounding rooftop solar, solar energy last year generated just under 1 percent of U.S. electricity, and utility-scale solar farms have three times the generating capacity of residential solar installations. That disparity is likely to grow.

    While the shift to rooftop solar and other distributed energy sources presents a major technological challenge to utilities, their current business models provide them no incentive to meet it.

    …“It’s not just the utilities that need to change their business model,” Richard Kauffman, New York’s “energy czar” and REV’s leader, said in a telephone interview. “One of things we’ve been pleased about is the way that the solar industry has demonstrated a willingness to change its business model. The solar sector is beginning to view the utility not as the enemy, but as a customer and partner, in just the way that the utility needs to start viewing the solar industry.”….

    …“the utilities are going to have to either come to the table or they’re going to go out of business.”

  6. Worldwide 100% renewable energy needed and possible by 2050, per new publication

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    • A detailed roadmap for 139 countries outlines a path to a future powered entirely by wind, water and solar energy.

    • Such a transition could mean less worldwide energy consumption due to the efficiency of clean, renewable electricity; a net increase of over 24 million long-term jobs; an annual decrease in 4-7 million air pollution deaths per year; stabilization of energy prices; and annual savings of over $20 trillion in health and climate costs

    August 24, 2017  read full Cosmos article here and ScienceDaily article here

    Everybody wants to change the world. Few of us publish research detailing exactly how to do it.

    Stanford’s Mark Z. Jacobson, who led a 2015 effort to create a state-by-state plan for a US transition to 100% renewable energy, has published similar research on a much larger scale, examining scenarios in which 139 countries could be powered purely by wind, water and solar (WWS) by the year 2050.

    In scope and scale, the paper – published in the new energy journal Joule – is a significant expansion on Jacobson’s prior work. It isn’t limited to each country’s electricity sector – it examines the electrification and decarbonisation of transportation, heating, cooling, industry, agriculture, forestry and fishing. The authors chose the 139 countries, which between them cover 99% of the world’s carbon emissions, because the necessary energy data about them were available through the International Energy Agency (IEA).

    The latest roadmap to a 100% renewable energy future from Stanford’s Mark Z. Jacobson and 26 colleagues is the most specific global vision yet, outlining infrastructure changes that 139 countries can make to be entirely powered by wind, water, and sunlight by 2050 after electrification of all energy sectors. Such a transition could mean less worldwide energy consumption due to the efficiency of clean, renewable electricity; a net increase of over 24 million long-term jobs; an annual decrease in 4-7 million air pollution deaths per year; stabilization of energy prices; and annual savings of over $20 trillion in health and climate costs….

    ….“Both individuals and governments can lead this change. Policymakers don’t usually want to commit to doing something unless there is some reasonable science that can show it is possible, and that is what we are trying to do,” says Jacobson. “We are not saying that there is only one way we can do this, but having a scenario gives people direction.”

    His ideal policy outcome would see “governments in many countries of the world commit to 100% clean, renewable energy in all sectors by 2050 with 80% by 2030”.

    “To avoid 1.5 C global warming, we need 80% reduction of everything by 2030 and 100% by 2050. We think a faster acceleration is possible at reasonable to low cost.”

    ….Jacobson’s paper is designed to serve as a vision for future, but even Finkel’s proposal [a recent review authored by Australia’s chief scientist Alan Finkel] for a far less ambitious emissions reduction target has not been adopted several months after it was proposed….

  7. If You Fix This, You Fix a Big Piece of the Climate Puzzle

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    Fixing air-conditioning is, let’s face it, not the most exciting solution to climate change. Perhaps for the same reason that remodeling a kitchen is more enticing than replacing a water heater, devising greener refrigerant chemicals will never make headlines like solar installations or electric cars do. You just can’t take a great selfie with the inside of an air-conditioner.

    ….fixing how we cool ourselves may also help fix the climate. New research from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California indicates that adding improved efficiency in refrigeration and phasing out fluorinated gases used for cooling, as mandated by international agreement, could eliminate a full degree Celsius of warming by 2100. Given that the “business as usual” trajectory leads to 4 to 5 degrees Celsius of warming, that is shaving off a pretty big slice….

    …Scientists, activists and business leaders are meeting in Bangkok this week to discuss how to finance the phasing out of HFCs. Many there said they were confident the amendment would survive….

    Efficiency doesn’t require a global treaty. It does, however, call for new regulatory policies on manufacturing standards and labeling.  It matters, researchers say, because cooling has a direct relationship with the building of coal-fired power plants to meet peak demand. If more air-conditioners are humming in more homes and offices, then more capacity will be required to meet the demand. So 1.6 billion new air-conditioners by 2050 means thousands of new power plants will have to come on line to support them.

    The Lawrence Berkeley study argues that even a 30 percent improvement in efficiency could avoid the peak load equivalent of about 1,500 power plants by 2030….


  8. Renewable energy policy and public support

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    • public support for renewable energy is very strong
    • whether it’s Democrat or Republican talking about climate change, no matter how we frame it, if we talk about climate change it doesn’t move people….the term has become synonymous with partisanship
    • ensuring that renewable energy policies actually reduce air pollution, increase jobs and get Republican support, and communicating all that to the public, we would find majority support — even from some of the most coal-dominated states.

    July 3 2017  see full ScienceDaily article here

    ….The good news from the results of their repeated survey experiment: Public support for renewable energy in the U.S. is very strong. According to their baseline figures, the vast majority of people in the country support renewable energy portfolios in their states, in which a certain amount of the states’ electricity comes from a renewable source…

    …As Americans favor cheap electricity, the greatest factor would be cost. Even a $2 increase in monthly electric bills would likely cause support for renewable energy to drop by 13 percent, shifting 13 states away from renewable energy policy. A $10 increase would likely result in the majority of states taking an opposing view, the researchers found.

    Meanwhile, substantial job creation would be enough to flip opponents of renewable energy into supporters — and the more jobs, the better…

    …”People tend to forget that when we talk about renewable energy it has benefits for air pollution, and so when you remind people of that it’s likely to increase their support because reducing air pollution is a local benefit,” said Stokes. And the key, according to the researchers, is the local benefit, because people don’t connect to broad concepts such as climate change on a personal level, often viewing it as a global and future phenomenon.

    We’ve found that climate change is not an effective frame to gauge people’s opinion about renewable energy,” she said, “so whether it’s Democrat or Republican talking about climate change, no matter how we frame it, if we talk about climate change it doesn’t move people.” The term has become synonymous with partisanship, Stokes said, and less about the actual issue at hand….

    …”So the idea is that by ensuring that these policies actually reduce air pollution, increase jobs and get Republican support, and communicating all that to the public, we would find majority support — even from some of the most coal-dominated states — for these policies,” Stokes said. “That’s pretty impressive.”

    Leah C. Stokes, Christopher Warshaw. Renewable energy policy design and framing influence public support in the United States. Nature Energy, 2017; 2: 17107 DOI: 10.1038/nenergy.2017.107

  9. Can the U.S. Grid Work With 100% Renewables? There’s a Scientific Fight Brewing

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    By Peter Fairley Posted IEEE

    A battle royale between competing visions for the future of energy blew open today on the pages of a venerable science journal. The conflict pits 21 climate and power system experts against Stanford University civil and environmental engineer Mark Jacobson and his vision of a world fuelled 100 percent by renewable solar, wind, and hydroelectric energy. The criticism of his “wind, water and sun” solution and an unapologetic rebuttal from Jacobson and three Stanford colleagues appear today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)….

    ….Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science. Caldeira’s press release broadcasting their critique argues that removing carbon dioxide from the U.S. power supply is a massive job demanding the biggest tool box possible: “When you call a plumber to fix a leak, you want her to arrive with a full toolbox and not leave most of her tools at home,” says Caldeira.

    The same document then abandons this technology-agnostic tone to call out nuclear energy and carbon capture as technologies that “solving the climate problem will depend on.” And Caldeira has appealed for deploying a new generation of nuclear reactors which he and other nuclear boosters such as former NASA scientist Jim Hansen say are needed because renewables “cannot scale up fast enough.”

    They could be right. Then again, expert sources they cite, such as the International Energy Agency, have consistently underestimated renewable energy growth. And identical scale-up critiques have also been well argued against nuclear energy and carbon capture and storage (CCS)….

  10. Electric Vehicles cleaner than ever- new numbers in from Union of Concerned Scientists

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    • For over 70 percent of Americans, driving an EV results in fewer emissions than even a 50 MPG gasoline vehicle.
    • Nearly half of the EVs sold to date have gone to California, where the average EV produces global warming emissions equal to a 95 MPG gasoline car

    , senior engineer, Clean Vehicles | May 31, 2017  See UCS article here

    ….overall global warming emissions from using an EV is significantly lower for most of the US. Several regions of the country showed significant decreases in emissions, as compared to our first EV emissions assessment.

    When compared to our initial report on EV global warming emissions, the changes are impressive. That report used 2009 power plant data (the most current available in 2012) and placed only 9 of 26 regions in the ‘best’ category. Now 19 regions are in the best category with only 2 in ‘good’ regions…..

    …Based on where EVs have been bought to-date, the average EV in the US now produces emissions equivalent to a hypothetical gasoline car achieving 73 MPG….

    Nearly half of the EVs sold to date have gone to California, where the average EV produces global warming emissions equal to a 95 MPG gasoline car. The next 5 states for EV sales (Georgia, Washington, New York, Florida, and Texas) account for 20 percent of US EV sales and are regions that have emissions ratings of 50 MPG or better….Manufacturing emissions are important, but much less of a factor than fuel emissions.