What does negative net zero carbon mean?

At-a-Glance:

Negative net-zero carbon. The phrase sounds redundant or oxymoronic. But it is a real thing. You can have less than net-zero carbon emissions if you capture and use emissions that otherwise would be released as greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. To learn more, read “What does negative net zero carbon mean?”

Key Takeaways:

  • Renewable natural gas (RNG), or biogas, is derived from organic waste material. Biogas can be captured and used as fuel in place of traditional natural gas.
  • According to a University of California Davis study, there is so much organic waste available in California that more than 20% of the state’s residential gas needs could be met with RNG.
  • California Air Resources Board (CARB) data shows that the average “carbon intensity” of all renewable natural gas vehicle fuel in the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) program was negative for the first time in program history.
  • RNG made up nearly 90% of all natural gas vehicle fuel in the low carbon fuel program and consumed in California in the first half of 2020, up from around 77% in 2019, according to CARB data.
  • According to an EPA study, if you capture all the methane coming off of RNG capture potential areas, you could run about 200,000 trucks on renewable natural gas every year.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The role of natural gas in power generation is increasing as it is being more widely utilized to run power plants that are integrated with intermittent wind and solar systems. As the share of wind and solar capacity increases and the net load to thermal plants decreases, gas power plants can also provide peaking to system balancing. Renewable natural gas can be leveraged as a fuel source to replace fossil-fuel based natural gas, thus moving the world one step closer to decarbonization and a 100% renewable energy future.

 

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The World Is Moving Toward Net Zero Because of a Single Sentence

At-a-Glance:

In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Global Warming of 1.5°C report stated, to have a shot at achieving the Paris Agreement’s stretch goal of limiting warming to 1.5° Celsius above pre industrial levels, every nation must cut its carbon-dioxide emissions in half by 2030—and neutralize them by 2050. Two years later, eight of the 10 largest economies have pledged to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century. Twenty-nine countries, plus the European Union, have net-zero pledges for either CO₂ or all greenhouse gases, accounting for 14.5 percent of global emissions. About 400 companies, including Microsoft, Unilever, Facebook, Ford, Nestle, Pepsi Co, and Brunswick Group, have signed on with the Business Ambition for 1.5°C pledge, which is built on the IPCC’s analysis. To learn more, read The World Is Moving Toward Net Zero Because of a Single Sentence.”  Reading this article could require a subscription to the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • Like most statements the IPCC sets down, the most important sentence ever written is just terrible—clunky and jargon-filled. What it says, in English, is this:
    • By 2030 the world needs to cut its carbon-dioxide pollution by 45%, and by midcentury reach “net-zero” emissions, which means any CO₂ still emitted would have to be drawn down in some way.
  • The half-by-2030, all-by-2050 guidance is keyed specifically to emissions of CO2, by far the biggest contributor to warming.
  • According to the World Resource Institute’s Kelly Levin, “Countries with the highest emissions, greatest responsibility, and capability should adopt the most ambitious target time frames.”
  • Since the Clean Energy D.C. Act became law in early 2019, it has been joined by dozens of other national or subnational jurisdictions trying to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The IPCC’s statement has proven to be a catalyst that sparked a sense of urgency for government leaders, corporate decision makers and utilities. Renewable energy goals are taking many forms, but they have similar targets and deadlines which can only be achieved through commitment, continued research and collaboration. The renewable energy future has not yet been achieved, but with the growing number of investors, innovators and subject matter experts working towards this goal, the path to decarbonization is coming into focus.

 

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Renewables alone won’t satisfy California’s clean energy ambitions

At-a-Glance:

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) would provide California with 15 percent of the emissions reductions necessary to meet its goal of a carbon-neutral economy in 2045, and it would save the state $750 million in costs for solar generation and grid-scale batteries, according to a new study. The report was released in October by the non-profit Energy Futures Initiative (EFI) and Stanford University. According to the report, 20 million tons of carbon dioxide emitted by 76 large industrial and power-generating emitters in California, could be extracted and stored underground at a profit. To learn more, read “Renewables alone won’t satisfy California’s clean energy ambitions.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Clean firm power available whenever needed and most likely to come from natural gas, is necessary to smooth out the peaks and valleys that are inherent to wind, solar, and hydroelectric generation, according to EFI.
  • Transportation accounts for 40 percent of California’s greenhouse gas emissions. The need for clean firm power will surge in concert with the growth of electric vehicles as the state moves to phase out gasoline-fueled cars by 2035.
  • Industry in California is a larger source of emissions than the power sector today, and it has few options available to reduce CO2 apart from CCS. Cement production, for example, requires high temperatures, but only 40 percent of its emissions are from combustion; a larger fraction is process related.
  • A federal tax credit known as 45Q offers $22 per ton of CO2 that is captured and used for enhanced oil recovery or other end uses, increasing to $35 in 2026 and adjusted for inflation thereafter. The credit is $34 per ton, increasing to $50, for CO2 that is captured and injected to geologic storage.
  • The research found that ethanol plants, hydrogen producers, and refineries in the state could capture and store CO2 profitably with existing incentives.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The record breaking heat wave that swept across the western part of the country and caused a series of blackouts in the Golden State this summer, offered additional modelling opportunities to demonstrate the most effective mix of energy to accommodate any extreme weather situation and meet clean power mandates. The big challenge facing California and the rest of the world is how to integrate renewables into the grid while building security of supply and a sustainable power system with an affordable plan for everyone involved. The “Optimal Path“ includes using power-to-gas (PtG) along with existing and future renewable energy.

 

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Why ‘Carbon Neutral’ Is the New Climate Change Mantra

At-a-Glance:

Becoming carbon neutral — also known as climate-neutral or net zero — is now a legal requirement in some countries, while European authorities are adopting legislation to become the first net zero continent. Even oil companies are getting in on the act. Buildings, airlines and events have also made the pledge, while investments groups managing almost $5 trillion of assets have committed to having carbon-neutral portfolios by 2050.To learn more, read Why ‘Carbon Neutral’ Is the New Climate Change Mantra.” Reading this article may require a subscription.

Key Takeaways:

  • What is carbon neutral? It means cutting emissions to the very limit and compensating for what can’t be eliminated.
  • What are carbon offset credits? Developed by the United Nations and non-profit groups, these let the buyers emit a specified amount of greenhouse gas, which is offset by using the money raised to fund carbon-reduction projects such as reforestation.
  • Who’s trying to be carbon neutral? Dozens of countries have committed to go net zero, or at least outperform carbon-reduction targets set out in the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.
  • What’s driving this? CO2 pollution is still rising — 2019 was another record — and is unlikely to peak before 2040, driven by growing use of fossil fuels, says the International Energy Agency.
  • How will the goals be reached? To get anywhere close to net zero by 2050, the world must invest $2.4 trillion in clean energy every year through 2035, according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Much will ride on technologies that on the grand scale required are as yet unproven, including carbon capture, using hydrogen as fuel and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Understanding the evolving terminology is useful, but embracing a plan that is possible, practical and affordable will combine knowledge with measurable results. As organizations add renewable energy to their net zero goals, it is important to develop a power system with flexibility, reliability and sustainability in mind. Renewable energy can actually generate renewable fuels that can be used to create a sustainable grid with a path to faster decarbonization.

 

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