Biden Commits U.S. To Halving Greenhouse Gas Emissions By 2030

At-a-Glance:

President Joe Biden has committed to cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2030 compared with 2005 levels. The ambition is a significant advance on the previous target, set by President Barack Obama, of a 26-28% cut from 2005 levels. But it stops short of doubling that target. Now, climate leaders are waiting to see how the U.S. proposes that that target will be achieved.To learn more, read “Biden Commits U.S. To Halving Greenhouse Gas Emissions By 2030.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • The White House said in January that the president’s plan would put the country on a path to a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035.
  • Other countries have recently ramped up their climate ambitions. On April 21, the European Union announced that it would commit to further emissions cuts by 2030 and ensure its 27 member nations achieve carbon neutral status by 2050.
  • The U.K. has set an even more ambitious target, committing to a 78% cut in emissions by 2035.
  • U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for all nations to submit ambitious new climate action plans ahead of the COP26 climate summit, scheduled for November.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Countless governments have set ambitious carbon neutral targets, but these are yet to be matched by realistic strategies and firm action plans. The path to decarbonization can only be accelerated by modelling power systems and developing strategic plans to futureproof the path to 100% renewable energy using technology that is available today. But the path to net zero will not materialize through incremental steps and organic change. An unplanned, step-by-step journey risks energy systems being burdened with technologies that do not support the transition to 100% renewable energy.

Governments and utilities must adopt clear strategies to drive action, developed in collaboration with all sectors of the economy and setting clear milestones for transformation.

 

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2020 Set A New Record For Renewable Energy. What’s The Catch?

At-a-Glance:

All over the world, the growth of green energy is accelerating. More than 80% of all new electricity generating projects built last year were renewable, leading to a 10.3% rise in total installed zero carbon electricity generation globally, a new report shows. Yet in spite of reduced energy demand in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, fossil fuel electricity generation also continued to grow. So, therefore, did carbon emissions. To learn more, read “2020 Set A New Record For Renewable Energy. What’s The Catch?” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • The report, from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), revealed that 91% of new renewables last year were wind and solar projects, with solar generation having grown the fastest, up by 127 gigawatts—a 22% increase from 2019.
  • But the IRENA report also found that, in spite of lower energy demand and the larger share of renewables in 2020, fossil fuel capacity also increased, though not by quite as much as seen during the previous year, rising 60 gigawatts as compared with 64 gigawatts in 2019.
  • A plan to retire and replace coal and gas plants is essential to reduce emissions, as well as enable workers from those industries to transition into the renewable energy sector.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Renewable energy is widely acknowledged to create more jobs than fossil fuels. McKinsey Sustainability, for example, reports that for every $10 million USD of government spending on renewable technologies 75 jobs are typically created, compared to 27 jobs in the fossil fuels sector. Additionally, renewable energy generates more labor-intensive jobs in the short run, when jobs are scarce, which boosts spending and increases short-run GDP. In the long run, renewable energy requires less labor for operation and maintenance, which frees up labor as the economy returns to capacity.

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Carbon Capture Has To Get As Big As Oil Industry In Less Than 30 Years

At-a-Glance:

The nascent industry that captures and stores carbon dioxide has to scale to the size of the oil industry much faster than oil did, according to the head of the Global CCS Institute. To learn more, read  Carbon Capture Has To Get As Big As Oil Industry In Less Than 30 Years.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • The oil industry moves about 5 gigatons of oil and gas per year. To meet climate goals, the world has to remove at least that weight of carbon dioxide – 5 to 10 gigatons – from the atmosphere each year.
  • Hard to decarbonize sectors – steel, chemicals, cement, fertilizers, and plastics – will generally need carbon capture and storage to address their emissions.
  • The Global CCS Institute is an international think tank seeking to accelerate the deployment of carbon capture and storage. It knows of 26 operating CCS facilities and 40 more that are either in development or suspended.
  • If all 66 facilities were operational, they would collectively capture and store 102 megatons of carbon dioxide each year. Capacity may have to increase 100-fold by 2050.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Accelerating decarbonization efforts is the subject of discussions, research and multiple organizational goals. Carbon capture technology is gaining interest in the energy sector around the world as industries seek innovation, traction and affordability.

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Utilities Are the Focus Of Electrification And Decarbonization, But Can They Deliver?

At-a-Glance:

In the early 2000’s, utilities were unable to grasp the climate change movement. Today, they have been swept up by it – a function of stricter environmental regulations, cheaper natural gas, and affordable renewables. But if electrification and decarbonization are realized, it could pay big dividends for power companies. To learn more, read Utilities Are The Focus Of Electrification And Decarbonization, But Can They Deliver?” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • About 70% of the largest U.S. electric and gas utilities now have net-zero goals, says S&P Global Market Intelligence.
  • The Boston Consulting Group analyzed a “model utility” with 2-3 million customers. It found that it would need to invest between $1,700 and $5,800 in grid upgrades per electric vehicle (EV) through 2030.
  • Xcel Energy has announced plans to serve 1.5 million EVs by 2030. Xcel Energy Chair Ben Fowke expects 60% of the utility’s electric generation to be fueled by renewables in 2030 – with some natural gas as a backup.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Carbon neutral and carbon free systems must install enough capacity (with the right capabilities) to meet energy needs in worst-case scenarios. At a minimum, to assure reliability and avoid blackouts, utility system planners and policy makers need to account for seasonal trends in availability of renewable resources. Accurate modelling can make a critical difference in renewable integration, resilience and reliability. Finally, energy storage systems designed for daily shifting with less than 12 hour duration are not cost optimal for long-term storage and energy time-shifting in high renewable power systems.

 

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Deregulation Is Not The Central Culprit For Texas’ Electricity Crisis

At-a-Glance:

The $1 billion class-action lawsuit filed against the Texas wholesale electricity retailer Griddy Energy is triggering questions about who is to blame for the state’s mid-winter blackout. The core question, though, is whether restructuring Texas’ electricity markets in the early 2000’s exacerbated the crisis. To learn more, read Deregulation Is Not The Central Culprit For Texas’ Electricity Crisis.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  •  Since 2002, consumers could choose their retail electric provider, which purchases its power from competing generators. Millions of Texas’ customers chose competitive suppliers. Others opted for the regulated rate.
  • The Wall Street Journal reported that customers in Texas who selected the competitive plans paid 13% more than the national average between 2004 and 2019. Customers choosing the regulated plan, conversely, paid 8% less during that same time frame.
  • Customers choosing competitive suppliers will in theory make their homes more energy-efficient and use demand response signals to reduce their bills. In the case of the Texas blackouts, however, the price spikes lasted for days and prompted the $9,000 per megawatt-hour regulatory limit.
  •  As renewables start to make up a greater share of the electricity portfolio, greater attention will need to be paid to improving energy efficiency and decentralizing electricity production and delivery systems.
  • Greater resiliency will also need to be built into the power grid, given the intermittent nature of wind and solar, including weatherizing every form of energy generation and delivery so that whole supply chains don’t freeze up.

Path to 100% Perspective:

There must be adequate, dispatchable power for unusual weather events, especially as global reliance on renewables continues to grow. The ideal power system of the future will maintain reliability while continuing to make a decarbonized future a reality by utilizing curtailed solar and wind power to produce future fuels such as green hydrogen, ammonia or carbon-neutral methane to power on-demand power generation. As the energy transition continues, power plants must be able to balance and respond to the grid to produce power during periods when the renewable generation does not match the load – during the winter and unusual weather conditions such as heat waves.

 

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Amazon Tops The 2020 List Of Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers

At-a-Glance:

Just which companies are the biggest buyers of green energy? In 2020, it was Amazon, which bypassed Google and Facebook. These companies were followed by French oil giant Total, the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, and U.S. telecom Verizon. To learn more, read “Amazon Tops The 2020 List Of Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers.” Reading this article may require a subscription. 

Key Takeaways:

  • In its 2021 Corporate Energy Outlook, BloombergNEF reported that more than 130 companies in sectors ranging from oil and gas to big tech have inked clean energy deals and purchased 23.7 gigawatts of clean energy.
  • Amazon entered into 35 power purchase agreements in 2020 and has purchased 7.5 gigawatts of clean energy to date.
  • Sixty-five companies joined the RE100 in 2020, pledging to offset 100% of their electricity consumption with clean energy; there are 280 companies in all.
  • Forty-eight percent of Fortune 500 and 63% of Fortune 100 companies are promising to cut their greenhouse gases and increase their use of renewable energy or improve their energy efficiencies.

Path to 100% Perspective:

More corporations are realizing the benefits of investing in clean energy to expand responsibility, reliability, and flexibility. These companies are setting an ambitious example for others to follow as the path to 100% is seen as possible, practical, and financially feasible. Access to  clean energy resources on a global scale is making it easier for companies to set and work toward clean energy targets.

 

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How To Light A Fuse Under The Green Hydrogen Economy

At-a-Glance:

Generating electricity from clean hydrogen has always been elusive. But that may change in the not-so-distant future: the technological, political and environmental factors – the variables to create the hydrogen economy – are aligning. What remains a sticking point, though, is the cost factor. To learn more, read How To Light A Fuse Under The Green Hydrogen Economy.” Reading this article may require a subscription.

Key Takeaways:

  • More than 99% of the world’s hydrogen production comes from fossil fuels (called grey hydrogen). The goal is to get to green hydrogen, where solar and wind power is used to produce electricity that is put through an electrolyzer to create pure hydrogen gas.
  • In the interim, some say that a mix of green and blue (produced from natural gas using carbon capture and storage) hydrogen is a faster and more optimal solution. Currently, green hydrogen can be blended with natural gas at a rate of 15% while getting to 30% is doable.
  • The Los Angeles Department of Power and Water has agreed with Utah authorities to buy much of the output of the Intermountain Power Project which will generate hydrogen from wind and solar.
    • The plant will convert to a natural-gas-combined-cycle facility that can burn hydrogen as a fuel.
    • By 2025, 30% of electricity will come from hydrogen and by 2045, all of it will.
  • In its Hydrogen Economy Outlook, Bloomberg New Energy Finance says that green hydrogen could cut global greenhouse gases by 34% by 2050.
  • “Hydrogen has potential to become the fuel that powers a clean economy,” writes Kobad Bhavnagri, lead author of the Bloomberg report. “If the clean hydrogen industry can scale up, many of the hard-to-abate sectors could be decarbonized using hydrogen, at surprisingly low costs.”

Path to 100% Perspective:

Hydrogen and synthetic fuels, such as hydrogen-based renewable synthetic methane, promise to be an important piece of the decarbonization puzzle. Creating such a flexible power system would accelerate the global transition to 100% clean energy.

 

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Time Is Running Out, But Net-Zero By 2050 Is Doable. Here’s How

At-a-Glance:

Decarbonization is a buzzword bandied about in policy and corporate circles. But defining it and planning for it are separate challenges. The Low-Carbon Resources Initiative is charting such a course – an effort led by the Electric Power Research Institute and the Gas Technology Institute. To learn more, read Time Is Running Out But Net-Zero By 2050 Is Doable. Here’s How.” Reading this article may require a subscription.

Key Takeaways:

  • This five-year initiative brings together industry stakeholders to accelerate development and to demonstrate low- and zero-carbon energy technologies through clean energy research and development.
  • The initiative focuses on four core pathways:
  • The United States has reduced its annual energy-related CO2 release by about 1 billion tons since 2005. That represents a 14% reduction even as the U.S. economy grew by 28%.
  • The initiative says to reach mid-century targets of 80% CO2 reductions, the U.S. will have to double the current pace over the next 15 years.
  • “We need a portfolio of technologies,” says the Gas Technology Institute’s Mike Rutkowski. “Our initiative will bring scale and financial leverage – working with industry sponsors to multiple success and meet this global challenge.”

Path to 100% Perspective:

Net-zero by 2050 is possible, but it will take a concerted investment in the research and development of clean energy technologies, such as green hydrogen. The Low-Carbon Resources Initiative exemplifies the kind of collaboration that is needed to accelerate the pace of these investments and achieve a decarbonized power system before mid-century.

 

 

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McKinsey: Low Cost Renewables Will Outcompete Fossil Assets By 2030

At-a-Glance:

The energy transition is accelerating. In 2020, renewables outpaced fossil fuels in Europe for the first time. According to the latest research from McKinsey, demand for fossil fuels will never return to pre-pandemic levels. To learn more, read McKinsey: Low Cost Renewables Will Outcompete Fossil Assets By 2030.” Reading this article may require a subscription.

 

Key Takeaways:

  • McKinsey’s 2021 Global Energy Perspective Report predicts that fossil fuel demand is set to peak globally by 2029 and that by 2036, half of the global power supply will be generated by intermittent renewable energy sources.
  • While an earlier peak in hydrocarbon demand means a substantial reduction in forecasted carbon emissions, the world remains significantly off the 1.5°C pathway and will run out of its carbon budget for 2100 in the early 2030s.
  • Many pandemic related recovery packages are providing significant support to the hydrocarbon industry. The 2020 Climate Transparency Report said that by mid-October 2020, G20 countries had spent nearly $400 billion on support for the energy sector – with 53.5% going to the fossil fuel sector.
  • McKinsey’s Christer Tryggestad concludes: “According to our estimates, annual emissions would need to be around 50 percent lower in 2030 and about 85 percent lower by 2050 than current trends predict to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5°C.”

 

Path to 100% Perspective:

The shift toward renewable energy sources over fossil fuels appears to be the way forward. Governments around the world will need to use this shift as motivation to put policies in place that encourage greater investment in renewable energy. There is a tremendous opportunity in this moment for G20 countries, which are responsible for around 75% of global emissions, to rethink their energy investments and bank on low-cost renewables to meet net-zero targets and pave the way for a 100% renewable energy future.

 

 

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Without Carbon Capture And Storage, The World Can’t Meet Its Climate Target

At-a-Glance:

When the global community was focused on the U.S. presidential election last fall, a huge story was developing in Norway: Its parliament was preparing to finance “the greatest” carbon capture project in the world that would cut emissions and jumpstart the technology. It would first be implemented at a cement factory. It is the type of thinking that Prince Charles of Wales said is critical if the international community is to meet its obligations under the Paris climate agreement and to keep temperatures in check. To learn more, read “Without Carbon Capture And Storage, The World Can’t Meet Its Climate Target.” Reading this article may require a subscription. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Prince Charles specifically endorsed Net Power, which is working with Toshiba Corporation to burn natural gas in oxygen to create pure CO2 – much of which is captured, heated and used to create electricity. The remaining CO2 is captured and either sequestered underground or used to enhance oil recovery.
  • Carbon capture and sequestration is feasible, but expensive. However, a tax credit is now given to coal, natural gas and oil companies that can capture or reuse their CO2 releases. Known as Q45, it gives a credit of $50 per ton for CO2 that is buried and $35 per ton for CO2 that is re-utilized.
  • Exxon Mobil Corp. wants to catapult the concept further by using carbonated fuel cells that concentrate and capture the CO2 from power plants, while substantially reducing costs. 
  • Net Power’s Bill Brown says that instead of choosing specific fuels, the United States needs to choose a future – one that is set on becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Free-market forces are pushing companies, large and small, to address climate change. The innovative technologies being developed and deployed by companies like Net Power, Exxon, and Norway’s Gassnova will go a long way to make carbon capture and storage both affordable and accessible for the entire world. While much more will need to be accomplished before achieving a 100% renewable energy future, these efforts are charting a productive course to meet the Paris climate agreement’s goal of net-zero carbon releases by 2050.

 

 

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The Future Of Carbon Capture Is In The Air

At-a-Glance 

While renewable energy is now widely accepted as the cheapest form of electricity generation, energy demand growth, government growth requirements and the need for a responsible transition mean fossil fuels will still have a role. But for that to work with climate goals, carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology must be mainstreamed. In Iceland, Climeworks is showing how direct air capture/storage (DAC) could change the game. To learn more, read “The Future Of Carbon Capture Is In The Air.” Reading this article could require a subscription.

Key Takeaways

  • Climeworks new plant, named Orca, will combine Swiss-based Climeworks’ direct air capture technology with the underground storage of carbon dioxide provided by Iceland’s Carbfix and the plant should be online in spring 2021. 
  • What makes Climeworks use of DAC so interesting is that it doesn’t just work in removing emissions associated specifically with power generation, but can capture emissions directly from the air. This is the company’s largest plant so far, intended to capture around 4,000 tons of CO2 per year.
  • There has been significant movement in the CCS market recently. In the UK, as part of its recently announced green infrastructure plans, the government has promised £1 billion to set up four industrial clusters for CCS. 
  • The Norwegian government is working with Equinor, Shell and Total on a project intended to standardize and scale carbon capture, transportation and storage in Europe. The Northern Lights Project is expected to capture CO2 from industry in the Oslo-fjord region, following which the carbon will be liquefied and shipped to an onshore terminal on the Norwegian west coast and then taken out to the North Sea for long term subsea storage.
  • In Canada, Carbon Engineering says its technology can be scaled up to remove up to 1 million tons of CO2 from the air annually, with a large-scale plant in development with Occidental Petroleum with a completion date reported to be 2026. 

Path to 100% Perspective

Capturing carbon dioxide from the air, utilizing synthesis to combine these into hydrocarbons suitable for synthetic renewable fuels offers substantial opportunities to take valuable steps towards carbon neutral communities. These renewable fuels could be used in transportation, energy storage and energy distribution which improves power system sustainability, reliability and flexibility.

 

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Ditch Nuclear And Save $860 Million With Grid Flexibility, U.K. Told 

At-a-Glance

According to the report from Finnish energy tech firm Wärtsilä, the U.K. would stand to save $860 million per year if, instead of new nuclear power, the government backed grid flexibility measures, such as battery storage and thermal generation. That equates to a saving of about $33 dollars per British household per year. Crucially, the analysis revealed that even if energy generation was to remain the same as it is today, Britain could increase renewables’ share of that generation to 62% simply by adding more flexibility. To learn more, read Ditch Nuclear And Save $860 Million With Grid Flexibility, U.K. Told.” Reading this article could require a subscription.

Key Takeaways

  • According to the Wärtsilä report, Germany at one point paid almost $1.1 million per hour to export 10.5 gigawatts of electricity. Such inefficiencies, Ville Rimali, growth and development director at Wärtsilä Energy said, were indicative of inflexible electricity systems—while countries that had built flexibility into their power grids had no such issues.
  • On the other hand, investing in nuclear power could, according to Wärtsilä, entrench an inflexible grid while making renewables such as solar and wind less cost-effective.
  • Wärtsilä’s recommendations appear to align closely with those of the International Energy Agency (IEA), which has stated that, as economies move away from fossil fuels, “power system flexibility has become a global priority.” Subsequently, according to a report released by the agency last month, much faster deployment of grid flexibility will be required if countries are to achieve their decarbonization targets.

Path to 100% Perspective

In the “Optimising the UK’s Shift to a Renewable-Powered Economy, Wärtsilä recommends a three phase strategy to accelerate a cost-optimal shift to 100% renewable energy and economic decarbonisation. 

  1. Support faster renewable energy deployment to achieve 80% renewable generation by 2030. 
  2. Increase investment in flexibility to unlock renewable energy and deliver a cost-optimal transition for consumers. 
  3. Future-proof today’s decisions to enable future technologies – such as Power-to-X – to achieve 100% renewable energy before 2050

 

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