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More money was invested in solar power in 2017 than in coal, gas and nuclear power combined, according to a new report for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The report says that global investment in solar rose 18% to $160.8 billion, driven by the Chinese market, which was responsible for more than half of the world’s 98GW of new solar capacity. Solar power made up 57% of last year’s total for all renewables (excluding large hydro) of $279.8 billion, and it towered above new investment in coal and gas generation capacity, at an estimated $103 billion. Last year was the eighth in a row in which global investment in renewables, excluding large hydropower, exceeded $200 billion. The $2.7 trillion invested in clean energy from 2007 to 2017 have increased the proportion of electricity generated by wind, solar, biomass and waste-to-energy, geothermal, marine and small hydro globally to more than 12%, from 5.2% in 2007 ... and has avoided the emission of about 1.8 gigatonnes of CO2, about the same as is emitted by the entire US transportation system. UN Environment head Erik Solheim said that “the extraordinary surge in solar investment shows how the global energy map is changing and, more importantly, what the economic benefits are of such a shift. Investments in renewables bring more people into the economy, they deliver more jobs, better quality jobs and better paid jobs. Clean energy also means less pollution, which means healthier, happier development.”
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Google has more clean power than it needs. The Alphabet Inc. unit used about 7 terawatt-hours of electricity to run all of its global operations last year, and it sourced even more than that, according to Neha Palmer, its head of energy strategy. Corporate buyers are major purchasers of wind and solar power. While part of the motivation is to advance sustainability goals, they’re also finding that clean energy is often the cheapest electricity available. Big technology companies have been leading this trend, and Google has been the biggest of them all. “Our electric consumption is the largest part of our carbon footprint,” Palmer said in a phone interview. “The renewable-energy program we have is the best way to mitigate our carbon impact.” Companies signed long-term agreements for a record 5.4 gigawatts of clean capacity globally last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, up from 4.3 gigawatts in 2016. That’s enough to displace at least 10 coal-fired power plants. Google signed its first clean power-purchase agreement in 2010, and since then it’s arranged about 25 more, prompting more than $3 billion in new clean-power plants. Google has agreed to buy ... more than double that of Amazon.com Inc., the next biggest green consumer. “It’s a significant investment, leading to lots of new renewables projects,” Kyle Harrison, a New York-based analyst ... said. “It’s a long-term bet on clean energy, a hedge against wholesale prices.”
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Lockheed Martin has reportedly been working on a revolutionary new type of reactor that can power anything from cities to aircraft carriers. The Maryland-based defense contractor recently received a patent for the compact fusion reactor (CFR) after filing plans for the device in 2014. According to reports, one generator would be as small as a shipping container but produce the energy to power 80,000 homes or one of the U.S. Navy’s Nimitz-class carriers. Lockheed’s advanced projects division, Skunk Works, has reportedly been working on the futuristic power source since 2014 and claimed at the time that a CFR could be ready for production by 2019. “I started looking at all the ideas that had been published. I basically took those ideas and melded them into something new by taking the problems in one and trying to replace them with the benefits of others,” Dr. Thomas McGuire of Skunk Works said during a 2014 interview. “The nice thing about a fusion reaction is that if somehow it would go out of control, it would just stop itself automatically,” William & Mary’s Saskia Mordijck told Phys.org in 2012. “If a fission reaction goes out of control, it can really go out of control. You can’t stop it and it actually might go into a nuclear meltdown.” Lockheed advertises its quest to develop fusion power on its website, calling the technology “a cleaner, safer source of energy” that could be used to power communities or even travel to Mars.
Note: A 2004 New York Times article stated that Lockheed Martin runs a "breathtakingly big part" of the US. This company's "Skunk Works" was kept very secret until 2014, when reporters were given a glossy brochure featuring a "10-point "Skunk Works 2015" agenda". For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing energy invention news articles from reliable major media sources.
According to a 2016 study, the top contributor of air pollution-related deaths in China is the burning of coal. To improve the country's air quality, the Chinese government vows to spend at least $360 billion on clean energy projects and create 13 million new renewable energy jobs by 2020. This year marks China's fourth anniversary since it started a "war on pollution," and there's reason to believe the country is making headway. Chinese cities have cut concentrations of fine particulates - often considered the deadliest type of pollution - by 32% on average since 2013. The city of Xingtai saw the largest pollution decline at 52.2%. China's latest energy megaproject - a giant floating solar farm on top of a former coal mine in Anhui - may get the country closer to that goal. The 166,000-panel array ... can generate 40 megawatts of power - enough to accommodate 15,000 homes. It's currently the world's largest floating solar project and will operate for up to 25 years. Local energy company Sungrow Power Supply developed the farm on a lake that was once the site of extensive coal mining. After an explosion caused the mine to collapse, a lake formed and flooded it. Building solar plants on top of lakes and reservoirs can protect agricultural land and wildlife on the ground. The water also cools the solar panels, helping them work more efficiently. Choosing to develop the Sungrow farm on an abandoned coal mine signals the slow decline of fossil fuels like coal in China and other countries around the world.
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Wind power in the UK set a new record today by generating 14 gigawatts for the first time – nearly 37 per cent of the the country’s electricity. The National Grid control room confirmed that 13.9 gigawatts was the highest ever metered wind output. At 10am on Saturday Wind generated 13.9GW, or 36.9 per cent of the UK’s electricity, increasing to 14GW by 11am. The previous record was 13.6GW in January this year. By contrast gas generated only 8.5GW (23 per cent), nuclear 6.5GW (17.3 per cent), coal just 4.7GW (12.5 per cent) and both solar and biomass 1.5GW (4.1 per cent). Hydro came last with 0.3GW or 0.9 per cent. Wind farms produced a record 15 per cent of Britain’s electricity in 2017, up from 10 per cent in 2016. Dr Iain Staffell of Imperial College said: “The dramatic increase comes from both higher wind speeds and a jump in installed capacity. Several large offshore farms came online and onshore wind had a record year for deployment.”
Declining coal use has pushed UK carbon emissions to levels last consistently seen in 1890, highlighting the country’s progress in cutting greenhouse gases faster than most other developed economies. Emissions fell by 2.6 per cent in 2017, driven by a nearly one-fifth reduction in the use of coal as the energy industry shifts towards cleaner sources of electricity generation, especially wind and solar power. The data marked the fifth successive year in which the amount of carbon dioxide pumped into UK skies has fallen, and emissions are now 38 per cent below the level of 1990. “With coal quickly disappearing in the UK and other fossil fuel use mostly flat, emissions have continued their steady decline,” said Zeke Hausfather, author of the report by Carbon Brief, a climate research and news organisation, which based its findings on the latest UK government data. Britain’s success in driving down emissions contrasts with Germany, where the country’s continued dependence on coal for about 40 per cent of electricity generation has dented Chancellor Angela Merkel’s green credentials and put the country’s climate targets at risk. More than two-thirds of today’s emissions still need to be eliminated if Britain is to meet its legally binding goal to reduce CO2 output by 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050.
Note: In 2017, for the first time since the 1800's, Britain went a day without burning coal to generate electricity. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing climate change news articles from reliable major media sources.
Cities around the globe are going green. Over 100 cities from Addis Ababa to Auckland use more than 70 percent renewables in their energy mix, according to CDP research. The places where populations are at their most dense and pollution is at its highest are doing their bit to battle rising global temperatures by turning to hydro, geothermal, solar and wind to keep the lights on. Since the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to below 2 degrees, city leaders have improved their environmental reporting and set firm emissions reductions targets, CDP said. In the U.S. 58 cities and towns, including Atlanta and San Diego, have committed to move to 100 percent clean energy. Meanwhile Burlington, Vermont, claims to be the first city in the country to get its energy from entirely renewable sources. Only a handful of the more than 100 North American cities that reported their energy mix to CDP use at least 70 percent renewable energy, while a majority of Latin American cities that reported passed that threshold. “Many cities in the developing world have capitalized on their local natural resources. This pioneering activity has largely been driven by local economic needs and political will,” said Kyra Appleby, director of cities at CDP.
Note: An interactive map of the world's greenest cities is available at the link above. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
The biggest buyer of solar farms in America is a company you’ve probably never heard of. Meet Capital Dynamics, an asset manager that handles $15 billion. The firm’s been snapping up clean-power plants for years, but it wasn’t until this month - when the company agreed to spend almost $1 billion on a solar business - that it really landed on mainstream investors’ radar. Now the firm is being called the harbinger of things to come, heralding the next generation of solar and wind farm owners: funds backed by institutional investors like pensions. Its agreement this month to buy 8Point3 Energy Partners LP is among the biggest in a recent string of clean-energy deals done by infrastructure funds. They’re appeasing their investors, who are hungry for the dependable, long-term returns of renewable-energy. After clinching $3 billion of clean-power deals last year ... Capital Dynamics is positioned to buy even more. A key part of the firm’s strategy hinges on capital from its institutional investors. Such investors like that they can match their long-dated liabilities with the returns of solar and wind farms that can stretch over decades. Another edge that Capital Dynamics has over other asset managers: It has spent years building an in-house team with an expertise in solar and wind farm operations, one that leverages its relationships with tax-equity investors and banks.
Ikea is calling for households to join its latest joint venture – a collective energy switch that promises an exclusive 100% renewable electricity tariff. The furniture retailer has joined forces with the “Big Clean Switch” campaign to use a collective switch to secure cheaper green power for the households that sign up. The two companies claim it will save a typical UK household Ł300 a year in lower gas and electricity bills. Big Clean Switch describes itself as a “profit with purpose” company that helps people move to renewable electricity providers. Its website only list tariffs where the supplier can guarantee that 100% of the electricity sold is matched from renewables such as sun, wind and water. Big Clean Switch will then negotiate the best deal it can with green suppliers, at which point customers can choose to sign up. The prices will be announced on 6 March. For every switch, Ikea will receive a commission payment. It remains to be seen whether this big switch will undercut the cheapest 100% green electricity suppliers already available. Anyone can switch to a green supplier via a comparison site. Tonik is one of the cheapest green suppliers at the moment. People’s Energy is another. Consumers have nothing to lose by registering with the Ikea initiative, but will have to decide when the prices are announced whether this is better than the deals on offer. In the past, some collective switches have been “best in market” offering big savings, but others have not.
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In 2012, the UK ranked 20th out of a list of 33 rich countries in terms of low-carbon electricity use. In 2017, it jumped to 7th. No other country has ever climbed up the rankings so quickly. How did the UK manage it? It imposed a carbon tax. The carbon tax, or the carbon floor price as policymakers refer to it, was introduced in 2013. It stands at Ł18 ($25) per ton of carbon dioxide emitted in producing electricity. As a member of the EU’s emissions trading scheme (for now), UK electricity providers also pay a market-based price for carbon credits, which is about Ł5 per ton of CO2. After the tax was introduced, it became much more expensive to burn coal, which produces about twice the emissions per unit of energy as natural gas. The carbon floor price only applies at the point of generation. That means, only UK producers are required to pay it. In normal conditions, this would mean that the interconnectors would have been able to include bids from cheaper dirty fossil fuel generation outside the UK. As it happens, however, France, Norway, and Belgium generate a very high proportion of electricity from low-carbon sources. Even the Netherlands, which only gets 15% of its electricity from renewable sources, can provide a lot of low-carbon electricity on windier days. With the carbon floor price probably set to increase after 2020, the clear direction the UK’s electricity market is headed is away from fossil fuels.
More than half of the electricity generated in the UK in 2017 came from low-carbon sources for the first time ever. Renewables and nuclear provided more electricity than all fossil fuels combined, with wind generation alone supplying twice as much energy as coal, according to analysis by Carbon Brief, a website that tracks climate change and energy policy. Wind made a greater contribution to the country’s electricity needs than coal in every month apart from January. The share from low-carbon sources doubled between 2008 and 2017, Carbon Brief said. The UK has also added wind and solar power generation rapidly, as costs have fallen. Future development will increasingly be possible without the Government subsidies that have aided the industry’s development until now. The UK also passed a series of other milestones last year, including its first day without coal power since 1882, the most electricity produced from solar power at any one moment and the most wind power produced in a day. Wind saw the biggest increase of any energy source, with supply up 31 per cent for the whole of 2017 on 2016’s level. The electricity sector has been the primary focus of renewable power generation as that power can then be used to revolutionise the other sectors, for example through the electrification of transport. Britain’s power system is the fourth cleanest in Europe and the seventh cleanest in the world.
Germany has spent $200 billion over the past two decades to promote cleaner sources of electricity. That enormous investment is now having an unexpected impact - consumers are now actually paid to use power on occasion, as was the case over the weekend. Power prices plunged below zero for much of Sunday and the early hours of Christmas Day on ... a large European power trading exchange, the result of low demand, unseasonably warm weather and strong breezes that provided an abundance of wind power on the grid. Such “negative prices” are not the norm in Germany, but they are far from rare, thanks to the country’s effort to encourage investment in greener forms of power generation. Prices for electricity in Germany have dipped below zero ... more than 100 times this year alone. Several countries in Europe have experienced negative power prices, including Belgium, Britain, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland. But Germany’s forays into negative pricing are the most frequent. At times, Germany is able to export its surplus electricity to its neighbors, helping to balance the market. Still, its experiences of negative prices are often longer, and deeper, than they are in other countries. In one recent example, power prices spent 31 hours below zero during the last weekend of October. At one point, they dipped as low as minus €83, or minus $98, per megawatt-hour, a wholesale measure. Anyone who was able to hook up for a large blast of electricity at that time was paid €83 per unit for the trouble.
Electric cars are already cheaper to own and run than petrol or diesel cars in the UK, US and Japan, new research shows. The lower cost is a key factor driving the rapid rise in electric car sales now underway. At the moment the cost is partly because of government support, but electric cars are expected to become the cheapest option without subsidies in a few years. The researchers analysed the total cost of ownership of cars over four years, including the purchase price and depreciation, fuel, insurance, taxation and maintenance. Pure electric cars came out cheapest in all the markets they examined. Pure electric cars have much lower fuel costs – electricity is cheaper than petrol or diesel – and maintenance costs, as the engines are simpler. In the UK, the annual cost was about 10% lower than for petrol or diesel cars in 2015, the latest year analysed. Hybrid cars which cannot be plugged in and attract lower subsidies, were usually a little more expensive than petrol or diesel cars. Plug-in hybrids were found to be significantly more expensive. “We were surprised and encouraged because, as we scale up production, [pure] electric vehicles are going to be becoming cheaper and we expect battery costs are going to fall,” said James Tate, who conducted the research. At current rates, sales of electric cars could outstrip diesel cars as early as May 2019.
Note: China is the world’s biggest supporter of electric cars, and will require one out of every five cars sold there to run on alternative fuel by 2025.
The conservative city of Georgetown, Texas, runs on renewable energy. After all, wind and solar power are more predictable and easier to budget than oil and gas. Clean power pushes may be associated with more left-leaning cities, but Republican mayor Dale Ross called the switch to renewables a no-brainer. In 2017, at least 15 weather events cost the government more than a billion dollars each. The most expensive events we have in the U.S. are floods. The money spent preparing for and preventing these events ... pays itself back double, triple, and even quadruple times over. But companies and private citizens often fail to prepare properly because the money spent on prevention is private, whereas costs after the fact are often allotted through government organizations. Many fail to connect the cost of switching to renewable energy with the eventual savings of avoiding natural disasters. On an even larger scale, the costs of switching to renewable energy are larger up front, though they save money in the future. For example, Denmark struggled to store its wind power in a way that allowed them to save it for times of high electricity demand. Then they encouraged residents to buy electric cars. Now these vehicles act like moving batteries, and people can sell the energy back to the grid when the cars are parked.
Of all the measures of the continent’s poverty, few are starker than that about two-thirds of its people have no access to reliable electricity. But thanks to a happy combination of innovation and falling costs for renewable energy, Africa may now be able to leapfrog ahead not once but twice, skipping both polluting fossil fuels and, often, the electricity grid itself. This is partly due to falling costs: the price of solar panels has come down by more than 80% since 2010, and that of wind turbines is also dropping fast. Yet generating power is useful only if it can be sent to where it is needed, and in many parts of Africa electricity grids seldom stretch beyond big cities. [A] set of innovations is offering to sidestep this problem with mini rooftop solar installations that can power a home, or slightly larger “micro-grids” that can light up a village. Rooftop solar systems usually consist of a small solar panel and a small rechargeable battery and controller which typically powers ... lights, a radio and a phone charger. Most systems have a built-in connection to the mobile-phone network that allows the provider to switch it on or off remotely. Instead of shelling out $250 or so upfront for an entire system, customers can buy electricity for the equivalent of 50 cents a day using mobile money. Thanks to this new “paygo” model, venture capital is pouring into an industry that now has at least half a dozen significant firms. The largest of them, M-Kopa, has electrified more than 500,000 homes and is adding almost 200,000 more a year.
A Tesla Model S has been hacked in the Netherlands to allow the electric car to run off a second fuel supply - hydrogen cells. Gas supplier Hulthausen Group claims it has doubled the Tesla Model S's range from about 300 miles per charge to 620 miles. "Project Hesla", as it was dubbed by the company's founder, sourced a second-hand Model S and made the modifications without involvement from Tesla. The hack uses the car's electrical mainframe and adds a second layer of charging via hydrogen cells. But as tempting as increased range is, interested customers face heavy drawbacks. Refueling the hydrogen battery will become tricky as there are only seven public refuelling stations across the UK. The United States has 39 public stations across four states. Price will also be a deterrent. The Tesla Model S starts at Ł64,700 and can rise all the way to Ł122,200. The cost of installing the hydrogen power source is about Ł44,000. If owners really want to go far and fast in their cars, a Model S P100D could end up costing them about Ł170,000.
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Every two years, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), America’s official source for energy statistics, issues 10-year projections about how much solar, wind and conventional energy the future holds for the US. Every two years, since the mid-1990s, the EIA’s projections turn out to be wrong. Last year, they proved spectacularly wrong. The Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group, and Statista recently teamed up to analyze the EIA’s predictions for energy usage and production. They found that the EIA’s 10-year estimates between 2006 to 2016 systematically understated the share of wind, solar and gas. Solar capacity, in particular, was a whopping 4,813% [or 48 times] more in 2016 than the EIA had predicted in 2006 it would be. The EIA regularly underestimates the growth in renewables but overestimates US fossil-fuel consumption. These estimates matter because they form the basis for actions by the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies. The agency’s “projections bear little resemblance to market realities” because they ignore publicly available evidence, argues the clean-energy non-profit Advanced Energy Economy. Michael Grunwald at Politico reports the EIA seems to base its projections on the assumption that renewable energy costs won’t fall much, when in fact they keep plunging.
The Hellisheidi geothermal power plant situated on the mid-Atlantic ridge, is the newest and largest geothermal plant in Iceland - a country that heats 90% of its homes using geothermal water. The plant has now become the first in history to capture carbon dioxide from ambient air, using a system of fans and filters, and then store it in bedrock 700 metres down. There the gas reacts with basaltic rock and forms solid minerals, creating a permanent storage solution, and turning Hellisheidi into a negative emissions site. The EU-funded project [is] capable of capturing 50 metric tons of CO2 each year. Christoph Gebald, Founder and CEO at Climeworks, said: “The potential of scaling-up our technology in combination with CO2 storage, is enormous. Our plan is to offer carbon removal to individuals, corporates and organizations as a means to reverse their non-avoidable carbon emissions.′ It also costs $600 per ton of carbon dioxide, a figure they are hoping to reduce to $100 per ton. Iceland currently runs 100% of it’s electricity from renewable sources.
China will set a deadline for automakers to end sales of fossil-fuel-powered vehicles, becoming the biggest market to do so in a move that will accelerate the push into the electric car market. Xin Guobin, the vice minister of industry and information technology, said the government is working with other regulators on a timetable to end production and sales. The move will have a profound impact on the environment and growth of China’s auto industry, Xin said at an auto forum in Tianjin on Saturday. The world’s second-biggest economy, which has vowed to cap its carbon emissions by 2030 and curb worsening air pollution, is the latest to join countries such as the U.K. and France seeking to phase out vehicles using gasoline and diesel. The looming ban ... will goad both local and global automakers to focus on introducing more zero-emission electric cars to help clean up smog-choked major cities. “The implementation of the ban for such a big market like China can be later than 2040,” said Liu Zhijia, an assistant general manager at Chery Automobile Co., the country’s biggest passenger car exporter. The U.K. said in July it will ban sales of diesel- and gasoline-fueled cars by 2040, two weeks after France announced a similar plan to reduce air pollution and meet targets to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Norway and the Netherlands are considering a more aggressive way to put an end on fossil fuel cars years earlier than its European peers.
Note: According to a recent study, subsidies propping up the global fossil fuel industry "were $4.9 tn in 2013 and they rose to $5.3 tn just two years later."
General Motors will start selling a tiny electric car in China this week that will cost about $5,300 after national and local electric vehicle incentives. For that sort of price, the Baojun E100 is no Cadillac, of course. The two-seat car's wheelbase - the distance from the center of the front wheels to the center of the rear wheels - is just 63 inches. Prices for the car start at RMB 93,900, or about $14,000, before incentives. The E100, which is Baojun's first electric car, is powered by a single 39-horsepower electric motor and has a top speed of 62 miles an hour. The E100 can drive about 96 miles on a fully charged battery. Baojun is a mass-market car brand from General Motors' SAIC-GM-Wuling joint venture in China. It's China's eighth most popular car brand. More than 5,000 people have already registered to buy the first 200 vehicles, according to GM. Another 500 vehicles will be made available this week, and buyers will be chosen on a first-come-first-served basis, a GM spokesperson said. Sales will initially be limited to the Guanxi region of southern China, but GM plans to sell the car more widely in China. A GM spokesperson declined to say exactly how many it expects to sell. China is the largest automotive market in the world, and its government is making a big push for electric cars. Already, China accounts for 40% of all electric cars sold worldwide, according to the International Energy Agency.
Important Note: Explore our full index to key excerpts of revealing major media news articles on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.