Energy News ArticlesExcerpts of Key Energy News Articles in Media
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.
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.
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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.
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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."
Fossil fuels are expensive. Much of their costs are hidden, however, as subsidies. If people knew how large their subsidies were, there would be a backlash against them from so-called financial conservatives. A study was just published in the journal World Development that quantifies the amount of subsidies directed toward fossil fuels globally, and the results are shocking. The authors work at the IMF and are well-skilled to quantify the subsidies discussed in the paper. The subsidies were $4.9 tn in 2013 and they rose to $5.3 tn just two years later. According to the authors, these subsidies are important because first, they promote fossil fuel use which damages the environment. Second, these are fiscally costly. Third, the subsidies discourage investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy that compete with the subsidized fossil fuels. Finally, subsidies are very inefficient means to support low-income households. With these truths made plain, why haven’t subsidies been eliminated? We are talking enormous values of 5.8% of global GDP in 2011, rising to 6.5% in 2013. Petroleum and coal receive much larger subsidies compared to their counterpart fuels. There are two key takeaway messages. First, fossil fuel subsidies are enormous and they are costs that we all pay, in one form or another. Second, the subsidies persist in part because we don’t fully appreciate their size. These two facts, taken together, further strengthen the case to be made for clean and renewable energy.
Note: Even competing with such heavily subsidized fossil fuels, the solar power industry in the US now employs more workers than the coal, oil and natural gas industries combined. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing energy news articles from reliable major media sources.
Electricity prices in [California] have begun turning negative on the main power exchange, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has revealed. Solar made up a record figure of nearly 40 per cent of the electricity sent to the grid in the California Independent System Operator’s (CAISO’s) territory for a few hours on 11 March, after utility-scale solar farms grew by almost 50 per cent in 2016, the EIA said. Solar capacity in the state has grown rapidly in the last few years. There was less than one gigawatt in 2007, but nearly 14GW by the end of last year. At this time of year, the large amounts of sunlight and the relatively low demand can produce too much electricity around the middle of the day. “Electricity demand in California tends to peak during the summer months,” the EIA said. “However, in late winter and early spring, demand is at its annual minimum, but solar output, while not at its highest, is increasing as the days grow longer and the sun gets higher in the sky. “Consequently, power prices ... were substantially lower in March compared with other times of the year or even March of last year. System average hourly prices were frequently at or below $0 per megawatthour. In contrast, average hourly prices in March 2013–15 during this time of day ranged from $14/MWh to $45/MWh.”
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Norway said that electric or hybrid cars represented half of new registrations in the country so far in 2017, as Norway continues its trend towards becoming one of the most ecologically progressive countries in the world. According to figures from the Road Traffic Information Council (OFV) ... sales of electric cars accounted for 17.6 per cent of new vehicle registrations in January and hybrid cars accounted for 33.8 per cent, for a combined 51.4 per cent. Norway already has the highest per capita number of all-electric cars in the world. The milestone is also particularly significant as a large proportion of Norway’s funds rely on the country’s petroleum industry. "This is a milestone on Norway's road to an electric car fleet," Climate and Environment minister Vidar Helgesen [said]. “The transport sector is the biggest challenge for climate policy in the decade ahead. We need to reduce (CO2) emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030," he added. Last year, the government agreed on a proposal to ban the sale of new gasoline and diesel-powered car starting in 2025. It also aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions of new cars to 85 grams per kilometre by 2020 - a goal it has almost achieved: : the figure stood at 88 grams in February compared to 133 grams when the decision was taken five years ago. In December, Norway registered its 100,000th electric car. Norway has also become the first country in the world to commit to zero deforestation.
The solar panels - 3,852 of them - shimmered above 10 acres of Jimmy Carter’s soil where peanuts and soybeans used to grow. 38 years after Mr. Carter installed solar panels at the White House, only to see them removed during Ronald Reagan’s administration, the former president is leasing part of his family’s farmland for [the] project. It is, Mr. Carter and energy experts said, a small-scale effort that could hold lessons for other pockets of pastoral America in an age of climate change and political rancor. “I hope that we’ll see a realization on the part of the new administration that one of the best ways to provide new jobs - good-paying and productive and innovative jobs - is through the search for renewable sources of energy,” Mr. Carter, 92, said in an interview. Although Mr. Carter, now decades removed from the night in February 1977 when he donned a cardigan sweater and spoke of the country’s “energy problem,” remains a keen student of energy policy, the solar project is also an extension of his legacy. The project on Mr. Carter’s land, which feeds into Georgia Power’s grid and earns the former first family less than $7,000 annually, did not need to be large to serve much of Plains, population 683 or so. It began when a solar firm, SolAmerica, approached Mr. Carter’s grandson Jason Carter about the possibility of installing panels here. The former president, who was 11 when his boyhood home got running water after his father installed a windmill, did not need convincing and became deeply involved with the project, writing notes in the margins of the lease agreement and visiting the site regularly.
For nearly 100 years, scientists have dreamed of turning the lightest of all the elements, hydrogen, into a metal. Now, in a stunning act of modern-day alchemy, scientists at Harvard University have finally succeeded in creating a tiny amount of [this] material. Metallic hydrogen could theoretically revolutionise technology, enabling the creation of super-fast computers, high-speed levitating trains and ultra-efficient vehicles and dramatically improving almost anything involving electricity. But the prospect of this bright future could be at risk if the scientists’ next step – to establish whether the metal is stable at normal pressures and temperatures – fails to go as hoped. Professor Isaac Silvera, who made the breakthrough with Dr Ranga Dias, said: “This is the holy grail of high-pressure physics. “It's the first-ever sample of metallic hydrogen on Earth, so when you're looking at it, you're looking at something that’s never existed before.” At the moment the tiny piece of metal can only be seen through two diamonds that were used to crush liquid hydrogen at a temperature far below freezing. The amount of pressure needed was immense – more than is found at the centre of the Earth. Sometime in the next few weeks, the researchers plan to carefully ease the pressure. According to one theory, metallic hydrogen will be stable at room temperature. If this is true, then [it] could ... transform humanity’s efforts to explore our solar system by providing a form of rocket fuel nearly four times more powerful than the best available today.
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Solar energy is now cheaper than traditional fossil fuels. Solar and wind is now either the same price or cheaper than new fossil fuel capacity in more than 30 countries, according to a new report from the World Economic Forum. The influential foundation has described the change as a "tipping point" that could make fighting climate change into a profitable form of business for energy companies. But investors and energy firms are still failing to put money into such green solutions despite the fact that they are cheaper than more traditional forms of electricity generation. “Renewable energy has reached a tipping point – it now constitutes the best chance to reverse global warming,” said Michael Drexler, Head of Long Term Investing, Infrastructure and Development at the World Economic Forum. Just ten years ago, generating electricity through solar cost about $600 per MWh, and it cost only $100 to generate the same amount of power through coal and natural gas. But ... today it only costs around $100 the generate the same amount of electricity through solar and $50 through wind. The cheap price of solar and wind energy is already encouraging companies to build more plants to harvest it. The US is adding about 125 solar panels every minute ... and investment in renewables in 2015 rose to $286 billion, up 5 per cent from the year before. Even despite that cheap price ... the worldwide investment is only 25 per cent of the $1 trillion goal set in the landmark Paris climate change accord.
Note: Why are most of the media in the US hardly reporting this inspiring news at all? Read more on this great news in this informative essay.
Almost all Costa Rica's electricity was produced by renewable energy in 2016. The Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) said that around 98.1 per cent of the country’s electricity came from green sources. These included large hydropower facilities, fed by a myriad of rivers and heavy seasonal rains, geothermal plants, wind turbines, solar panels and biomass plants. The country used carbon-free electricity for more than 250 days last year with a continuous 110-day stretch from 17 June until 6 October. Science and environment journalist Maria Gallucci described the tropical country as "a verdant gem amid a pile of black coal rocks". In comparison, less than 15 per cent of the US electricity supply for January to October 2016 was renewable. Coal and natural gas together made up nearly two-thirds of the US electricity generation over that period and nuclear power provided the remaining 19 per cent. ICE president Carlos Manuel Obregón said he expected renewable power generation to stay “stable” in Costa Rica in 2017. The country, which hosts more than five per cent of the world’s species biodiversity despite a landmass that covers 0.03 per cent of the planet, has recently set up four new wind farms. Costa Rican clean development adviser Dr Monica Araya has said the extent of Costa Rica's renewable electricity generation is a “fantastic achievement".
Researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a Department of Energy lab in Tennessee, have discovered a mechanism for converting carbon dioxide into ethanol. Their method takes advantage of nanotechnology, creating a catalyst that produces ethanol from a solution of carbon dioxide in water. “We discovered somewhat by accident that this material worked,” said Adam Rondinone, the lead author of a new study in the journal ChemistrySelect. “We were trying to study the first step of a proposed reaction when we realized that the catalyst was doing the entire reaction on its own.” The discovery may change the way we think about carbon dioxide. If it could be captured and turned into a fuel, then carbon dioxide – the earth-polluting byproduct of global dependence on fossil fuels – could help high-energy societies work toward energy independence. Repurposing carbon dioxide could be invaluable for the environment, the researchers say. Converting it into ethanol can turn a greenhouse gas into a gasoline-like fuel source. Ethanol contains one-third less energy than gasoline but produces far fewer byproducts when burned in engines, which can limit further carbon emissions. “Closing the carbon cycle by utilizing CO2 as a feedstock for currently used commodities, in order to displace a fossil feedstock, is an appropriate intermediate step towards a carbon-free future,” the researchers wrote in the study.
Aidan Dwyer, 13, went to the woods and had a eureka moment that could be a major breakthrough in solar panel design. The 7th-grader ... noticed a pattern among tree branches, and determined (as naturalist Charles Bonnet did in 1754) that the pattern represented the Fibonacci sequence of numbers. Aidan wondered why, and figured it had something to do with photosynthesis. In a pretty innovative experiment, this intrepid young scientist set about duplicating an oak tree, comparing its sunlight-capturing abilities to a traditional rooftop solar panel array. He copied the pattern using a computer program, and built an oak tree-shaped solar array out of PVC pipe. He next built a flat-panel array mounted at 45 degrees, like a typical home rooftop array, and attached data loggers to each model to monitor voltage. Aidan's award-winning essay ... walks you through his experiment design and his results. But the short story is that his tree design generated much more electricity - especially ... when the sun is at its lowest point in the sky. At that point, the tree design generated 50 percent more power, without any adjustments to its declination angle. He determined the tree's Fibonacci pattern allowed some solar panels to collect sunlight even if others were in shade, and prevented branches on a tree from shading other branches. Now Aidan is studying other tree species and improving his PVC model to determine how it could be used to make more efficient solar arrays.
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Researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed a new flow battery that stores energy in organic molecules dissolved in neutral pH water. This new chemistry allows for a non-toxic, non-corrosive battery with an exceptionally long lifetime and offers the potential to significantly decrease the costs of production. Flow batteries store energy in liquid solutions in external tanks - the bigger the tanks, the more energy they store. Flow batteries are a promising storage solution for renewable, intermittent energy like wind and solar but today’s flow batteries often suffer degraded energy storage capacity after many charge-discharge cycles. The Harvard team was able to engineer a battery that loses only one percent of its capacity per 1000 cycles. “Lithium ion batteries don’t even survive 1000 complete charge/discharge cycles,” said [researcher Michael] Aziz. “Because we were able to dissolve the electrolytes in neutral water, this is a long-lasting battery that you could put in your basement,” said [researcher Roy] Gordon. “If it spilled on the floor, it wouldn’t eat the concrete and since the medium is noncorrosive, you can use cheaper materials to build the components of the batteries, like the tanks and pumps.” The Department of Energy (DOE) has set a goal of building a battery that can store energy for less than $100 per kilowatt-hour. “If you can get anywhere near this cost target then you change the world,” said Aziz.
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Power plant turbines might be getting smaller. The tech is still in its early stages but GE Global Research is developing a turbine that - though only the size of the average desk - could someday power entire towns. The principle behind it could have a big effect on the future of turbine power. Instead of being pushed by steam, like most power plant turbines, the "minirotor" as [steam turbine specialist at GE Global Research Doug] Hofer calls it is pushed by CO2. Not gaseous CO2, or liquid CO2, but CO2 so hot and pressurized that it forms what is called a supercritical fluid, a state of heat and pressure so extreme that the distinctions between liquid and gas basically cease to exist. The tiny turbine's design is intended to harness the power of this specific (and weird) state of matter which could make the turbines as much as 50 percent efficient at turning heat to electricity, a significant improvement over ~45 percent efficient steam turbines. On top of that, these turbines should be relatively easy to spin up or down as demand shifts allowing power plants to more accurately tweak supply on the fly. The prototype design is a 10 MW turbine, though GE hopes to be able to scale the tech to enough to power a city, somewhere in the 500 megawatt range. The first physical tests are scheduled for later this year.
842 megawatts is ... more than enough to power all the homes in the Denver metro area. It’s also enough to keep about 15 percent of Google’s data centers humming. On Thursday, Google announced that it had finalized contracts to buy 842 megawatts of wind and solar energy from plants in the US, Chile, and Sweden, nearly doubling the company's total clean energy capacity. The contracts ... help to give the energy companies financial stability to be able to build additional clean energy facilities. Renewable energy now provides about 37 percent of the total energy consumed by Google’s data centers worldwide. This purchase is the largest of its kind ever made by a non-utility company, but Google isn’t the only tech giant shifting over to clean energy. One of Facebook’s five data centers is powered entirely by a nearby wind farm, and the company says it plans to get 50 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2018. Amazon’s cloud computing division announced last year that its operations would eventually be powered completely by clean energy. And in 2014, Apple announced that all of its offices, stores, and data centers in the US were being powered ... renewable sources. Google was one of 13 large companies that collectively invested more than $140 billion in new clean energy projects in July as part of the American Business Act on Climate Pledge. Apple and Microsoft were also part of the pledge; both companies said their operations would eventually be 100 percent powered by renewable energy.
A revolution of sorts is brewing in the clean energy field, with the emergence of fusion and "low energy nuclear reaction" (LENR) energy. These processes, unlike fission reactions used in conventional nuclear reactors, need not emit dangerous radiation, nor do they produce radioactive byproducts. The fuel is plentiful and free. One pioneer in LENR is Andrea Rossi, an Italian-American inventor-entrepreneur ... who recently formed a venture to commercially market systems based on an LENR process he has developed. Many are understandably skeptical of Rossi's claims; yet he reports that he has a full-scale working prototype, delivering 1 MWatt continuous net output power, which is already seven months into a one-year acceptance test at a commercial client's site. Several observers have seen the system in operation, and have reported that it is working as claimed. On 25 August 2015, the U.S. Patent Office awarded Rossi a patent for his process. Given the potential importance of these developments, scientifically, economically and environmentally, we have been following progress in this area in earlier Huffington Post articles (HP#1) and (HP#2). "We foresee applications for central heating of commercial buildings, heat production for industrial processes and electric power generation. My dream is for domestic heat and power generation," [said Rossi]. "We have already obtained safety certification for our industrial plants. Domestic systems are still on course in the certification process."
Note: You can explore this patent on the US Patent office website on this webpage. And read an intriguing article from a local newspaper about the new energy invention of Randall Mills, who has raised over $100 million to fund development of his work. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing new energy technology news articles from reliable major media sources.
Some 1.3 billion people worldwide live without electricity, affecting health, lowering incomes, and making education difficult. An increasing number of advocates ... are promoting the use of solar power to [increase] access to clean energy across the globe. Solar is a low-cost energy source in the long run, but it has high initial costs. Some solar manufacturers and energy distributors are helping people skirt these up-front costs through creative financing models. In programs such as these, customers can finance their own solar systems for less than what they would otherwise be spending on kerosene ($40-$80 per year on average). Barefoot College developed a training program for grandmothers, who ... learn how to install, maintain, and repair the solar systems and, upon graduation, receive a monthly salary for their work. Solar Sister trains rural African women in sales and entrepreneurship, empowering them to become active participants in the economy while acknowledging that “women invest 90 percent of their income into their family’s well being.” Lighting a Billion Lives trains local entrepreneurs to manage their own solar charging station, from which they rent out solar lamps for a modest price to the local population. The organization also offers microloans and subsidies to facilitate such entrepreneurship. Grameen Shakti (Bangladesh), SolarAid (Africa), and Kamworks (Cambodia) operate with similar values. In this way, solar companies are ... empowering families [and] communities.
Arizona’s largest utility company has been at odds with the solar panel industry for years. Now, APS [Arizona Public Service, the state’s largest utility] is asking the Federal Trade Commission to crack down on solar companies. But they didn’t ask them directly. Six Arizona Congressmen sent letters to federal regulators asking them to investigate solar leasing companies. Reporter Evan Wyloge ... has the original letter and proves it’s actually APS spearheading the effort. Arizona Public Service [is] one of the largest campaign donors for the group of lawmakers. The APS-authored, congressmen-signed letter comes as the latest in an ongoing effort to stymie third-party solar panel companies, whose business has grown tenfold over the past half-decade, presenting a challenge to the long-term business model of traditional utilities like APS. The high-profile fight between the traditional utility and newer rooftop solar panel companies is not unique to Arizona. Similar struggles have emerged in other states. On Nov. 19, Democratic Reps. Ron Barber, Ann Kirkpatrick and Kyrsten Sinema asked [regulators] in a joint letter to ... look into solar panel leasing practices. Then, on Dec. 12, Republican Reps. Trent Franks, Paul Gosar and Matt Salmon sent a similar letter to the FTC. After both letters were sent, the Arizona Corporation Commission voted late in 2014 to open a docket on consumer complaints about solar companies. Initial hearings are expected to begin this spring.
Longmont [Colorado] has become a cautionary tale of what can happen when cities decide to confront the oil and gas industry. In an aggressive response to a wave of citizen-led drilling bans, state officials, energy companies and industry groups are taking Longmont and other municipalities to court, forcing local governments into ... expensive, long-shot efforts to defend the measures. Two years ago, [Longmont] residents voted to ban hydraulic fracturing from their grassy open spaces and a snow-fed reservoir. In Colorado, the energy industry, which argues that cities lack the authority to outlaw fracking, has already won rulings overturning three fracking prohibitions. Longmont, which sits near the juncture of rolling plains and jagged mountains, has spent about $136,000 fighting — unsuccessfully so far — to defend a 2012 measure that outlawed fracking. In July, a district court judge tossed out the ban, and the city is appealing. A judge also overturned a fracking ban last year in Fort Collins, Colo., and denied pleas from the city to keep the ban in place while local officials went to court to defend a five-year fracking moratorium. In Broadview Heights, Ohio, energy companies are suing the town — and residents are suing the energy companies in return — over a bill of rights that outlawed fracking and the disposal of its byproducts. While the Longmont City Council voted unanimously in August to defend the fracking ban, other towns have decided it is just too costly a fight.
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