Energy News StoriesExcerpts of Key Energy News Stories in Major Media
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Global demand for fossil fuels will peak in 2023, an influential thinktank has predicted. Explosive growth in wind and solar will combine with action on climate change and slowing growth in energy needs to ensure that fossil fuel demand peaks in the 2020s, Carbon Tracker predicted. The projection is much more bullish than estimates by the global energy watchdog and oil and gas companies, which mostly expect demand to peak in the mid-2030s. Coal reached its peak in 2014. The group, which popularised the notion of a carbon bubble – where fossil fuel assets lose their value in the switch to a low-carbon economy – said the findings spelled disruption for energy firms. The Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, has already warned that markets face a “huge hit” from the transition. The Carbon Tracker report warned incumbency and size would be no protection, and compared the fate of fossil fuel firms to the horse and cart at the start of the 20th century. “Demand for incumbents peaks early, and investors in incumbents lose money early,” it said. The first two decades of this century were the innovation period for renewables, the authors said, while the “endgame” for fossil fuels – when renewables overtake them – would come from 2050 onwards. Falling wind and solar costs would lead to some emerging countries “leapfrogging” fossil fuels and opting for renewables to meet most of their growing energy needs, the thinktank said.
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Imagine a new, potent generation of solar panels capable of producing unlimited amounts of energy, using only sunshine and algae. This could be possible, thanks to a breakthrough made by researchers from the University of Cambridge, documented in a Nature Energy 2018 article. They were able to split water into its components, oxygen and hydrogen, using what is known as semi-artificial photosynthesis. The procedure has ... never been used to generate large amounts of energy due to expensive and toxic catalysts necessary for the reaction. Photosynthesis [is] the process plants use to convert sunlight into energy. Oxygen is a byproduct of photosynthesis when water absorbed by plants is “split.” Most of the oxygen on Earth is here because of this photochemical reaction. Hydrogen ... is also produced this way. Now, by combining algae and man-made components, researchers have been able to bypass both natural inefficiency and the use of toxic reactants. This was achieved by enabling a dormant process in algae that uses a special enzyme (hydrogenase) to reduce water into hydrogen and oxygen. Katarzyna Sokol, a researcher on the project ... explains: "Hydrogenase is an enzyme present in algae that is capable of reducing protons into hydrogen. During evolution, this process has been deactivated because it wasn’t necessary for survival, but we successfully managed to bypass the inactivity to [split] water into hydrogen and oxygen."
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Utilities around the world are supersizing their solar farms. Nowhere is that more apparent than in southern Egypt, where what will be the world’s largest solar farm — a vast collection of more than 5 million photovoltaic panels — is now taking shape. When it’s completed next year, the $4 billion Benban solar park near Aswan will cover an area 10 times bigger than New York’s Central Park and generate up to 1.8 gigawatts of electricity. But Benban probably won’t hold on to its title for long. China is planning to build a two-gigawatt solar farm in the northwestern province of Ningxia, and the state of Gujarat in western India recently gave the go-ahead for a five-gigawatt facility. Japan is even talking about putting a large-scale solar farm in space. “There are huge savings for larger projects,” says Benjamin Attia, a solar analyst. A 2017 report from the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that the cost of photovoltaic systems shrank by a factor of five from 2010 to 2017. Even the punitive tariffs on Chinese solar panels enacted earlier this year by the Trump administration are unlikely to slow the spread of large-scale solar, which in the U.S. is already cheaper and much cleaner than coal. “Governments have wised up,” says Attia. “They just want the cheapest, fastest way to add new electricity supplies. For nuclear, procurement can take a decade. For gas, it’s up to four years. If you’re talking solar and things go smoothly, you can build a reasonably large project in 18 months.”
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A floating tidal stream turbine off the coast of Orkney has produced more green energy in a year than Scotland’s entire wave and tidal sector produced in the 12 years before it came online. In 12 months of full-time operation, the SR2000 turbine supplied the equivalent annual power demand of about 830 households. It produced 3GWh of renewable electricity during its first year of testing. Over the 12 years before its launch ... wave and tidal energies across Scotland had collectively produced 2.983GWh. Andrew Scott, chief executive officer of developers Scotrenewables Tidal Power, said: “The SR2000’s phenomenal performance has set a new benchmark for the tidal industry. “Its first year of testing has delivered a performance level approaching that of widely deployed mature renewable technologies.” He added: “The ability to easily access the SR2000 for routine maintenance has been a significant factor in our ability to generate electricity at such levels over the past 12 months, including over winter.” The team ... said their success – combined with Meygen’s generation of more than 8GWh over the past year from four tidal turbines deployed in the Pentland Firth – is evidence that tidal power generation could be rolled out more widely.
Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Chinese researchers have taken what they say is a major step forward for the development of a new generation of solar cells. Manufacturers have long used silicon to make solar panels because the material was the most efficient at converting sunlight into electricity. But organic photovoltaics, made from carbon and plastic, promise a cheaper way of generating electricity. This new study shows that organics can now be just as efficient as silicon. Organic photovoltaics (OPV) can be made of compounds that are dissolved in ink so they can be printed on thin rolls of plastic, they can bend or curve around structures or even be incorporated into clothing. Commercial solar photovoltaics usually covert 15-22% of sunlight, with a world record for a silicon cell of 27.3% reached in this summer in the UK. Organics have long lingered at around half this rate. In April researchers were able to reach 15% in tests. Now this new study pushes that beyond 17% with the authors saying that up to 25% is possible. This is important because according to estimates, with a 15% efficiency and a 20 year lifetime, organic solar cells could produce electricity at a cost of less than 7 cents per kilowatt-hour. In 2017, the average cost of electricity in the US was 10.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. Flexible, printed solar cells offer a wide range of possibilities. They can work indoors and they can be made semi-transparent, so they could be incorporated into windows and generate power during daylight.
The sprawling, gated campus of the Energy Research Center of the Netherlands (ECN) sits on a spit of land about an hour north of Amsterdam. In a nearby control room, engineers ... were working on one of clean energy’s intransigent problems: how to turn waste into electricity without producing more waste. Decades ago, scientists discovered that when heated to extreme temperatures, wood and agricultural leftovers, as well as plastic and textile waste, turn into a gas composed of underlying chemical components. The resulting synthetic gas, or “syngas,” can be harnessed as a power source, generating heat or electricity. But gasified waste has serious shortcomings: it contains tars, which clog engines and disrupt catalysts, breaking machinery, and in turn, lowering efficiency and raising costs. This is what the Dutch technology is designed to fix. The MILENA-OLGA system, as they call it, is a revolutionary carbon-neutral energy plant that turns waste into electricity with little or no harmful byproducts. The MILENA-OLGA process ... is 11 percent more efficient than most existing energy-from-waste plants and over 50 percent more efficient than incinerators of a comparable scale. The process also emits zero wastewater and produces no particulates or other pollutants. Just 4 percent of the original material is left over as inert white ash, which can be used to make cement.
Note: A similar technology was developed and implemented over 10 years ago, as detailed in this Popular Science article. Why wasn't this amazing invention widely reported and used? Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
This week, two of the biggest economies in Europe set new records for clean energy. The UK’s electrical grid has not burned any coal for about 1,000 hours so far this year. Though it’s just a symbolic achievement, the pace at which the UK is reaching such figures shows the pace of the energy transition. In 2016 and 2017, the comparable figures for the full year stood at 210 hours and 624 hours, respectively. There are two reasons for the shift: a carbon tax on coal has made cleaner natural gas more attractive, and subsidies for solar and wind power have ensured wider deployment of new clean-energy technologies. Germany’s case has been slightly different. Though it began pushing for renewable energy much earlier than the UK, its gains have been slower. The coal lobby in Germany is a lot stronger than in the UK. But as the costs of renewable energy have come down, change is finally showing. In 2018 so far, coal generated about 35.1% of the country’s electricity. In comparison, renewable sources, such as solar, wind, and biomass, generated about 36.5%. At the half-year mark, it’s the first time in Germany’s history that renewables sources have generated more electricity than coal. Such records and falling renewable costs have made it easier for the EU to set more ambitious clean-energy goals. Last month, the bloc’s member nations agreed that each country must get 32% of all its energy from renewable sources by 2030.
While most countries are struggling to reach their renewable energy targets, others are breezing past them. Thanks to both its geography and impactful policies, Sweden is set to achieve its 2030 goals in mere months. In 2012, years before the Paris Agreement, Norway and Sweden signed a joint agreement to increase production of electricity from renewables by 28.4 terawatt hours within eight years. It only took a few years for Sweden to realize it was ahead of schedule, and in 2017, it increased its target, aiming to add another 18 TWh by 2030. Lo and behold, once more, Sweden is moving much faster than anticipated and now there’s a good chance it will reach the 2030 goal in mere months — maybe even by the end of the year. Wind energy is one of the main drivers propelling Sweden’s renewable targets forward. According to the World Economic Forum ... there will be 3,681 turbines functioning in the country by the end of the year. But this is only the start of the road for Sweden. Sweden already has a cross-party agreement to achieve 100% renewable energy production by 2040, and the figure is already hovering around 57%. The country has also set a target of net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2045. According to the Paris Agreement, all EU countries have agreed to achieve 20% final energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020.
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.
More than 40 nations are proposing to boost their 'bioeconomy' - the part of the economy based in biology and the biosciences. Around US$2 trillion of products in agriculture and forestry, food, bioenergy, biotechnology and green chemistry were exported worldwide in 2014, amounting to 13% of world trade, up from 10% in 2007. These sectors are central to at least half of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), from food security to ensuring energy access and health. But conflicting national priorities make it hard to align bioeconomy policies to meet the SDGs on a global scale. Ecological sustainability is a prime concern in rich and industrializing countries; inclusive rural development and equitable sharing of resources is central in developing countries. Decisions made in one place may be felt elsewhere. A global bioeconomy must rebuild natural capital and improve the quality of life for a growing world population. It should balance managing common goods, such as air, water and soil, with the economic expectations of people. Three types of innovation will be needed: technological (such as systems to reduce emissions), organizational (changes in institutional behaviour) and social (such as job creation).
Note: For an excellent, more recent discussion on the global bioeconomy, see this informative article.
Ecuador's highest court has upheld a $9.5 billion judgment against oil giant Chevron for decades of rainforest damage. Plaintiffs celebrated the constitutional court's decision announced Tuesday night, saying it should pave the way for indigenous tribes to receive compensation for oil spills that contaminated groundwater and soil in their Amazon home. But the ruling is largely symbolic as Chevron no longer operates in the South American country. That means Ecuador's government will have to pursue assets owned by the ... company in foreign courts, where it so far has had little luck. Last week, an appeals court in Argentina rejected an attempt by Ecuador to collect on its award, echoing earlier rulings by courts in Canada, Gibraltar and Brazil. In 2014, a U.S. court of appeals ... also denied Ecuador's request, arguing that the original judgment was obtained through bribery, coercion and fraud. In an added twist, the American lawyer who for years represented Ecuador in the matter was barred Tuesday from practicing law in New York state. The New York state appeals court found Steven Donziger guilty of professional misconduct, saying that in his appeal of the 2014 ruling he did not challenge the judge's findings of bribery, witness tampering, and the ghostwriting of a court opinion.
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Ireland will become the first country in the world to fully divest from fossil fuels after politicians voted to withdraw all public funds from oil and gas companies. In an effort to meet the country's climate change commitments, as embodied in the Paris agreement, the Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill will probably be brought into force after parliament's summer recess. First introduced by independent MP Thomas Pringle in 2016, the bill has since been backed by all opposition parties. Taking inspiration from universities and cities around the world that have withdrawn financial support from the fossil fuel industry, Mr Pringle began working on the idea after meeting Irish international development charity Trocaire. The passing of the bill will compel the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund to sell off its fossil fuel investments, which stand at more than €300m (Ł265m) across 150 companies worldwide. Mr Pringle said the withdrawal of this money will not only remove funds from some of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters, it will act as a gesture of Ireland’s commitment to tackling climate change. Eamonn Meehan, executive director of Trocaire, agreed that the bill made a “powerful statement” that would serve to improve the nation’s reputation as a “climate laggard”.
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.”
In southeast Georgia, in an area filled with farms, construction will soon begin on a sprawling new 120-megawatt solar plant. It will be the first solar facility in the county, and it will exist in part because Google - which has a large data center in Georgia - is working to bring renewable electricity to every region in which it operates. The solar farm is one of two new projects in Georgia that will sell energy to Google via the local utility, and is also the latest example of the company’s work to open energy markets to corporations that want to support new sources of renewable electricity. The company pioneered the practice in 2010; now, companies from Nike to Starbucks and AT&T are doing the same thing. Traditionally, wind farms and solar farms sold wholesale power only to utilities, and regulations made it impossible for companies to buy that clean energy. But the company realized that it could apply to the federal government for the right to buy and sell wholesale power itself, and then create long-term contracts - called power purchase agreements - with the developers of renewable projects. The first project was a wind farm in Iowa. By 2017, with around 20 similar projects, Google met a longstanding goal to buy as much renewable energy as it uses globally, sourced from new wind and solar plants. Ultimately, the company wants to use clean energy everywhere it works, all the time. The next step in that process is to buy renewable energy on every local grid where Google works.
The potential appeal of solar roads - modified solar panels that are installed in place of asphalt - is clear. Generating electricity from highways and streets, rather than in fields and deserts packed with solar panels, could conserve a lot of land. Those advantages are particularly important in a place like China, a heavily populated country where demand for energy has risen rapidly. Now, such roads are finally becoming viable. China’s leaders in solar road development are Pavenergy and Qilu Transportation. The surface of these panels, made of a complex polymer that resembles plastic, has slightly more friction than a conventional road surface, according to Zhang Hongchao, an engineering professor. Still, a litany of outstanding challenges means the wide deployment of solar roads is a long way off. Solar roads are ... more expensive than asphalt. It costs about $120 a square meter, or about $11 a square foot, to resurface and repair an asphalt road each decade. By comparison, Pavenergy and Colas hope to be able to bring the cost of a solar road to $310 to $460 a square meter with mass production. Panels on a highway would likely need to be replaced less often than asphalt, Professor Zhang said. And a solar road can produce about $15 a year worth of electricity from each square meter of solar panels. Less clear is whether the panels would be able to take the pounding of millions of tires each year for more than a decade, or whether they might be stolen.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing energy news articles from reliable major media sources.
Protesters – mainly women – are defying police and energy companies in non-violent environmental activism. Way out in the Appalachian hills ... an orderly clutch of tents were surrounded by a plastic yellow ribbon that read, “police line do not cross”. Past that, a woman sat on top of a 50ft pole. Opposite the knot of tents where the woman’s supporters kept 24-hour vigil lay an encampment of police, pipeline workers, and private security. On Wednesday 23 May, the protester, nicknamed Nutty, finally came down after a record-breaking 57 days spent in the trees ... to stop a fracked natural-gas pipeline from being built through the state. Her final three days in the trees were spent without food. There are others, too, who remain in the forest and are still blocking construction by putting their lives on the line. These activists hold the typical concerns of having a gas pipeline run through the yard: if it leaks it poisons the water, the font of the incredible biodiversity in the area; there’s a two-and-a-half-mile blast radius if it explodes; the pipeline is taking their land through eminent domain against their will for resource extraction. But they also say this is about more than just a pipeline, built by Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC. It is, they say, also about the erosion of democracy and the natural world. Virginia’s governor, Ralph Northam, took $50,000 from MVP’s largest shareholder, EQT Corp, and another $199,251 from Dominion Energy, [a] major shareholder of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline being built nearby.
Engineers have developed a turbine which has the potential to power a small town all the while being no bigger than your office desk. Designed by GE Global Research, the turbine could power 10,000 homes and according to researchers, could help to solve some of the world's growing energy challenges. But rather than steam, which is typically used to set turbines in motion, the new turbine uses carbon dioxide. 'This compact machine will allow us to do amazing things,' said Doug Hofer, lead engineer on the project. According to MIT Tech Review, the turbine is driven by 'supercritical carbon dioxide', which is kept under high pressure at temperatures of 700˚C. Under these conditions, the carbon dioxide enters a physical state between a gas and a liquid, enabling the turbine to harness its energy for super-efficient power generation - with the turbines transferring 50 per cent of the heat into electricity. It could help energy firms take waste gas and repurpose it for efficient and cleaner energy production. Waste heat produced from other power generation methods, such as solar or nuclear, could be used to melt salts, with the molten salts used to the carbon dioxide gas to a super-critical liquid - which may be much quicker than heating water for steam. Currently, the design of the turbine would enable up to 10,000 kilowatts of energy to be produced, but the turbines could be scaled up to generate 500 megawatts, enough to power a city.
Costa Rica’s new president has announced a plan to ban fossil fuels and become the first fully decarbonised country in the world. Carlos Alvarado, a 38-year-old former journalist, made the announcement ... during his inauguration. "Decarbonisation is the great task of our generation and Costa Rica must be one of the first countries in the world to accomplish it, if not the first," Mr Alvarado said. Symbolically, the president arrived at the ceremony in San Jose aboard a hydrogen-fuelled bus. Last month, Mr Alvarado said the Central American country would begin to implement a plan to end fossil fuel use in transport by 2021 – the 200th year of Costa Rican independence. "When we reach 200 years of independent life we will take Costa Rica forward and celebrate ... that we've removed gasoline and diesel from our transportation,” he promised during a victory speech. Costa Rica already generates more than 99 per cent of its electricity using renewable energy sources. Costa Rica’s push towards clean energy faces no large-scale backlash, in part because the country has no significant oil or gas industry. But demand for cars is rising, as is use of other transport systems, and that may prove one of the biggest challenges in meeting the new goal. Transport is today the country’s main source of climate changing emissions.
Solar panels will be a required feature on virtually every new home built in California, under a policy advanced Wednesday by California regulators. The California Energy Commission voted unanimously, 5-0, to recommend energy efficiency standards that are set to be added to state building regulations later this year, effecting all construction after Jan. 1, 2020. The rules will make California the first state in the nation to require solar panels on new homes. "This will be nothing short of historic for our state and for our country," said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar & Storage Association, an industry group. The requirement will apply to single-family homes and to apartment and condominium complexes of three stories or less. Solar installations have become so cost effective that they are included in more than 15,000 homes built each year in California, even without the directive from the state. In 2020 and beyond that number promises to increase to 80,000, the number of homes built each year in the Golden State. The average estimated cost of a solar system is $9,500, or $40 a month when amortized over a 30-year mortgage. But the systems are projected to save customers an average of $80 a month on their utility bills. Another part of the new regulation ... gives energy credit to homes that employ battery storage technology.
Mexico wants to produce 43% of its electricity from renewables by 2024, in only 6 years. Toward that end, in December it opened the Villanueva solar farm in the desert, with 2.3 million solar panels, generating enough juice to power 1.3 million homes. It is the largest solar project in the Western hemisphere. That’s right. The largest solar installation in the New World is not in the United States. It is in Mexico. In the first quarter of 2018, India set a record with the addition of 4.6 gigawatts of solar! That’s the name plate capacity of four small nuclear reactors, added in just one quarter. By the end of January India had 20 gigawatts of installed solar power capacity. In contrast, France only has 8 gigawatts of installed solar capacity. Dubai will tender a bid before the end of this year for a 300 megawatt solar farm, as part of its plan to get 7% of its electricity from solar by 2020. Since Dubai is one of seven emirates making up the United Arab Emirates, a major oil exporter, this push for renewables may ... seem hard to explain. But look more closely. Dubai does not have its own hydrocarbons and is rather a service economy. So ... it is highly beneficial for Dubai to get its electricity from solar, the fuel of which is free down the line once installment costs are paid off. The UAE gets enormous amounts of sunshine and bids have been let there for as little as 2.5 cents a kilowatt hour, which is world-beating. Coal, one of the cheapest hydrocarbons, is typically 5 cents a kilowatt hour.
Note: Watch a promotional video for the massive Villanueva solar farm in Mexico.
Important Note: Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news stories on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.