Energy News StoriesExcerpts of Key Energy News Stories in Major Media
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The national electricity market reached a new milestone on Sunday, with solar power outstripping energy generation from coal for the first time since the market was set up two decades ago. The crossover point lasted for only a few minutes, as low demand and sunny skies on Sunday meant the contribution from coal dropped to a record low of 9,315MW just after noon, while solar provided the dominant share with 9,427MW. Dylan McConnell, a research fellow at the University of Melbourne's climate and energy college, said that for a brief moment renewable energy represented 57% of national electricity generation. "This is what I unofficially call 'record season'," McConnell said. "It's actually still pretty early in the season [to get these numbers] but in spring or the shoulder seasons you have the combination of low demand, because there's no heating or cooling, and then nice weather on the weekend. "Those factors combine, and you get these giant shares of renewable energy that generally push out coal." While McConnell said it was only "fleeting" and that "Australia was a long way from peak renewable energy", energy prices also went negative on Sunday from 8.30am through to 5pm. It means ... energy producers were paying to keep running. Unlike more nimble solar and wind producers, coal generators are particularly hurt when prices turn negative. The costs associated with shutting down and restarting coal generators are prohibitive.
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Earlier this month, U.N. Secretary-General AntĂłnio Guterres joined virtual visitors to Berlin at the 12th Annual Petersberg Climate Dialogue, where the German government hoped to further negotiate technical details of the Paris Agreement. During the event, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged governments to continue investing into our shared climate despite budgetary shortfalls related to the COVID-19 crisis. Germany has walked that walk. Over the past two decades, it has embarked on a remarkable, expensive transition from coal and nuclear energy, to renewable energy sources. The set of policies to encourage this rise of green energy is known as energiewende–or "energy transition." Energiewende has its roots in the foundation of Germany's Green Party in the late 1970s and early 1980s and enjoys broad public support. It is one of the most ambitious green energy proposals in the global North, and represents a fundamental paradigm shift from the fossil fuel-obsessed status quo. Massive fossil fuel subsidies and planned expansions of natural gas means the United States has failed to embrace the same spirit of energiewende. But that doesn't mean it never can. One good way to start would be with a central component of German energiewende: a feed-in-tariff to promote less developed renewable technologies. It works through phase-out subsidies that provide a fixed price for every kilowatt hour for a specific period following a renewable plant's construction.
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Range anxiety, recycling and fast-charging fears could all be consigned to electric-vehicle history with a nanotech-driven Australian battery invention. The graphene aluminum-ion battery cells from the Brisbane-based Graphene Manufacturing Group (GMG) are claimed to charge up to 60 times faster than the best lithium-ion cells and hold three times the energy of the best aluminum-based cells. They are also safer, with no upper Ampere limit to cause spontaneous overheating, more sustainable and easier to recycle, thanks to their stable base materials. Testing also shows the coin-cell validation batteries also last three times longer than lithium-ion versions. GMG plans to bring graphene aluminum-ion coin cells to market late this year or early next year. Based on breakthrough technology from the University of Queensland's (UQ) Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, the battery cells use nanotechnology to insert aluminum atoms inside tiny perforations in graphene planes. GMG Managing Director Craig Nicol insisted that while his company's cells were not the only graphene aluminum-ion cells under development, they were easily the strongest, most reliable and fastest charging. "It charges so fast it's basically a super capacitor," Nicol claimed. "It charges a coin cell in less than 10 seconds." The new battery cells are claimed to deliver far more power density than current lithium-ion batteries, without the cooling, heating or rare-earth problems they face.
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Batteries capable of fully charging in five minutes have been produced in a factory for the first time, marking a significant step towards electric cars becoming as fast to charge as filling up petrol or diesel vehicles. Electric vehicles are a vital part of action to tackle the climate crisis but running out of charge during a journey is a worry for drivers. The new lithium-ion batteries were developed by the Israeli company StoreDot and manufactured by Eve Energy in China on standard production lines. StoreDot has already demonstrated its "extreme fast-charging" battery in phones, drones and scooters and the 1,000 batteries it has now produced are to showcase its technology to carmakers and other companies. Daimler, BP, Samsung and TDK have all invested in StoreDot, which has raised $130m to date. "The number one barrier to the adoption of electric vehicles is no longer cost, it is range anxiety," said Doron Myersdorf, CEO of StoreDot. "You're either afraid that you're going to get stuck on the highway or you're going to need to sit in a charging station for two hours. But if the experience of the driver is exactly like fuelling [a petrol car], this whole anxiety goes away." "A five-minute charging lithium-ion battery was considered to be impossible," he said. "But we are not releasing a lab prototype, we are releasing engineering samples from a mass production line. This demonstrates it is feasible and it's commercially ready."
The automotive industry is set for yet another big leap next year, as Toyota is reportedly on the verge of rolling out its "game-changing" solid-state battery. The Japanese carmaker plans to be the first to sell solid-state battery-powered EVs this decade, and that it will be unveiling a prototype in 2021. Toyota promises that the new battery will "be a game-changer not just for electric vehicles, but for an entire industry." Solid-state batteries are expected to become a viable alternative to the usual lithium-ion units that we see in most electric vehicles today. These new power packs offer greater energy density as well as lower risks of fire. Toyota claims that its newly developed batteries can also enable a maximum EV range of 500km in one full charge and a zero to 100% charging time of just 10 minutes, "all with minimal safety concerns." The carmaker adds that with these new batteries, its EVs will boast a maximum range that's double of what it would have been able to achieve with a traditional lithium-ion battery–and this is achieved without legroom being compromised to accommodate a larger battery pack. Toyota has yet to specify when exactly we'll be seeing the new battery ... in action. Other automotive manufacturers that are looking to use solid-state battery technology include Nissan and Volkswagen.
Hundreds of homes in Scotland will soon become the first in the world to use 100% green hydrogen to heat their properties and cook their meals as part of a new trial that could help households across the country replace fossil fuel gas. Some 300 homes in Fife will be fitted with free hydrogen boilers, heaters and cooking appliances to be used for more than four years in the largest test of whether zero carbon hydrogen, made using renewable energy and water, could help meet Britain's climate goals. They will begin to receive green gas from the end of 2022, at no extra charge, and up to 1,000 homes could be included if the first phase of the trial is completed successfully. Green hydrogen is a central part of the government's plan to wean Britain off fossil fuels because it can be used in the same ways as fossil fuel gas but produces no carbon emissions. This is particularly important for central heating, which makes up almost a third of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions because 85% of homes use a gas boiler. Antony Green, the head of National Grid's hydrogen project, said: "If we truly want to reach a net zero decarbonised future, we need to replace methane with green alternatives like hydrogen."
In a new report, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says solar is now the cheapest form of electricity for utility companies to build. ThatÄ‚ËĂ˘â€šĹąĂ˘â€žËs thanks to risk-reducing financial policies around the world, the agency says, and it applies to locations with both the most favorable policies and the easiest access to financing. The report underlines how important these policies are to encouraging development of renewables and other environmentally forward technologies. Carbon Brief (CB) summarizes the annual report with a lot of key details. The World Energy Outlook 2020 Ä‚ËĂ˘â€šĹąÄą'offers four Ä‚ËĂ˘â€šĹąĂ‚pathwaysÄ‚ËĂ˘â€šĹąĂ˘â€žË to 2040, all of which see a major rise in renewables,Ä‚ËĂ˘â€šĹąÄąÄ„ CB says. Ä‚ËĂ˘â€šĹąÄą'The IEAÄ‚ËĂ˘â€šĹąĂ˘â€žËs main scenario has 43 [percent] more solar output by 2040 than it expected in 2018, partly due to detailed new analysis showing that solar power is 20 [to] 50 [percent] cheaper than thought.Ä‚ËĂ˘â€šĹąÄąÄ„ The calculation depends on financing figures compared with the amount of output for solar projects. That means that at the same time panel technology gets more efficient and prices for basic panels continue to fall, investors are getting better and better financing deals. So the statistic Ä‚ËĂ˘â€šĹąÄą'20 to 50 percent cheaperÄ‚ËĂ˘â€šĹąÄąÄ„ is based on a calculus of companies building solar projects, not something that has throughput for consumers or even solar homeowners. But itÄ‚ËĂ˘â€šĹąĂ˘â€žËs still a big deal, because the cost to build power plants is a major part of why so much of the world has stuck with coal and gas power.
Somewhere in the vast ocean, a little boat covered in solar panels is doing something extraordinary: making its own hydrogen fuel from the seawater underneath it. The Energy Observer uses a patchwork of different cutting-edge technologies to generate enough energy to power nine homes each day. During the day, 200 square meters of solar panels charge up the boat's lithium ion batteries. Any extra energy is stored as hydrogen, thanks to a special fuel cell that goes by the name Rex H2 (short for Range Extender H2). The Rex H2 was made by Toyota, using components from Toyota's hydrogen-powered Mirai vehicle line. The fuel cell brings in seawater, removes the salt and then separates the H from the pure H20 with electricity. When the Energy Observer began its journey in 2017, it could only produce hydrogen while stopped. That changed in a big way with the addition of the Oceanwings, 12-meter sails that improved the efficiency of the Energy Observer from 18% to 42%, to the point where it can now produce hydrogen even while sailing. One of the main benefits of hydrogen is its ability to store more more electricity by weight than its lithium ion competition. This benefit is especially useful at sea. Because fossil fuels have had more than a century's head start, we now find ourselves far beyond the point of any one technology being a silver bullet for our growing energy needs. A sustainable future will require a patchwork of new technologies, like the one powering the Energy Observer.
The U.S. consumed more energy from renewable sources last year than from coal, the first time that’s happened since the late 1800s when it replaced wood for powering steamships and trains. Coal accounted for 11.3 quadrillion British thermal units of energy in 2019, a 15% decline from the prior year, a drop driven mainly by utilities turning away from the dirtiest fossil fuel. Renewables recorded 11.5 quadrillion Btu, up 1.4%, according to a statement Thursday from the the U.S. Energy Information Administration. While coal has been gradually replaced in transportation and heating, it remained the biggest source of U.S. electricity until it was surpassed by natural gas in 2016. In a significant milestone, power generated by burning coal was expected to be overtaken by renewable electricity this year, but the consumption figures show that the green transition is already happening. “This shows us the trend toward renewables is clearly well underway,” said Dennis Wamsted, an analyst for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. “We see it speeding up.”
Scientists in Australia are making some astonishing claims about a new nuclear reactor technology. Startup HB11, which spun out of the University of New South Wales, has applied for and received patents in the U.S., Japan, and China so far. The company's technology uses lasers to trigger a nuclear fusion reaction in hydrogen and boron—purportedly with no radioactive fuel required. The laser doesn’t heat the materials. Instead, it speeds up the hydrogen to the point where it (hopefully) collides with the boron to begin a reaction. “You could say we're using the hydrogen as a dart, and hoping to hit a boron, and if we hit one, we can start a fusion reaction,” managing director Warren McKenzie [said]. He says HB11's approach is “more precise” than designs that use heat to approach fusion because in those reactors, everything is heated in the hope that something will collide. When the lucky hydrogen does fuse with a boron particle, the reaction throws off helium atoms whose lack of electrons means they’re positively charged. It’s this charge that the device gathers as electricity. The overall idea was developed by UNSW emeritus professor Heinrich Hora. Hora’s design seeks to not just compete with, but replace entirely the extremely high-temperature current technologies to achieve fusion. These include fussy and volatile designs like the tokamak or stellarator, which can take months to get up to functionality and still spin out of working order in a matter of microseconds.
Carbon emissions from the global electricity system fell by 2% last year, the biggest drop in almost 30 years, as countries began to turn their backs on coal-fired power plants. A new report on the world’s electricity generation revealed the steepest cut in carbon emissions since 1990 as the US and the EU turned to cleaner energy sources. Overall, power from coal plants fell by 3% last year, even as China’s reliance on coal plants climbed for another year to make up half the world’s coal generation for the first time. Coal generation in the US and Europe has halved since 2007, and last year collapsed by almost a quarter in the EU and by 16% in the US. The report from climate thinktank Ember ... warned that the dent in the world’s coal-fired electricity generation relied on many one-off factors, including milder winters across many countries. Dave Jones, the lead author of the report, said governments must dramatically accelerate the electricity transition so that global coal generation collapses throughout the 2020s. “The cheapest and quickest way to end coal generation is through a rapid rollout of wind and solar,” he said. The report revealed that renewable wind and solar power rose by 15% in 2019 to make up 8% of the world’s electricity. In the EU, wind and solar power made up almost a fifth of the electricity generated last year, ahead of the US which relied on these renewable sources for 11% of its electricity. In China and India, renewable energy made up 8% and 9% of the electricity system, respectively.
The Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has diverted over $100 million from safety and maintenance programs to executive compensation at the same time it has caused an average of more than one fire a day for the past six years killing over 100 people. PG&E is the largest privately held public utility in the United States. A new research report shows that 91% of PG&E stocks are held by huge international investment management firms, including BlackRock and Vanguard Group. PG&E is an ideal investment for global capital management firms with monopoly control over five million households paying $16 billion for gas and electric in California. Between 2006 and the end of 2017, PG&E made $13.5 billion in net profits. Over those years, they paid nearly $10 billion in dividends to shareholders, but found little money to maintain safety on their electricity lines. A 2013 Liberty Consulting report showed that 60% of PG&E’s power lines were at risk of failure due to obsolete equipment and 75% of the lines lacked in-line grounding. Between 2008 and 2015, the CPUC found PG&E late on thousands of repair violations. A 2012 report further revealed that PG&E illegally diverted $100 million from safety to executive compensation and bonuses over a 15-year period. In November, 2018, the PG&E caused Camp fire burned 153,336 acres, killing 86 people, and destroying 18,804 homes, business, and structures. PG&E has caused some $50 billion in damages from massive fires started by their failed power lines.
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Renewable power capacity is forecast to increase by 50% between 2019 and 2024, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said. According to its “Renewables 2019” market report, the increase will amount to 1,200 gigawatts (GW) and be driven by drops in cost and what the IEA described as “concerted government policy efforts.” Capacity refers to the maximum amount that installations can produce, not what they are currently generating. In 2018, renewable capacity hit just over 2,500 GW. If the IEA’s forecast plays out, it would bring total renewable capacity to approximately 3,700 GW by 2024. Solar photovoltaics (PV) are due to make up nearly 60% of the expected rise, with the onshore wind sector accounting for 25% and offshore wind responsible for 4%. Photovoltaic refers to a way of directly converting light from the sun into electricity. The IEA said that distributed solar PV – systems installed on commercial buildings, homes and in industry – would make up nearly half of the increase in the solar PV market. Overall, renewables’ share in worldwide power generation is seen growing from 26% now to 30% in 2024. For 2019, renewable power capacity additions are seen increasing by 12% following a stall last year. Growth this year is being driven by solar PV, which has benefited from “rapid expansion in the European Union”, a stronger Indian market and an “installation boom” in Vietnam. Growth in the onshore wind sector is also cited as a contributing factor.
When Jim Bankston installed solar panels on his Tuscaloosa home, he estimated it would trim his electricity bill, and the savings would eventually offset the cost of the hefty investment. After it was running, he noticed fees on his Alabama Power bill that he didn’t understand and learned there was a $5-per-kilowatt capacity charge on customers who use solar panels to produce a portion of their own electricity. “I am having to pay them just to use the photons that are hitting my own roof,” Bankston said. He had estimated the system would eventually pay for itself in 20 years. With the fees included, he said it could be twice that. “It’s discouraging the use of solar,” said Keith Johnston, managing attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Birmingham office. “We call it a solar tax.” The fee is based on the size of the solar system, so a five kilowatt system would have a monthly fee of $25. The average solar panel setup for a home costs about $10,000, according to the environmental law center. The fees add another $9,000 over the 30-year-lifespan of a system, dramatically increasing a homeowner’s cost and reducing any financial benefit they see from solar, the law group said. The issue of fees has arisen in New Mexico, Arizona and other states, causing clashes between renewable energy proponents and utilities. A power company in Iowa unsuccessfully pushed lawmakers to approve a fee that would require a homeowner with an average solar array to pay about $27 a month.
Note: Unlike many countries which are subsidizing solar power as a clean energy source, some places in the US are discouraging solar by taxes like this. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption from reliable major media sources.
Global investment in new renewable energy capacity over this decade — 2010 to 2019 inclusive — is on course to hit USD 2.6 trillion, with more gigawatts of solar power capacity installed than any other generation technology. This investment is set to have roughly quadrupled renewable energy capacity (excluding large hydro) from 414 GW at the end of 2009 to just over 1,650 GW when the decade closes at the end of this year. Solar power will have drawn half — USD 1.3 trillion — of the USD 2.6 trillion in renewable energy capacity investments made over the decade. Solar alone will have grown from 25 GW at the beginning of 2010 to an expected 663 GW by the close of 2019 — enough to produce all the electricity needed each year by about 100 million average homes in the USA. The global share of electricity generation accounted for by renewables reached 12.9 per cent, in 2018, up from 11.6 per cent in 2017. This avoided an estimated 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions last year alone — a substantial saving given global power sector emissions of 13.7 billion tonnes in 2018. Including all major generating technologies (fossil and zero-carbon), the decade is set to see a net 2,366 GW of power capacity installed, with solar accounting for the largest single share (638 GW), coal second (529 GW), and wind and gas in third and fourth places (487 GW and 438 GW respectively).
Wind turbines in Scotland generated 9,831,320 megawatt hours between January and June 2019, WWF Scotland said Monday. The numbers, which were supplied by WeatherEnergy, mean that Scottish wind generated enough electricity to power the equivalent of 4.47 million homes for six months. That is almost double the number of homes in Scotland. “Up and down the country, we are all benefiting from cleaner energy and so is the climate,” Robin Parker, climate and energy policy manager at WWF Scotland, said in a statement Monday. “These figures show harnessing Scotland’s plentiful onshore wind potential can provide clean, green electricity for millions of homes across not only Scotland, but England as well,” Parker added. By 2030, the Scottish government says it wants to produce half of the country’s energy consumption from renewables. It is also targeting an “almost completely” decarbonized energy system by 2050. As a whole, Europe is home to some of the world’s most ambitious wind energy projects. September 2018 saw the official opening of the Walney Extension Offshore Wind Farm in the Irish Sea. With a total capacity of 659 MW, it’s currently the world’s largest operational offshore wind farm and capable of powering nearly 600,000 homes in the U.K..
The revolution in renewable power hit a new milestone in April. Last week the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released it's latest Energy Infrastructure Update (EIU), with data through April 2019. According to ... the non-profit SUN DAY Campaign, which analyzed the data, "that was enough to push renewable energy's share of total available installed U.S. generating capacity up to 21.56%. By comparison, coal's share dropped to 21.55% (down from 23.04% a year ago)." Of course it's important to note that capacity doesn't equal generation. Coal still generates more electricity than renewables. But, the trends indicate it's just a matter of time before that picture changes as well. But it is natural gas that is still the king of generation. Although renewable capacity additions are forecast to be well ahead of natural gas additions through 2022, it is likely that natural gas will continue to be the top source of U.S. power for quite some time. The EIU indicates that natural gas now represents 44.44% of total installed capacity. Because of the higher capacity factors for natural gas-fired generation, Energy Information Administration data show that natural gas provided 36% of U.S. power over the past 12 months, well ahead of coal's 27%. Further, the share for natural gas has grown in recent years, while that of coal continues to decline. But given the current trends, it won't be long before renewables supply the largest share of U.S. power.
According to a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), unsubsidized renewable energy is now most frequently the cheapest source of energy generation. The report finds that the cost of installation and maintenance of renewables, which was an important stumbling block to mass adoption, continues on a downward trajectory. These new statistics demonstrate that using renewable energy is increasingly cost-effective compared to other sources, even when renewables must compete with the heavily-subsidized fossil fuel industry. These lower costs are expected to propel the mass adoption of renewables even further. Among other findings the IRENA report highlights that: Onshore wind and solar PV [photovoltaic] power are now, frequently, less expensive than any fossil-fuel option, without financial assistance. New solar and wind installations will increasingly undercut even the operating-only costs of existing coal-fired plants. Cost forecasts for solar PV and onshore wind continue to be revised as new data emerges, with renewables consistently beating earlier expectations. Further data from REN21's Renewable Global Status Report show that over one fifth of global electrical power production is now generated from renewables. Promising signs in the IRENA report show that ... an increasing number of corporates are entering the renewable energy industry ... meanwhile more than 10 million people are now employed in the global renewable energy industry.
One-third of the world's installed electricity generation capacity is from renewable sources, according to the latest industry statistics. The data compiled by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) shows that two-thirds of the power capacity added around the world in 2018 was from renewables. Wind and solar accounted for 84% of that total. 2018 was characterized by a spate of solar and wind pricing breakthroughs. Falling interest rates for investors, ongoing technology improvements and regulatory frameworks that encourage competition among would-be developers have all played a part. The geographical distribution of the new plants includes developing and developed economies but it is the former leading the way. The three fastest growing regions were Oceania, Asia and Africa. Asia also became the first terrawatt region, just, with IRENA’s figures putting installed renewable capacity at 1,024GW. More than two-thirds of that is in China. Offshore wind capacity has doubled since 2015 but only represented around 4.4GW of the 171GW of renewable power plant deployed in 2018. The concentration of offshore wind remains firmly in Europe (~80%). Solar was the runaway leader of the pack adding 94GW in 2018 to 49GW of wind, on- and offshore. Half of the world’s total installed capacity is currently hydropower but China was the only nation to make substantial hydro additions last year. Bioenergy [added] 6GW.
Two technologies that were immature and expensive only a few years ago but are now at the center of the unfolding low-carbon energy transition have seen spectacular gains in cost-competitiveness in the last year. The latest analysis by research company BloombergNEF (BNEF) shows that the benchmark levelized cost of electricity, or LCOE, for lithium-ion batteries has fallen 35% to $187 per megawatt-hour since the first half of 2018. Meanwhile, the benchmark LCOE for offshore wind has tumbled by 24%. Onshore wind and photovoltaic solar have also gotten cheaper, their respective benchmark LCOE reaching $50 and $57 per megawatt-hour for projects starting construction in early 2019, down 10% and 18% on the equivalent figures of a year ago. Elena Giannakopoulou, head of energy economics at BNEF, commented: “Looking back over this decade, there have been staggering improvements in the cost-competitiveness of these low-carbon options, thanks to technology innovation, economies of scale, stiff price competition and manufacturing experience. The most striking finding in this LCOE Update, for the first-half of 2019, is on the cost improvements in lithium-ion batteries. These are opening up new opportunities for them to balance a renewables-heavy generation mix. Batteries co-located with solar or wind projects are starting to compete, in many markets and without subsidy, with coal- and gas-fired generation for the provision of ‘dispatchable power’ that can be delivered whenever the grid needs it.
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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.