The world has found a way to cut CO2 emissions, albeit a very painful one. The crisis has also rudely barged the green agenda off the front pages. Hopefully we shall be back stronger than ever, but nonetheless Titbits intends to keep the newsflow coming as best we can. To soften the edges of a rough week I have pitched in a few extra conservation type stories, as a reminder of the local good that people are doing.

Company news

Planets UK set to buy Viridor for £4.2 billion
The Pennon Group has entered into an agreement for the sale of Viridor to an investment business, Planets UK Bidco Limited, for  £4.2 billion. Planets UK Bidco, had been established by funds which are advised by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co LP (KKR), which reportedly had a bid for the company turned down last year.
Pennon says the agreement “recognises the strategic value of Viridor’s strong, diversified and complementary UK recycling and residual waste management platform and expected growth opportunities”, and it intends to use the net cash proceeds to reduce company borrowings and make a return to shareholders.
Pennon plans to focus on its regulated water business. (letsrecycle)

Statkraft acquires Vattenfall’s UK charging network
Vattenfall has continued refocusing its business in the UK, with the sale of its electric vehicle (EV) charging network to Statkraft.
The move follows the company’s announcement last week that it was selling its supply side business, iSupply Energy, to EDF. It is looking to invest in developing its core UK businesses: renewable power generation, heating, B2B sales and distribution, said the company. (current-news)

UK news

Green light for 150MW UK battery giant
Energy storage developer Penso Power has won necessary approvals to install a 150MW battery near Swindon, south-west England, the largest project of its kind in Europe.
The company recently secured land rights, planning permission and a grid connection offer for an additional 50MW expansion for its 100MW Minety project, which started construction preparatory works late last year.
The initial 100MW battery is expected to enter operation this autumn, while the additional 50MW, to be built on adjacent land, will enter operation in 2021. (renewsbiz)

Purbeck Heaths ‘super’ nature reserve opens in Dorset
The critically endangered hairy shore bug is so rare that there have been only three recorded sightings of it in Britain. Conservationists say the bug and other unusual species now have a better chance to thrive after the country’s first “super” nature reserve opened on an 8,000-acre site in Dorset.
Purbeck Heaths joins together seven different reserves with a view to preserving wildlife. It encompasses 3,331 hectares (8,231 acres), roughly the size of Blackpool, which were previously managed separately by the National Trust, Natural England, the RSPB, Forestry England, Dorset Wildlife Trust, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation and Rempstone Estate. It is the largest lowland heath reserve in the UK. (thetimes)

Good Energy and Ørsted ink £50m clean power deal
Good Energy has announced it has inked its largest single clean power supply contract to date, giving it access to power from Ørsted’s 210MW Westermost Rough Wind Farm, located five miles off the Yorkshire coast, in a deal worth up to £50m.
Under the new three year deal, which renews an agreement originally made in 2017, Good Energy will be able to increase the percentage offtake from the project from 12 per cent of all the power generated in year one to 17 per cent and 28 per cent in years two and three, respectively. (businessgreen)

Total in UK floating wind sector with Simply Blue Energy partnership
French oil giant Total has teamed up with UK marine energy specialist Simply Blue Energy to develop floating wind turbines off the west coast of the UK, yesterday unveiling plans for what would be their first 96MW demonstration project in the Welsh waters of the Celtic Sea.
Marking the first development for the newly-formed joint venture, the Erebus 96MW floating wind demonstrator is earmarked for operation at water depths of 70 metres, enabling the turbines to harness stronger winds further out at sea than traditional offshore wind farms built on the seabed.
The firms have submitted a planning application to The Crown Estate, the landlord of the UK’s sea areas, to develop the project, which they said would use ‘Windfloat’ technology developed by floating wind specialists Principle Power. (businessgreen)

CNG Fuels opens two green biomethane stations to serve HGVs
CNG Fuels has unveiled two new refuelling stations in Europe to provide renewable biomethane compressed natural gas (Bio-CNG).
The station in Warrington is said to be Europe’s largest refueling station offering the low-cost renewable alternative to diesel. The other station has been opened in Northampton and is to be followed by six to eight more stations over the next 12 months, to provide for growing demand, which has soared by 800% since 2017.
The joint capacity of the two stations is to serve more than 1,000 HGVs a day as consumers make the change in order to cut carbon emissions, pollution and fuel costs. (energylivenews)

Scotland probes hydrogen potential
The Scottish Government has chosen engineering consultancy Arup to undertake an assessment of the potential to use hydrogen within the country’s energy system.
Scottish Government, working alongside Scottish Enterprise and Highlands & Islands Enterprise, has outlined plans to assess the future use of hydrogen in the Scottish economy and develop a hydrogen action plan and hydrogen policy statement.
The gas, which can be decarbonised and also generated using clean electricity sources, such as wind, can potentially help Scotland achieve net-zero energy by 2045.
Arup, and project partner E4tech, will carry out an assessment of Scotland’s “strengths, assets and factors” that will “shape hydrogen development” across the country. (renewsbiz)

EV of the week

VW is thinking small
VW this week relaunched the e-UP!, the EV version of its popular citycar, with an enlarged battery which should be good for over 150 miles. Otherwise the car is little changed. You still use your phone as the touchscreen in a cheep and cheerful variant on Apple Carplay. It is encouraging that VW are covering this segment even though it is hard to make great margins. In fact some newswires had a scoop that VW had altered its strategy and the ID.1 (below) variant for its new electric brand will now be a direct replacement for the e-UP! Rather than a mini-SUV as suggested previously. SEAT are designing the new baby which will be offered from 2023 in VW, Skoda and SEAT livery as is the e-UP!

photo: Car Magazine


Germany ‘failing to deliver on offshore wind’
Germany’s federal government has failed to deliver its goal of expanding renewable energy “steadily and cost-effectively” leading to a “thread break” in the offshore wind sector that could impact small and medium-sized companies, according to German wind energy network WAB.
WAB said the ‘broken thread’ resulted from government’s planned stop for the expansion of offshore wind in the coming years which will empty the order books of domestic industry.
It added that Lower Saxony Minister for the Environment, Energy, Building and Climate Protection has called for the federal government to amend law quickly to set the 20GW offshore target for 2030 in stone.
A 40GW target for 2050 in the German North Sea also needs to be signed into law, the minister said in a WAB statement. (renewsbiz)

Focus on: ESG Investment

The Biggest ESG Funds Are Beating the Market
Nine of the biggest ESG mutual funds in the U.S. outperformed the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index last year, and seven of them beat their market benchmarks over the past five years.
The $878 million Ave Maria Growth Fund was the top performer in 2019, followed by the $3.8 billion Calvert Equity Fund and the $4.9 billion Putnam Sustainable Leaders Fund. All three funds posted gains of more than 35%, compared with the S&P 500’s 31.5% with reinvested dividends. Morgan Stanley’s $3.9 billion Global Opportunity Portfolio and the $2.1 billion Brown Advisory Sustainable Growth Fund placed atop the rankings in the five-year period.
“The number one question I used to get from investors is aren’t you limiting your options and sacrificing returns by doing ESG?” said Karina Funk, a one-time civil and environmental engineer who runs the Brown Advisory fund. “I don’t get that question anymore.” (Bloomberg)

Can ESG investing protect investors in a downturn?
Investment commentators interviewed by Portfolio Adviser sister title ESG Clarity say the sell-off had been indiscriminate but looking at investments through an ESG lens may have helped investors avoid the less resilient business models.
“We believe that an investment-led and materiality-focused ESG integration program can help minimise downside risk otherwise not captured by traditional financial analysis,” says Guillaume Mascotto, head of ESG and investment stewardship at American Century Investments.
Ben Palmer, investment director and head of responsible investment at Brooks Macdonald, notes that over longer time frames “companies that exhibit strong ESG credentials have the ability to outperform the peer group and wider market”.
“Reducing business risks around a company’s ESG footprint can help reduce the likelihood of reputational damage or regulatory cost, which can in turn negatively impact share prices,” he explains.
Andrew Parry, head of sustainable investment at Newton, also comments that investing in ESG doesn’t mean investors are going to avoid a big drop, but there may be higher margins, better balance sheets and back-up plans that will serve ESG companies well in tough times. (portfolio-adviser)

Eco bamboo pavilion

Northern China’s largest bamboo pavilion covers nearly half an acre
After years of building bamboo houses across rural China, Italian architect Mauricio Cardenas Laverde completed his largest bamboo project yet — the Bamboo Eye pavilion, a 1,600-square-meter structure constructed entirely from 5,000 locally sourced moso bamboo poles. Completed last April for the 2019 International Horticultural Exhibition in Beijing, the new pavilion is the largest of its kind ever built in northern China, according to the International Bamboo and Rattan Organization (INBAR). The massive pavilion was created to house programmatic activity while showcasing the architectural possibilities of bamboo in modern, low-carbon construction. (inhabitat)

Global stuff

UN tightens carbon offsetting rules for aviation sector
Late last week, the ICAO made the decision to alter eligible emissions units and offsets permitted under the industry-wide Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), following calls to action from green groups and financial and climate advisors.
Under the alterations, older and smaller carbon offsetting schemes will be excluded from the list of permitted sources from January 1 2021.
Airlines and other businesses will, instead, need to purchase carbon credits through one of six third-party verified schemes: Gold Standard; Verified Carbon Standard; Climate Action Reserve; Clean Development Mechanism; American Carbon Registry or China GHG Voluntary Emission Reduction Program.
The move, ICAO claims, will help to mitigate risks and systemic “gaps” within the carbon offsetting space, including greenwashing, double counting and unintended negative consequences on issues such as biodiversity or community sustainability. (edie)

Could rooftop solar thrive in a downturn?
Sunrun briefed investors last month on its record solar installations in the fourth quarter of 2019, and CEO Lynn Jurich fielded a question from Michael Weinstein at Credit Suisse about what would happen to the company if the economy hit a “major recession.”
Here is Lynn’s response.
“What’s interesting is that, in many cases, we could be a countercyclical product. We are a savings product for the household. Sometimes one of the reasons why customers don’t choose to adopt solar is they are just waiting or they’re not compelled to do it now. And so in moments where … savings matter more, it actually can be a reason to create the urgency in the sales process that we don’t always see.. “
She won‘t have long to find out if she is right (gtm)

Conservation corner

Win for conservation as African black rhino numbers rise
Numbers of African black rhinos in the wild have risen by several hundred, a rare boost in the conservation of a species driven to near extinction by poaching.
Black rhinos are still in grave danger but the small increase – an annual rate of 2.5% over six years, has swollen the population from 4,845 in 2012 to an estimated 5,630 in 2018, giving hope that efforts put into saving the species are paying off. (guardian)

Plan to restore Sussex’s abused Kelp Forest
There are forgotten forests in Britain that are largely neglected and often abused, yet they combat climate breakdown, encourage wildlife, purify water, provide food and they are fireproof.
These are forests of kelp, big seaweeds with long ribbon fronds that grow along coastlines and are among the most productive and richest wildlife places on Earth. They can grow at an extraordinary rate, up to 2ft in a day, and absorb huge amounts of carbon – globally, kelp forests absorb an estimated 600m tonnes of carbon each year, about twice the UK’s annual carbon emissions. And as the kelp die, their carbon is stored in sediments on seabeds.
A magnificent kelp forest once stretched about 25 miles (40km) along the West Sussex coast and 2.5 miles (4km) out to sea, from Selsey to Brighton. The kelp provided habitat, nursery and feeding grounds for wildlife ranging from seahorses, cuttlefish, lobster and fish. But the forest has almost disappeared as trawler nets ripped the kelp from the sea bed and sediments were dumped from dredging.
A campaign is restoring the kelp forest and an agreement has been reached to ban trawler fishing across about 115 sq miles (300 sq km) off the coast. (guardian)

Watch a lovely video of the Sussex kelp project narrated by Sir David Attenborough HERE