Pleasing to see three corporate heavyweights stirring themselves on Climate Change.

Company news

World’s biggest fund manager vows to divest from thermal coal
BlackRock, the world’s largest fund manager, has announced it will put sustainability at the heart of its investment decisions.
In his annual letter to chief executives, the BlackRock boss, Larry Fink, writes that the climate emergency is altering how investors view the long-term prospects of companies.
Fink’s letter comes just days after the firm joined Climate Action 100+, an influential pressure group of large asset managers, which is calling for the biggest polluters to reduce their emissions to respond to the climate crisis. Its rival Vanguard has so far resisted requests to sign up to the group. (guardian)

Microsoft pledges to become carbon-negative by 2030
Microsoft will reduce its emission by more than 50% across its entire business and supply chain by 2030 while investing to remove more carbon than it emits annually. Microsoft claims that this results in a carbon-negative impact as a business.
Microsoft’s shift away from offsets – still deemed controversial by some green groups and academics – will see the business launch a $1bn climate innovation fund, using its own capital, to help develop carbon reduction and removal technologies. These will assist with Microsoft’s plans to remove carbon from the environment equivalent to what the company has emitted either directly or via electricity consumption since it was founded in 1975. (edie)

McKinsey publishes major report on Climate Risk
The global consultancy are not known for sticking their necks out on political issues such as Climate Change. It is therefore particularly interesting that they have thrown major resource and two years’ work into a report entitled “Climate risk and response: Physical hazards and socioeconomic impacts”. The report notes that climate science uses scenarios that range from Representative Concentration Pathway 2.6 to RCP 8.5 in terms of CO2 concentrations. McKinsey use the most pessimistic RCP 8.5 and conclude that under this scenario all 105 countries McKinsey covers will suffer physical changes ranging from water stress to extreme heat.
Download the report HERE

UK news

Hyundai, Kia invest $110 million in UK electric van startup Arrival Ltd
Hyundai Motor Co and sister firm Kia Motors Corp are making the investment of €100 million in Arrival Ltd.
Founded in 2015 and based in London, Arrival has developed a boxy, futuristic-looking shuttle bus aimed at the commercial delivery market. The company said its van will have a range between charges of 300 miles.
In a statement, Arrival said it will work with Hyundai and Kia to develop a variety of electric vehicles, initially for the commercial market. Those vehicles will be built on Arrival’s modular vehicle platform or “skateboard” that bundles motor, batteries and chassis components, similar to the skateboard developed by U.S. startup Rivian.
Arrival said its vehicles will be equipped with advanced driver assist features and can be upgraded with self-driving systems.
The vehicles are designed to sell for the same price as similar models powered by internal combustion engines and to be built in small “microfactories.”
Arrival said its prototype delivery vans are being tested by the Royal Mail, DHL and UPS. (reuters)

Offices ‘should cut energy use 60 per cent to hit net zero’
Offices need to cut energy use by almost two thirds to enable the UK to hit net zero carbon targets. Simply relying on decarbonisation of the power grid is not an option, according to the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC).
The council has set out a stepped trajectory for building owners and developers to achieve deep demand reduction over the coming years – and says energy efficiency should be prioritised over renewable energy or carbon offsets. The document, which sets out the energy performance targets, builds on the UKGBC’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Framework, published last April.
Building owners that cannot meet the required energy performance targets should have to disclose their failures, and state how they will meet targets in coming years, said the council.
The targets are based on a methodology called ‘Paris Proof’, developed by the UKGBC’s Dutch counterpart. (theenergyst)

WaveRoller achieves Lloyds certification
Near-shore wave energy company AW-Energy Oy has received certification by Lloyd’s Register for its WaveRoller device, following previous certifications by LR through the Technology Qualification certificate process.Working to rigorous technical standards in collaboration with LR, AW-Energy committed to follow best practice from corresponding industries. It has helped to secure the first-of-a-kind grid connection with the WaveRoller device deployed off the coast of Peniche in Portugal. (renewableenergymagazine)

EV of the week

The 2020 Vanderhall Edison three wheeler is a fun way to go green
Planes, trains, automobiles and, even ships: No segment will be left untouched in the march towards a greener, more sustainable future—and going electric.
Even a boutique company out of Utah that builds three-wheel playthings sees the writing on the wall. When the all-electric Vanderhall Edison 2 three-wheeler hits dealer lots’ in in the third quarter of 2020 it will be the company’s third model line and will cost $34,950. (greencarreports)


VW has vision of robot chargers in car parks
Volkswagen has just unveiled a new charging concept, a mobile robot that will automatically locate your EV and charge it.
How does it work? A mobile robot tows an energy storage device, also known as a battery wagon to a vehicle and it connects them. The robot then uses the energy in the storage device to charge your electric car. The mobile energy storage device stays with the EV during the charging process, while the robot locates and charges other electric vehicles. Once the vehicle is fully charged, the robot collects the energy storage device and brings it back to the charging station.
The system will alleviate the current frustration that EV drivers feel when they enter a parking garage and all the available EV charging spots are taken. (thetorqreport)

Focus on: Renewables in Australia

BNEF numbers confirm Australia at the bottom of the renewables class
New data released by Bloomberg New Energy Finance confirms that investment in large scale renewable energy in Australia plunged in 2019 as the federal government turned a blind eye to the needs to continue the clean energy transition, and provided no policy certainty.
According to BNEF, the fall in large scale wind and solar investment was the biggest in the world at 60% y/y. It also came after the Coalition government repeatedly refused to lift its emissions reduction target, talked down the prospect of wind and solar, and was accused of sabotaging climate talks in Madrid by claiming credits for emissions reduction it had not achieved. (reneweconomy)

However, thankfully, some local politicians do not share central Government’s boneheaded attitude to the energy transition:

Newcastle (NSW) builds local energy resilience with its 100 per cent renewable plan
Saturday 4th Jan in NSW was not your average summer’s day. Record breaking temperatures were raising demand for electricity. Further pressure mounted on the electricity grid, with bushfires and smoke disrupting transmission from Snowy Hydro, causing a loss of around 2000 megawatts of generation.
Escalating the situation further, NSW was effectively cut off from Victoria with sections of the network tripping and the interconnector shutting off.
A lack of supply to meet this high demand meant NSW was heading for potential blackouts and the NSW spot price in the National Electricity Market (NEM) skyrocketed toward the peak allowable price of $14,700 per megawatt hour by 5pm (165 times the average price the previous year)
The day’s demand is shown in the chart below. 2020 is the green line in this chart:

Against this backdrop, the City of Newcastle (CN) had just begun its new electricity contract.
On New Years Day, the City had officially switched over to 100% renewable electricity supply for all its operations. The new electricity contract placed CN’s large sites and street lighting onto spot market pricing, complemented by a PPA with Sapphire Wind Farm that closely matched supply and demand.
This provided a hedge for predominantly evening and Street Lighting load, given the City of Newcastle’s extensive solar generation assets already in place.
Only four days into the new contract, the chaotic pricing unfolding that Saturday was going to be an extraordinary test of this strategic direction.
Receiving an alert from the retailer about the peak pricing event, City of Newcastle actioned what demand reduction it could, with the CEO messaging site operators to minimise electricity use as much as possible.
This included adjusting or turning off air-conditioning units, switching off air compressors, turning off any building or workshop lights and evaluating what IT equipment could be shutdown.
At the same time available battery storage systems connected to rooftop PV were set to discharge.
City of Newcastle was able to ride through this event as a net-exporter to the grid and importantly utilising localised, urban assets to provide decentralised and local generation capability to the city.
At the same time, the City demonstrated the benefits of its renewable hedge during these extremely volatile periods, by utilising a mix of both wind and solar generation (and some limited battery storage). (reneweconomy)

Eco Transylvanian lodge

Transylvanian lodge boasts small footprint in beautiful landscape
Romanian architecture firm BLIPSZ has created a near-autonomous holiday home that combines the charms of rural Transylvanian architecture with a sustainable and contemporary design aesthetic. Surrounded by gently rolling hills and valley views, the Lodge in a Glade comprises two barn-inspired structures with green-roofed surfaces that appear to emerge from the earth. South-facing solar panels generate about 90% of the building’s energy needs, which are kept to a minimum thanks to its passive solar design and underfloor heating powered by a geothermal heat pump.
Located in a Transylvanian mountain village, Lodge in a Glade is a luxurious retreat that seeks to embrace its surroundings while minimizing its visual impact on the landscape.
The green roofs provide insulating benefits that are reinforced by cellulose, wood fiber, and compacted straw bale insulation. Triple-glazed windows frame views of the outdoors while locking in heat. The thermal mass of the timber house also benefits from the clay brick wall fillings and thick polished concrete floors throughout. Thirty-three solar panels generate the majority of the home’s energy needs and are complemented by a safety back-up electrical grid connection for very cold and cloudy days. Rainwater is collected and reused for automated irrigation. (inhabitat)

Global stuff

India’s national railway system on track to install 1GW of solar power
India’s national railway system is to install approximately 1GW of solar power to help reduce the carbon footprint of its South Central Railway.
Indian Railways also plans to install around 200MW of wind power across its Zonal Railways and Production Units by 2021/2022.
Around 500MW of the solar panels will be installed on the rooftops of railway buildings – this power will be used to meet non-traction loads at railway stations, while 500MW of other panels will be situated on the ground and will be used to meet both traction and non-traction requirements.
The organisation says the move is one of several measures aimed to improve energy conservation by harnessing renewable energy and notes it will also save expenditure for the railways. (energylivenews)

Electric school buses are batteries for the grid
Utility companies are helping cash-strapped school districts replace diesel buses with electric ones that have a secondary purpose: helping to manage electricity demand.
Electric buses are cleaner, but cost about three times more. Using them for energy storage can help close that cost gap and smooth out energy demand on the electric grid.
Less than 1% of America’s 480,000 school buses are electric today, but that’s beginning to change.
Communities in California, Massachusetts and a few other states are testing electric school buses and charging infrastructure (in some cases, tapping funds disbursed from Volkswagen’s diesel emissions settlement with the U.S. government).
The most ambitious V2G effort comes from Dominion Energy, which is planning to deploy 1,050 electric school buses in Virginia over the next five years. Dominion just ordered its first 50 electric buses from Thomas Built Buses, a division of Daimler Trucks North America. The batteries and related EV technology are supplied by Proterra, a leading supplier of electric transit buses. The powertrain includes 220 kWh of total energy capacity and provides a 134-mile driving range — more than enough to deliver kids to and from school each day. The buses can charge in about three hours with Proterra’s 60kW DC fast-charging system. (axios)

Shale industry and the five stages of grief
Such is the extent of the shakeout in the U.S. shale industry that Permian Basin oil production is closer to peaking than many forecasts suggest, according to one energy investor.
Adam Waterous, who runs Waterous Energy Fund, regards the sector’s financial position as unsustainable after years of disappointing returns for investors and negative free cash flow. With capital markets now largely shunning shale producers, the impact will begin to show in oil and natural gas output from the largest U.S. oil patch, he said.
Waterous likens the plight of U.S. shale in recent years to the five stages of grief. The first stage, denial, is characterized by a belief that the M&A market will return, he said. That’s followed by anger (“the market is wrong”), then bargaining, by trying to operate within cash flow, followed by depression — moving to the free cash-flow model that many shale operators have been touting.
The final stage, acceptance, is defined by Waterous as the industry finally resolving to provide investors with cash payouts via dividends so that they recover their initial investments.
Over the past five years, the industry and its investors “mistook a massive structural change for a simple cyclical event,” he said. “It’s impossible to continue to have uneconomic production and capex.” (bloomberg)