From now on every year counts if we are to hit zero-carbon targets. The number highlighted in our “focus on” below show a mixed picture for 2019. It is clear that there is still a need for the deployment of renewables to step up a gear, so it is encouraging to see announcements of subsidy-free solar parks being built. Heres hoping that this is the beginning of the step up

Company news

Plug Power shares surge on new order. Fuel Cells are hot!
Shares of Plug Power Inc. soared in active trading on Monday, after the hydrogen and fuel cell technology company announced a contract win valued at $172 million over two years from a large, unnamed company.
The rally comes amid apparent renewed interest in fuel cell stocks, highlighted by the tripling in value of FuelCell Energy Inc.’s stock over the last four sessions of 2019.
Plug Power said before Monday’s open that it received an order “at the close of 2019” for its hydrogen fuel cell deployments across a Fortune 100 customer’s distribution network over the next two years.
The contract is for the company’s GenDrive fuel cell power, GenFuel hydrogen fuel, storage and dispensing products, and for its GenCare aftermarket services. (marketwatch)

Tesla worth more than GM plus Ford
The Silicon Valley electric car maker’s stock rose about 4% at midday on Wednesday, hitting a record high and elevating its market capitalization to $88 billion. That is $2 billion larger than General Motors’ and Ford’s respective stock market values of $49 billion and $37 billion, combined.
Fueled by a surprise third-quarter profit, progress at a new factory in China and better-than-expected car deliveries in the fourth quarter, Tesla’s stock has nearly doubled in the past three months. (reuters)

UK news

SSE Enterprise hits electric bus infrastructure milestone, delivering six projects
SSE Enterprise has delivered six projects for four bus operators, including for Go-Ahead London. In the capital, this equates to 330 electric bus charging points.
These projects included the Waterloo Garage development, the first and currently only all-electric bus garage in the UK that consists of 43 charging points.
Since its construction in 2016, Go-Ahead London has operated seven million kilometres worth of emission free journeys from the garage. (current-news)

New report shows how Scotland might lead the transition to climate-friendly farming
A new report by WWF Scotland suggests that by adopting their suggested solutions a 38 per cent reduction in emissions could be achieved by 2045.
Researchers studied 37 different measures, including reducing nitrogen fertiliser use, spreading more organic manure, bringing in feed additives to reduce methane production from animals, and improving animal health and breeding.
Turning organic was found to deliver more than one-quarter (27%) of the target with 40% uptake. Agroforestry – integrating trees on farms – was predicted to deliver one-fifth (21%) of the target with just 30% uptake, assuming 10% of farmland is used for trees.
WWF Scotland called on the Scottish Government to review support for farmers to help them achieve the target. (heraldscotland)
Download the report HERE

Octopus Renewables secures mandate from National Grid pension scheme
The UK renewables sector has secured an early New Year boost, with Octopus Renewables chosen to oversee £185m of investment in domestic solar and onshore wind assets through National Grid’s corporate pension scheme. (businessgreen)

UK’s largest subsidy-free solar plant comes online
A 50MWp solar farm on a former airfield on the border of Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire is now operational, its owners have announced, confirming the UK’s largest subsidy-free solar4 project to date is now online.
NextEnergy Solar Fund (NESF), an investment fund specialising in solar plants, has cut the ribbon on the Staughton solar plant, which is expected to cover the yearly electricity demand of approximately 15,000 UK households.
The solar plant is the second owned by NESF to be energised this year, following the completion of the 5.4MWp Hall Farm in Leicestershire in August 2009. (businessgreen)

Government announces new grants for alternative fuel development
Household waste, unused straw from farmland and old wood will be among the components used by four UK-based plants to produce green fuels with support from a new round of government funding.
Between 2018 and 2032 low carbon fuels are expected to save nearly 85 million tonnes of CO2 – equivalent to taking nearly 18 million cars off the road. This equates to around a third of transport’s projected contribution to UK carbon savings during the 2020s
Two of the projects announced are being funded under the government’s £20m Future Fuels for Flight and Freight Competition (F4C).
KEW Projects and Rika Biogas have been awarded a share of £6.5m to build plants which aim to provide fuel for heavy goods vehicles.
A further two projects, which are being funded under the £25m Advanced Biofuels Demonstration Competition (ABDC), are also driving towards their final stages of development. (forecourttrader)

UK’s first grid-injected hydrogen trials begin in Staffordshire
A pilot project injecting zero-carbon hydrogen into an existing gas network is now fully operational, the consortium of organisations behind the initiative have announced.
Called HyDeploy, the pilot involves injecting hydrogen into Keele University’s existing natural gas network, which supplies 30 faculty buildings and 100 domestic properties.
As a result, hydrogen will account for up to 20% of the gas mix in the network. HyDeploy claims this is the highest proportion being tested in Europe at present, given that existing UK legislation prevents hydrogen accounting for more than 0.1% of the national grid mix at any time.
The pilot will be used to test the practicalities of increasing hydrogen in the gas mix, including cost, safety and ease of supply. Should the model be successful and be scaled up across England, researchers at Keele estimate it could mitigate the emission of six million tonnes of CO2e emissions annually. (edie)

EV of the week

Hyundai and Uber show UAM-PBV-Hub at CES
Every January the CES show highlights what’s new in tech. What’s new covers all bases from air transport to sex toys. One startling concept is Hyundai and Uber’s joint effort called the “Future Mobility Vision” It is an integrated air taxi/collection hub/automated transport combination. It features winged electric planes with rotors that switch from vertical to horizontal and have a 60 mile range. These deliver passengers to a city centre hub where they connect to automated travel pods (that look like toasters on wheels) for the last mile.  
If this is the future, bring it on. (treehugger)
See the promotional video HERE

European goodies

Emissions From Lithium-Ion Battery Production Much Lower Than Two Years Ago
In 2017, IVL, the Swedish Environmental Research Institute, issued a report saying the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries was responsible for 200 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions for every kilowatt-hour produced. That figure has been seized upon by fossil fuel advocates as proof that electric cars are not nearly as “green” as electric vehicle advocates say they are.
This month, IVL updated its findings from 2017 in light of current experience and found carbon emissions from making lithium-ion batteries are much lower today than they were two years ago. The biggest factor in the decline in emissions is the source of electricity used in the manufacturing process. Today, carbon emissions from battery manufacture range from a low of 61 kilograms per kilowatt-hour to a high of 106 kilograms per kilowatt-hour.
The low end of the scale is being set by companies like Northvolt that use 100% renewable energy to manufacture their batteries. (cleantechnica)
Download the report HERE

Focus on: Low Carbon Electricity

Three reports covering the UK, Germany and the US all show some encouraging developments but also highlight issues to be addressed. The energy sector is showing good numbers in terms of carbon reduction in all three markets but renewables deployment needs to be scaled up to hit targets. Two other key takeaways: The transport and heating sectors need urgent attention in all markets and an effective carbon trading system covering all sectors and all markets would really make a difference.

CarbonBrief crunches the numbers for the UK
In 2019, the UK became the first major economy to target net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, increasing the ambition of its legally binding Climate Change Act.
To date, the country has cut its emissions by around two-fifths since 1990, with almost all of its recent progress coming from the electricity sector.
Emissions from electricity generation have fallen rapidly in the decade since 2010 as coal power has been almost phased out and even gas output has declined. Fossil fuels have been displaced by falling demand and by renewables, such as wind, solar and biomass.
But Carbon Brief’s annual analysis of UK electricity generation shows progress stalled in 2019, with the output from low-carbon sources barely increasing compared to a year earlier.
The chart below shows low-carbon generation in each year since 2010 (grey bars) and the estimated level in 2019 (red). The pale grey bars show the estimated future output of existing low-carbon sources after old nuclear plants retire and the pale red bars show the amount of new generation needed to keep electricity sector emissions to less than 100 grammes of CO2 per kilowatt hour (gCO2/kWh), the UK’s nominal target for the sector.
As the chart shows, the UK will require significantly more low-carbon electricity over the next decade as part of meeting its legally binding climate goals.
The nominal 100gCO2/kWh target for 2030 was set in the context of the UK’s less ambitious goal of cutting emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Now that the country is aiming to cut emissions to net-zero by 2050, that 100gCO2/kWh indicator is likely to be the bare minimum. (carbonbrief)

Rising emissions certificates prices led to drop in German emissions in 2019
The share of renewables in electricity consumption rose to almost 43 per cent in 2019. However, progress in the power sector is offset by rising greenhouse gas emissions in the building and transport sectors.
Higher certificate prices in the EU emissions trading system have been the major driver of lower power sector emissions. In combination with increased electricity production from renewables and lower electricity consumption, higher emissions prices led fossil-fuel power plants to significantly reduce their electricity production during many hours in 2019, as their generation was not price competitive. Power generation by hard coal-fired power plants dropped by 31 per cent, and that of lignite-fired power plants by 22 per cent. Lower coal-based generation also benefited natural gas-fired power plants, which require fewer emission certificates to generate power; natural gas-based generation increased by 11 per cent. (agoraenergiewende)
The link above will allow you to download the report

U.S. Emissions Dropped in 2019
Overall, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions fell about 2 percent in 2019, according to a preliminary estimate by Rhodium Group, an economic analysis firm. The previous year, strong economic growth and other factors had pushed emissions up roughly 3 percent.
The 2019 drop was driven by a nearly 10 percent fall in emissions from the power sector, the biggest decline in decades, according to Rhodium.
And the story there is all about coal.
Renewable power sources such as wind and solar have seen sharp increases in recent years as their costs of generation have fallen below that of coal. But natural gas has replaced far more coal generation capacity than renewables. (insideclimatenews)

Eco Home

World’s largest 3D-printed building opens in Dubai
Quickly gaining popularity as an affordable and sustainable way to build, 3D printing is becoming a go-to construction choice for architects around the world. In fact, one Boston-based company, Apis Cor, well-known for its 3D-printed architecture, has just completed construction on the world’s largest 3D printed building. Located in Dubai, the 6,998-square-foot building was completed in just two weeks.
Along with three workers and a single construction crane, the machine printed out the structure section by section using Apis Cor’s gypsum-based mixture. Later, traditional constructions methods were used to install the windows and roof, and rebar supports were added to reinforce the walls.
The resulting building, which will house administrative offices for the Dubai Municipality, has a white facade that reflects the sun rays. The concrete and gypsum printing materials created by Apis Cor also provide the building with a naturally insulated envelope, keeping the interior at a pleasant temperature year-round. (inhabitat)

Global stuff

24M’s thick electrodes power Kyocera’s new energy storage systems
Kyocera has officially launched a residential energy storage system using an advanced manufacturing process that supplier 24M claims can reduce some of the key costs of lithium battery making by as much as 50%.
The Japanese company’s new product, Enerezza, is aimed at the booming market in its homeland and is available in 5kWh, 10kWh and 15kWh capacities. Kyocera began pilot production of battery cells and systems in June using 24M’s proprietary production process, which uses electrodes typically 3-5 times thicker than in other lithium-ion batteries.
“Full-scale mass production” is set to begin in autumn 2020, while prior interviews between this site and 24M hinted at initial production volumes of around 100MW. A release sent to Japanese press by Kyocera in October 2019 claimed that initial output would be at around 20,000 residential Enerezza units annually. (energy-storagenews)

California almond harvest kills too many bees
A recent survey of commercial beekeepers showed that 50 billion bees – more than seven times the world’s human population – were wiped out in a few months during winter 2018-19. This is more than one-third of commercial US bee colonies, the highest number since the annual survey started in the mid-2000s.
Beekeepers attributed the high mortality rate to pesticide exposure, diseases from parasites and habitat loss. However, environmentalists and organic beekeepers maintain that the real culprit is something more systemic: America’s reliance on industrial agriculture methods, especially those used by the almond industry, which demands a large-scale mechanization of one of nature’s most delicate natural processes.
California’s $11bn almond industry has grown at an extraordinary rate. In 2000, almond orchards occupied 500,000 acres. By 2018 that had more than doubled – almond groves in the Central Valley now blanket an area the size of Delaware, producing 1m tonnes of almonds annually sold around the world.
But these enormous orchards can’t function without bees.
On top of the threat of pesticides, almond pollination is uniquely demanding for bees because colonies are aroused from winter dormancy about one to two months earlier than is natural. The sheer quantity of hives required far exceeds that of other crops – apples, America’s second-largest pollination crop, use only one-tenth the number of bees. And the bees are concentrated in one geographic region at the same time, exponentially increasing the risk of spreading sickness. (guardian)

Techie corner

Food ‘made from air’ could compete with soya
Finnish scientists producing a protein “from thin air” say it will compete with soya on price within the decade.
The protein is produced from soil bacteria fed on hydrogen split from water by electricity.
The researchers say if the electricity comes from solar and wind power, the food can be grown with near-zero greenhouse gas emissions.
If their dreams are realised, it could help the world tackle many of the problems associated with farming.
Solar Foods say they have attracted €5.5m of investment, and they predict – depending on the price of electricity – that their costs will roughly match those for soya production by the end of the decade – perhaps even by 2025.
The protein they are developing, called “Solein” has no taste and Solar Foods intend for it to be a neutral additive to all sorts of foods.
It could mimic palm oil by reinforcing pies, ice cream, biscuits, pasta, noodles, sauces or bread. The inventors say it can be used as a medium for growing cultured meat or fish.
It could also nourish cattle to save them eating soya raised on rainforest land. (bbc)