Politicians tend to get derided for making “U turns”, but when you are reversing the dismal legislation of your predecessors it should be applauded: welcome back onshore wind and solar in the UK!

Company news

Ikea slashes global emissions as business growth continues
The world’s largest furniture retailer revealed in its latest sustainability report that its global carbon footprint across all scopes decreased 4.3% in absolute terms during the 2019 fiscal year.
During the same period, sales grew by 6.5% as the firm continued to expand its operations.
In contrast, Ikea’s global carbon footprint across all scopes rose by 2.8% during the 2018 fiscal year, with the firm admitting it was not, at the time, able to decouple emissions and growth.
Inter Ikea, Ikea’s parent company, details in the 2018-19 report how an increase in renewable energy sourcing for stores and manufacturers helped the business to decouple emissions from growth. Ikea is aiming to use 100% renewable energy across its global operations by 2030, with an interim aim for 100% renewable electricity by 2025. (edie)

UK news

UK carbon market remains on track for Jan. 2021 launch
The development and scheduled Jan. 2021 launch of a British emissions trading scheme remains on track, a senior UK official said Tuesday, though he would not comment on the government’s EU ETS linking intentions should a wider post-Brexit trade deal fail to materialise by early next year. (carbon-pulse)

UK’s first plastic-to-hydrogen facility receives planning consent
The UK’s first plastic-to-hydrogen energy facility has received unanimous planning consent from Cheshire West and Chester Council.
Peel Environmental and Waste2Tricity say the 54-hectare ‘Protos’ site near Ellesmere Port will be able to treat up to 35 tonnes of unrecyclable plastics a day, generating gas that could be used as a clean fuel for cars, buses and lorries.
The £7 million development is expected to create 14 full-time permanent jobs, as well as around 100 other positions during the fabrication and construction stages.
The facility could also directly generate electricity for local commercial users, helping to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. (energylivenews)

Electricity grid has a wild ride
The UK’s electricity system price spiked to £2,242/MWh on Wednesday night following lower than expected wind generation during the evening peak (green line in the picture).
Wind was generating ~2GW at the time, 2GW less than had been forecast and 4.4GW less than it had been generating the day prior (3 March 2020).
Due to this scarcity in supply, National Grid called on its short term operating reserve (STOR), leading to system prices being calculated using the Loss of Load Probability (LOLP) and the Reserve Scarcity Price, currently set at £6,000/MWh.
The Reserve Scarcity Price is therefore divided by the Loss of load Probability, which was at 37% during SP 37, resulting in the system price surging over the £2,200 mark.
This is the highest price hit in the electric market since 2001 and only the ninth time the price has jumped above £1,000/MWh since then. (current-news)

Bristol’s low carbon heat networks warm up with a £10m grant
Bristol’s journey to net zero has received a financial boost of £10 million dedicated to expanding the city’s heat networks to more communities.
Part of this investment will be spent on the creation of a large water-source heat pump, which will produce zero carbon heat sourced from Bristol’s floating harbour, whereas another section will use waste heat from the University of Bristol’s new campus development.
As a result of this funding, the city’s heat network – a system of underground pipes that transports hot water from different sources to homes and businesses in order to heat them – will be broadened.
It said Bristol’s heat network currently supplies around 1,000 properties with low carbon heat from a variety of sources across the city. (energylivenews)

Greener E10 fuel to become standard petrol grade from 2021
The new consultation sets out proposals on introducing E10 petrol as the 95 octane ‘Premium’ grade
According to the Government the initiative could result in CO2 savings of 750,00 tonnes – equivalent to taking up to 350,000 cars off the road each year – thanks to the higher 10% blend of bioethanol used in E10, up from the current 5% limit in E5. This could help it meet Net Zero.
It’s a move that’s been widely expected for some time, following a consultation and changes to the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO) as well as the Department for Transport’s rollout of new fuel labels.
Last year saw the APPG for British Bioethanol publish the final report on its Parliamentary Inquiry into the introduction of E10 as it called for the Government to accelerate the launch of the fuel in the UK, saying that such a move is a ‘no-brainer’. (fleetnews)

SIMEC expects Uksmouth plant to be ‘prototype’ for coal conversions
SIMEC Atlantis Energy expects its flagship Uskmouth power station in Wales to produce first energy by the end of 2020 and then stand as a prototype for a pipeline of coal-power conversions across the globe.
Uskmouth is being converted from coal-fired power station into a generator of power from end-of-waste pellets, which are a mixture of un-recyclable biogenic materials and plastics.
SIMEC, formerly known as Atlantis Resources until June’s reverse takeover of the Simec Uskmouth project from the Gupta family’s GLG Alliance vehicle, expects the conversion process to take roughly 18 months to wrap up and has targeted first energy from the fourth quarter of 2020. (sharecast)

EV of the week

Renault Morphoz stirs up Geneva Show
Or it would have done if the Show hadn’t been cancelled. There were a lot of EV’s that had to do an online launch instead of a physical one. The VW ID.4 and the BMW i4 would have drawn crowds and will certainly create competition in the Tesla Model 3 and Y sector. Titbits will cover these and others over the next few weeks.
However, the Morphoz introduced something genuinely new: A car that in normal guise can be a city runabout (EV’s are good at that) with a 40kWh battery that will be good for 245 miles range. A press of a button, and a trip to your local dealer and the car stretches and space opens up for a further 50kWh of battery capacity and a road trip range of 425 miles. After the trip you give back the battery and return to the shorter city car configuration. Try doing that in your diesel jalopy!
Whilst clearly only a concept car this does talk to an EV idea that has lain dormant for a while, which is whether there might eventually be a market for battery swapping for EV’s.


Slovakia set for vehicle battery R&D and production centre
​InoBat Auto, a R&D and battery production company providing new energy solutions for electric vehicles, has secured funding to build an R&D centre to support the development of a 10GWh Gigafactory in Slovakia.
A €5 million investment from the Slovakian Government has contributed to the EUR 100 million first-phase fund raising, set to end by Q3 2020, to deliver the Gigafactory, which will deploy state-of-the-art battery technology with the potential to provide an estimated 240,000 electric vehicles with cutting edge batteries by 2024.
InoBat Auto’s planned Gigafactory is designed to help Europe to become a leading global force in the electric vehicle battery industry. The construction of the first phase 100 MWh production line is expected to begin later this year, with the first batteries ready for distribution towards the end of 2021. (newelectronics)

The strong and silent type: e-snowmobile with H2 fuel cell
The Austrian company Rotax has presented the Lynx HySnow, an emission-free snowmobile. It is based on the Lynx 69 Ranger Alpine snowmobile popular in Austria’s ski resorts. It has been completely converted and equipped with an electric drive system including hydrogen fuel cell for greater power and range.
The Rotax concept vehicle is the company’s first zero-emission snowmobile. (electrive)

Focus on: The Budget

Green Alliance suggest best Green Budget initiatives
In a week’s time, the government will unveil its first budget. It will be keen to deliver on the big spending promises pledged in the Conservative manifesto, particularly in the newly won northern constituencies. The manifesto also promised to prioritise the environment. So this is the key moment to demonstrate commitment to this promise and take concerted climate action in the run up to the UN COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, now only eight months away.
Recent government announcements have been promising, including a new £5 billion fund for buses and cycling, a proposal to bring forward the phase-out of petrol and diesel vehicles from 2040 to 2035, and a commitment to re-open the market to new UK onshore wind and solar power projects.
But the government has a tricky line to walk, between tackling the climate and nature emergency and pleasing their new ‘red wall’ MPs. We have already seen the Treasury back off from unfreezing the fuel duty escalator, due to concerns that it will unfairly impact these constituencies.
The Green Alliance have highlighted three areas on which the Budget needs to focus as follows:

1. Housing
Leaky, inefficient homes raise energy bills, cause higher emissions and, last year, it is estimated that 17,000 people died due to cold housing. Solving this problem is long overdue. Research commissioned by the Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group has shown that an additional £1 billion of government investment a year in energy efficiency can leverage a further £3.5 billion of private investment. The budget should, therefore, commit to spending an additional £1 billion in this budget on an energy efficiency programme.
2. Transport
Air pollution disproportionately affects those in more deprived areas, and public transport in northern communities has been historically underfunded. The announcement of a new £5 billion fund for buses and cycling infrastructure outside London is welcome, but there needs to be much more detail on how this money will be spent in a way to empower communities to shift the way they travel. A similar investment pledge is needed for train lines throughout the UK, particularly for areas outside the south east.
Similarly, accelerating the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) will help to cut air pollution, as well as kick-start the market for second-hand electric vehicles, to make them more accessible to lower income families. An additional £50 million a year spent on new charging stations in this budget should help to achieve an even coverage of charging infrastructure throughout the UK, including rural areas.
3. Agriculture and the environment
The Agriculture and Environment Bills are both moving through parliament at the moment. The Agriculture Bill contains exciting proposals to pay farmers to provide the ‘public goods’ of flood management, soil management and carbon sequestration; while the Environment Bill will help to set up a new Office for Environmental Protection, to help protect vital habitats across the UK.
But new investment will be needed to support the aspirations of these bills as they gain royal assent and become law. The budget should commit to fulfilling the Conservative party manifesto pledge to plant at least 30 million trees a year, taking into account biodiversity and landscape impact, as well funding the enhancement of habitats like saltmarsh, wetlands and peatland, as promised in the 25 year environment plan. (greenalliance)

Eco wooden tower block

Sweden’s tallest wooden tower ‘saves 550 tonnes of CO2’
A new wooden tower building in Sweden could cut lifetime emissions by 550 tonnes.
According to the C.F. Møller Architects report, the Kajstaden in Västerås will make the savings through its construction methods and design.
Its technology involved CNC-milled solid timber with glued laminated timber for all parts of the building, including the walls, joists, balconies, lift and stairwell shafts.
According to the report, the low weight of the material meant fewer deliveries to the construction site and a more efficient, safer and quieter working environment during construction – it took an average of three days per floor for three craftsmen to raise the frame.
Mechanical joints with screws have been used, which makes it easy for the building to be taken apart so that the materials can be recycled. (energylivenews)


Nikola Receives New Cash Injection
Nikola is merging with VectoIQ as part of a move that will see the new company being listed on the NASDAQ at an estimated post-merger valuation of $3.3 billion. The new company will operate under the Nikola Corporation name and be listed under the stock ticker “NKLA.”
In conjunction with the merger, another $525 million will be injected into the company by institutional investors including Fidelity Management & Research Company, ValueAct Spring Fund, and P. Schoenfeld Asset Management LP. The new funds will help the company to move some of its lengthy list of hydrogen fuel cell and battery electric prototype and concept vehicles into production.
A key component of that expansion is the build-out of a network of 700 hydrogen fueling stations to underpin the deployment of its fuel cell vehicles. To date, Nikola has invested funds into improving hydrogen production and the infrastructure required to support it as a key prerequisite for its future vehicles. (cleantechnica)

Standard Bank Sells Green Bonds in Biggest African Sale Yet
Standard Bank Group Ltd.’s South African unit sold a $200 million green bond to the International Finance Corp. in the largest sale of its kind from the continent yet.
The 10-year facility will be used to finance projects in renewable energy, energy efficiency, water efficiency and the development of environmentally friendly buildings, the Johannesburg-based lender said in an email. The debt will be listed on the London Stock Exchange, making it South Africa’s first offshore green-bond issuance, it said. (Bloomberg)

Florida Approves Largest Community Solar Program In The US
Today, the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) unanimously approved the Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL) SolarTogether program, which will ensure the development of 1,490 MW of solar over the next two years making it the largest community solar program in the US. The program will help to propel the Sunshine State into a leadership position on solar.
The program is projected to generate millions of dollars in savings and aims to meet the growing demand for solar power from small and large customers. FPL estimates that more than 120,000 families and small businesses have expressed interest to participate in SolarTogether. (cleantechnica)

NASA maps show the effect of a quarantine on air pollution
“This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event,” said NASA air quality researcher Fei Liu. She made that statement after NASA’s Earth Observatory released maps showing a dramatic drop in air pollution in the Wuhan region. (engaget)

GE to offer small nuclear reactor at competitive price
Gas plants are cheap to build and run, but General Electric Hitachi Nuclear Energy has started the ball rolling on an alternative that would cost the same as a gas plant, at around $2,000/kW, but not use gas. Instead, it would use a small nuclear reactor that, the company claims, is safe, cheap and, crucially, quick to build.
GEH’s solution is the BWRX-300, a Small Modular Reactor (SMR) the company says has all of the benefits of nuclear with fewer downsides. By making it cost-competitive as a gas plant, GEH hopes that power companies will compare the two and pick its offering.
The BWRX-300 isn’t a new reactor, as such, more a shrunken-down version of GEH’s existing Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR). It has the same safety features as its bigger sibling
To be “small,” an SMR’s output must be less than 300 MW, which is actually a benefit here. Because SMRs are modular, their components could be prefabricated at a factory and shipped to the site for assembly. Not only would that speed up construction but make it possible to mass-produce components for better economies of scale. And by building each reactor in sequence, each module would make up a component for a bigger power station. (engadget)

Techie corner

Bill Gates-Led Fund Invests in Synthetic Palm Oil Startup
Breakthrough Energy Ventures, helmed by Bill Gates, is leading an investment round of $20 million for C16 Biosciences, a New York-based startup, which is working on making sustainable alternatives for palm oil.
The three-year-old startup uses microbes to convert food waste and industrial byproducts into synthetic palm oil, which it claims can replace the plant-derived version. The investment will be used to grow the team and scale up the technology. It’s one of a growing number of startups working on developing alternatives. (Bloomberg)

Tropical forests losing their ability to absorb carbon, study finds
For the last three decades, the amount of carbon absorbed by the world’s intact tropical forests has fallen, according to the study from nearly 100 scientific institutions. They are now taking up a third less carbon than they did in the 1990s, owing to the impacts of higher temperatures, droughts and deforestation. That downward trend is likely to continue, as forests come under increasing threat from climate change and exploitation. The typical tropical forest may become a carbon source by the 2060s, according to the research report by the school of geography at Leeds University.
This research shows that relying on tropical forests is unlikely to be enough to offset large-scale emissions. “There is a lot of talk about offsetting, but the reality is that every country and every sector needs to reach zero emissions, with any small amount of residual emissions needing to be removed from the atmosphere,” said Lewis. “The use of forests as an offset is largely a marketing tool for companies to try to continue with business as usual.”
The uptake of carbon from the atmosphere by tropical forests peaked in the 1990s when about 46bn tonnes were removed from the air, equivalent to about 17% of carbon dioxide emissions from human activities. By the last decade, that amount had sunk to about 25bn tonnes, or just 6% of global emissions. (guardian)