Last Titbits of 2021, and a slight deviation from the usual format. I have chosen four themes that have come to the fore this year and found news items to match the themes.

Predictions for 2022: I expect to see an increasing influence of tech, epecially AI, in cleantech and funding of renewable energy projects on a scale not seen so far as the biggest long term funds look to more direct involvement, which will lead to more consolidation of the industry as per the Schroders deal below.

Company News

Schroders confirms £360m Greencoat Capital deal
Schroders has confirmed that it will buy a 75% majority stake in Greencoat Capital, for £358m.
The deal, rumoured to be underway last week, will see £6.7bn assets under management be brought under Schroders’ wing.
The merger will see Greencoat become part of Schroders Capital, and will be known  as Schroders Greencoat.
The move signals the growing momentum behind the sustainable finance push, with Greencoat being one of Europe’s largest renewable infrastructure managers.
Together, Schroders and Greencoat are looking to capitalise on the growth of sustainable finance, as the UK scrambles to meet its net zero target.
Finance for the net zero transition globally is expected to grow by more than $1 trillion by 2030, Schroders said in a regulatory filing today. (cityam)


Germany approves 900 mln euros for green hydrogen project
Germany will put €900 million into a funding scheme to support green hydrogen, the economy ministry said on Thursday, as the new government seeks to boost investment in climate protection.
The H2Global project is designed to speed up the global market ramp-up of green hydrogen by using a “double auction”. Under the scheme, hydrogen or hydrogen derivatives are bought cheaply on the world market and sold to the EU’s highest bidder.
As Germany’s new government seeks to decarbonise Europe’s biggest economy, renewable hydrogen will play a crucial role, said Economy and Climate Protection Minister Robert Habeck. (reuters)

Companies are developing over 200 GW of Hydrogen electrolyser projects globally
A new report by Aurora Energy Research, highlights just how quickly companies are responding to this opportunity and developing new hydrogen production facilities. Drawing on its global electrolyser database, Aurora finds that companies are planning electrolyser projects totalling 213.5 GW for delivery by 2040 – of which 85% of projects are in Europe. Within Europe, there is a pipeline of over 9 GW in Germany, 6 GW in the Netherlands, and 4 GW in the UK, all scheduled to be operational by 2040. Current global electrolyser capacity is just 0.2 GW, mainly in Europe, meaning that if planned projects deliver by 2040, capacity will grow by a factor of 1,000. (auroraer)

Electric Vehicles

This year has seen a quantum leap forward in the electrification of transport but I still feel there needs to be a further leap forward across more than just passenger cars. So, with honourable mentions to Rivian and Volkswagen My EV of the year is not a single car but a company that really is doing just that

BYD create an electric mobility powerhouse
BYD first came to the world’s attention when Warren Buffet built a stake in the company in 2008 for $232m. That holding is now worth about $6bn and is testament to how the company has transformed itself from a battery maker to a major player in electric vehicles. Unlike the legacy automotive companies who are only slowly managing to deliver on their many EV promises BYD are building their business across all aspects of electric motoring. They are clear world leaders in electric busses, are rapidly rolling out electric trucks and fork lift trucks.
Their EV car business has 27% of the domestic market and between EV and plug in hybrds they are now hitting sales of 10,000 plug-in vehicles a month. They delivered their first EV, the large SUV called Tang to Norway in August to great reviews and have just sold their 10,000th.
Not only is BYD a very effective sales machine, their technology is also creating waves. Their LFP (see Titbits two weeks ago for description of LFP batteries) blade battery pack is ground breaking. The batteries are safer and structurally so strong they form part of the car’s chasis. So impressive is the battery tech that Toyota are licensing it for their upcoming EV range, which is some compliment. BYD’s vehicle range runs from small city cars through bespoke ride share taxis to the highly desirable Han luxury saloon.
A side note: BYD stands for “Build your Dreams” which is written on the back of every vehicle. Whilst so many talk electrification, BYD is walking the walk and has earnt its place at the peak of the industry alongside Tesla. It will be interesting to see who else makes it.  

photo: BYD

Even sober Mercedes gets carried away with EV’s
The Project Maybach concept is an off-road coupe designed in partnership with the late fashion designer Virgil Abloh, who died last month at the age of 41. The posthumously revealed concept combines exaggerated coupe proportions with Mad Max-style design elements.
Looking a bit like an evolution of the all-electric Mercedes-Maybach 6 concept the brand showed back in 2016, the Project Maybach coupe is over 19 feet long, but still only a two-seater. Much of that length is taken up by a long transparent hood, under which sit solar panels.
The massive grille is typical luxury-coupe fare, but we’re not used to seeing a raised ride height, bolt-on fender flares, and a tubular roof rack and light bar on a car like this. A rugged post-apocalyptic aesthetic is proving popular for luxury EVs, though. Just look at the Tesla Cybertruck and GMC Hummer EV pickups.
For now, the Project Maybach concept lays out another potential shape for over-the-top luxury in Mercedes’ future—alongside the Mercedes-Maybach EQS SUV that might be built in the United States. (greencarreports)

photo: Maybach

Extreme E – Changing the world one race at a time
Extreme E is fast furious off-road electric car racing. The races are held in locations that are affected by climate change such as Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Greenland and Sardinia and Patagonia. All teams race identical cars with battery powertrains designed by Williams Engineering and cleantech innovations are actively encouraged, such as the AFC Energy designed Fuel Cell hydrogen based recharging facilities. It has generated plenty of excitement (see HERE) and attracted high profile sponsors – Team Nico Rosberg fought off Sir Lewis Hamilton and Carlos Sainz’s teams to win the Championship)

photo: Extreme E

Energy Efficiency

New Energy Saving Glass Technology May Cut Power Bills
An international team of scientists at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore has created a new and highly energy-efficient form of “smart window.” Their proprietary material, when coated on glass window panels, reacts and adjusts to light to regulate ambient temperatures.
This novel technology can switch between heating and cooling depending on incoming light wavelengths, thereby slashing energy usage and cost used to control indoor climate. With politicians and scientists urging emission cuts of 45 % globally by 2030, breakthroughs like this are paramount in our effort to cut energy consumption.
Existing technology simply cannot meet growing energy demands, so breakthroughs like this one at NTU will play a pivotal role in achieving global energy reduction goals. (forbes)

Europe’s buildings in line for energy-saving overhaul
European Union countries would be required to renovate their least energy efficient buildings by the end of the decade to cut emissions and save fuel, under rules proposed by the European Commission on Wednesday.
The contribution buildings make to climate change is under scrutiny, as EU policymakers map out how each sector will contribute to the bloc’s target to cut net greenhouse gas emissions 55% by 2030 from 1990 levels.
Buildings account for roughly 40% of EU energy use, and most are heated by fossil fuels.
The EU executive proposed on Wednesday that by 2030, all buildings in the EU with the worst energy rating – a “G” energy performance certificate – must be renovated to a higher grade.
G-grade homes must be renovated by 2030 and then F-grade homes by 2033. Non-residential buildings must be renovated faster – G-grade ones by 2027 and F-grade by 2030. (yahoo)

Regenerative Agriculture & Natural Capital

Sean Westcott is Senior Vice President R&D Europe at PepsiCo. This Titbit is taken from an article where he explains how PepsiCo, who are responsible for one of Europe’s biggest farming businesses, are adopting new technologies and regenerative practises:

Why the future of farming lies in regenerative agriculture
Alongside technology, we also use some traditional farming techniques to naturally build soil health, including crop rotation, which can naturally regenerate the soil. For example, we work with Portuguese farmers to develop a new crop, peanuts, which have nitrogen-fixing properties and improve soil health naturally. These additional measures can further help the regenerative agriculture process.
We want to accelerate regenerative practices across Europe. Our Positive Agriculture programme has three main targets for 2030: spread the adoption of regenerative agriculture practices across the seven million acres of farmland that we cultivate; sustainably source 100% of our key seasoning, apple, beet and cane sugar, and corn sweetener; and improve the livelihood communities of more than one million people in our agricultural supply chains and communities.
But if we are to speed up regenerative practices, we need a regulatory framework and financial incentives to ensure uptake. To generate a healthy stream of data, public policy needs to incentivise farmers to use digital technologies and utilise data sharing.
We also need more investment and research into green technologies and standards and to measure biodiversity and soil health. There are many new developments in farming technology, making it difficult for any farmer to keep up to date on the latest innovations. Government and buyers need to help farmers see through the clutter, providing direction and support around technologies that make a real impact.
Finally, we need a supportive policy framework that can make regenerative agricultural practices business relevant and appealing for farmers. This requires a coherent approach across all significant financial mechanisms and political frameworks such as CAP, the biodiversity strategy and the work that is being considered around the carbon farming initiative. (euractive)

Why ‘natural capital’ can be so important for farm incomes
The target of “net zero” by 2050, contained in the Climate Change Act, could be a game-changer for farming, because it puts a real value on what is increasingly coming to be called “natural capital”.
Natural capital refers to those elements of the natural environment which provide value to humanity.
We are well used to one side of this: the value our land can offer through provision, whether of food, water, fuel, timber or any other commodity which can be sold.
But the flip side of natural capital – regulation – is becoming ever-more important. This refers to the regulatory benefits the land can provide, such as carbon storage, flood prevention, air quality or climate regulation.
Until now it has been difficult to put a financial value on these unarguably positive things, but the increased focus on net zero means that concepts such as carbon credits will provide a real, tangible return on the regulatory side of natural capital.
We are already familiar with the way that “pillar one” EU subsidies for food production are being replaced with government payments for environmental land management. Natural capital will give farmers an additional, tradeable income stream from their land. (easterndailypress)

Peatlands and net-zero
Restoring, or “rewetting”, peatlands is, therefore, an important route towards recovering the carbon sink function in these ecosystems. It has been shown to be efficient in terms of both land area – these are the most carbon dense ecosystems in the world – and financial cost.
Even if these rewetted systems emit more methane, reducing their CO2 emissions will still help reduce climate warming overall. It is also just as important to consider avoided emissions – that is, those emissions that are saved by keeping pristine peatlands in their natural state.
The protection and restoration of peatlands also has knock-on benefits for the wider ecosystem, such as improving water quality and providing habitat for rare and threatened plants and creatures.
Nature-based solutions – also known as “natural climate solutions” – have the potential to offset about 30% of the global mitigation needed to achieve 1.5C by 2050. While these measures are not enough to tackle climate change alone – protecting peatlands has been described as “one of the most important tasks of this decade”.
– From a post on Carbon Brief “Are the world’s peatlands better protected after COP26?” by Prof Angela Gallego-Sala, a professor in ecosystems and biogeochemical cycles at the University of Exeter and Dr Julie Loisel, an assistant professor in the geography department of Texas A&M University. (carbonbrief)

Carbon Capture

Could crushed rocks absorb enough carbon to curb global warming?
Before sunrise in a quiet village in Gran Canaria a team of scientists shuffles along the port’s wooden boardwalk toward a row of nine containers floating in the ocean.
The thermoplastic polyurethane “mesocosms,” filled with 8,000 liters of Canarian seawater mixed with varying amounts of limestone—a greyish, carbonate rock with high levels of alkaline—were part of the world’s first scientific field experiment with ocean alkalinity enhancement; research was completed in October. Many scientists hope that this little-examined process has the potential to turn the tide against climate change.
The goal of ocean alkalinity enhancement is to accelerate the carbon-absorbing weathering of rock, which naturally occurs as rainfall washes over land into waterways and eventually the ocean. Similar action happens through the gradual erosion of coastlines through wave action.
In theory, the natural process could be accelerated by depositing large amounts of pulverized silicate or carbonate rocks into the sea. Ulf Riebesell, a marine biologist at GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, who is leading the EU-funded team of 35 researchers, estimates that, while natural weathering sequesters one gigaton of CO2 per year, if enhanced weathering were scaled up massively, something in the ballpark of 100 gigatons of CO2 could be sequestered every year. Given that manmade CO2 emissions are 36 gigatons per year, the potential is eye opening. By stabilizing alkalinity levels, the process could at the same time help protect coral reefs against acidification.
Whilst the potential of alkalinity enhancement there are a great number of practical concerns to overcome before that potential begins to be realised. (nationalgeographic)