Two biggies this week: The IPCC 6th assessment report and the UK Government Energy Security Strategy. The former has been applauded for not mincing words and stating categorically that net zero will need direct carbon capture (DCR) as well as renewables. As I show in the focus, that is going to be a hard ask
The same applies to the UK Strategy. It seems to have been heavily influenced by the Treasury who wouldn’t allow for any short term spending, and by the ever vocal anti-onshore wind clique, who are a small minority as shown below.
I fear that by 2035 we shall come to the realisation that DCR is struggling to deliver and we have a load of hopelessly behind schedule nuclear reactors.
Macquarie Buys Stake in National Grid’s Gas Unit
National Grid Plc agreed to sell 60% of its gas transmission business to a consortium including Macquarie Group Ltd. in a deal that will value the unit at £9.6 billion.
The U.K. firm will get about £2.2 billion in cash from Macquarie’s asset management arm and British Columbia Investment Management Corp., it said in a statement on its website Sunday. It will also receive £2 billion from additional debt financing when the deal’s completed, according to the statement.
National Grid announced its intention to sell the holding last year as it transitions to a low-carbon future. Under the new ownership structure, the London-based company will hold a 40% stake in NGG via a holding company called GasT TopCo. It has an option to sell that stake to the consortium in the first half of next year on broadly similar terms. (bloomberg)
The Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Strategy
The Department for Transport (DfT) has today (25 March) published the much-awaited Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Strategy. Building on the commitment made under the 2020 Ten-Point Plan for the Green Industrial Revolution, for £1.3bn of Government funding for electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure, the Strategy outlines how £1.6bn of funding will be spent.
£950m will be made available through the Rapid Charging Fund, to install rapid charging points across England’s motorway network through to 2035.
A further £500m is being used to deliver a Local Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Fund (LEVI), under which local authorities will be able to bid for funding to install charging hubs and on-street charging points.
Also detailed in the Strategy are timelines for the introduction of new mandates for charging point operators, designed to increase reliability, improve accessibility and keep costs for customers down.
The linked article quotes many views on the Strategy, which are broadly positive. It is focused, correctly, on the twin needs for motorway rapid and affordable cerbside charging. Some question whether it will be enough to persuade adoption of EV’s at the scale required by the 2030nban on combustion engine vehicles? (edie)
Vitol and ITM Power combine to create JV Motive
Vitol has agreed to acquire 50% of ITM Power’s hydrogen refuelling subsidiary, ITM Motive Limited (“Motive”). Vitol has committed to investing an initial £30 million in Motive, with ITM Power committing a similar sum.
The partners intend to build Motive into a pan-European hydrogen refuelling company. Starting in the UK and expanding across Europe, Motive’s refuelling network will sell green hydrogen produced by ITM Power’s market-leading electrolyser technology. ITM Power will be the preferred supplier of energy services to Motive; it has committed 240 MW of electrolyser manufacturing capacity to the initiative.
The partners initially expect the service to be mostly used by heavy good vehicles (HGVs) as corporates seek to reduce their carbon footprint and local and national governments look to address emissions and urban air pollution. (vitol)
Half of Tory backbench MPs have joined party’s green group
Half of Conservative backbench MPs are now in the party’s green group, after the former minister Jeremy Hunt announced he had joined.
The Conservative Environment Network (Cen) now has 133 MPs, leading green-minded Tories to claim that those who do not want net zero are in the minority. There are 360 sitting Conservative MPs, but 95 are government ministers or whips and therefore ineligible to join Cen.
This is in contrast with the Net Zero Scrutiny Group of Conservative politicians, which has 19 publicly named members. It has close ties to the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a group that has been described as climate sceptical. (guardian)
EV of the week
Delorean Motor Company teases EV concept launch
For my youngest readers a potted history of the Delorean Motor company: Entrepreneur John Delorean managed to persuade the UK government to sponsor loads of dosh (allegedly about £200m) to help him build a factory in Northern Ireland from which he was to build a futuristic stainless steel sports car with gullwing doors. The factory was built in record time but quality and logistics problems delayed the launch of the car. It did eventually appear two years late in 1981, but sales were only half that forecast and the company folded.
Nothing so strange about all that, but throw in the mysterious FBI sting operation that purported to catch John DeLorean conspiring to ship tons of cocaine (he was acquitted) and the car’s adoption as the iconic focus of the successful film franchise Back to the Future and this is how legends form. Many of the 9,000 originals are still around and change hands for big money.
Scroll forward 40 years and an announcement this week from the DeLorean Motor Company, now based in Texas that an electric sports car concept will be unveiled on the 18th August. All we know so far is the teaser picture below and that it will be pitched into the segment occupied by the Porsche Taycan.
To misquote the film: “wait a minute doc, maybe they have built a time machine out of a DeLorean”
Lidl switches battery electric logistics fleet to green hydrogen fuel cell
Discount supermarket chain Lidl is switching the entire battery-electric vehicle fleet of a logistics hub to fuel cells powered by green hydrogen, making it the first of its kind in Europe, according to a press release.
Around 100 forklifts or 80 percent of the vehicle fleet in the German retailer’s logistics centre in Carquefou, in Western France, already operate on green hydrogen, and the rest is to follow by the end of the year. The centre will be supplied with 75 kilograms of green hydrogen per day generated 75 kilometres away by company Lhyfe using wind energy.
Lidl said refuelling times had been decisive in its decision to opt for fuel cells. “The refuelling time for a hydrogen vehicle is only 2 to 3 minutes compared to several hours for a lead-acid battery,” the company said.
Hydrogen powered vehicles are available 97 percent of the time compared to approximately 50 percent with lead-acid technology, Lidl said, adding this required much fewer charging or refuelling spaces, and allowed a reduction of fleet inventories.
Lidl said it is considering the medium-term deployment of green hydrogen fuel cell vehicles at other logistics centres, or using it to power part of its delivery truck fleet. (thedriven)
Reports of the week #1 IPCC
IPCC take the gloves off
This week the third part of the IPCC’s 6th assessment report, known as Working Group III (WG3) was published.
It says that current policies put the world on track for a central estimate of around or a bit below 3C warming by 2100, though climate system uncertainties mean that warming of as low as 2.3C or above 4C cannot be fully ruled out.
If countries meet their current nationally determined contributions (NDCs) for 2030 under the Paris Agreement it would shave a few tenths of a degree off future warming – but a large gap remains between 2030 commitments and the magnitude of emissions reductions needed to put the world on track for below 2C or 1.5C warming by 2100.
Stabilising global average temperature will require reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to net-zero. Scenarios limiting the world to below 2C generally reach net-zero CO2 in the “early 2070s”, while those limiting warming to 1.5C reach net-zero in the “early 2050s”. If the world reaches net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions then global temperatures will fall.
WG3 explores a wide range of energy system and emissions pathways to limit warming to 1.5C or below 2C, including worlds with large amounts of net-negative emissions and carbon dioxide removal (CDR), worlds where fossil fuels are eliminated rapidly in favour of renewable energy, and worlds where global energy demand is sharply reduced.
Nearly all scenarios considered within WG3 that limit warming below 2C rely on some degree of CDR to accelerate the pace of emissions reductions, to offset residual emissions, and to provide the option for net negative CO2 emissions in case global temperatures need to be brought back down. (carbonbrief)
UN Chief: IPCC report a ‘damning indictment of failed climate leadership’
The new report states that “human-induced climate change, including more frequent and intense extreme events, has caused widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people, beyond natural climate variability.”
While “some development and adaptation efforts have reduced vulnerability,” the United Nations report continues, “the rise in weather and climate extremes has led to some irreversible impacts as natural and human systems are pushed beyond their ability to adapt.”
If governments fail to quickly and dramatically slash fossil fuel emissions, the analysis stresses, planetary heating will blow past the Paris Agreement target of 1.5°C of warming or less by the end of the century, ushering in more ecological devastation—from heatwaves to droughts to massive floods—and worsening inequality, poverty, hunger, and disease worldwide.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, for his part, called the report’s findings an “atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership.”
“The facts are undeniable. This abdication of leadership is criminal,” said Guterres. “The world’s biggest polluters are guilty of arson of our only home.” (therealnews)
Reports of the week #2 UK Energy Security Strategy
Long term promise(s), short term, not so much
After weeks of rumour and speculation, Boris Johnson’s plan for how the UK can ensure its energy security amid climate change, a cost-of-living crisis and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has finally been published.
The government’s energy security strategy, released in full on Thursday afternoon, is shaped by ambitious – yet vague – promises for nuclear power and offshore wind, with little mention of new measures for energy efficiency or onshore wind.
It says some 95% of the country’s electricity could come from low-carbon sources by 2030, ahead of the government’s existing aim of decarbonising the sector by 2035.
Just days after the release of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on tackling climate change, the strategy also commits to holding a new licensing round for North Sea oil and gas and promises to “remain open-minded” about fracking.
In its initial assessment of the strategy, the government’s adviser the Climate Change Committee (CCC) says the proposals, if enacted, “would bring us closer to meeting the net-zero challenge”.
However, it adds that “it is disappointing not to see more on energy efficiency and on supporting households to make changes that can cut their energy bills now”. (carbobbrief)
Chancellor urges UK financial regulators to back Energy Security Strategy
Rishi Sunak calls on Bank of England to encourage financial sector to back domestic oil and gas production ‘where practical and relevant’
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has stepped up pressure on the Bank of England to encourage the financial sector to back domestic oil and gas production “where practical and relevant” in support of the UK’s net zero ambitions, in a series of letters to financial regulators yesterday.
Sunak has written to the UK’s three leading financial watchdogs – the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the Financial Policy Committee (FPC), and the Prudential Regulation Committee (PRC) – urging them to pay heed to the Energy Security Strategy published this week by the government.
That Strategy sets out the government’s plan to reduce Britain’s dependency on the global market for fossil fuels, including oil and gas from Russia in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine. But the plan sparked fierce criticism from business figures and climate campaigners alike, who accused the government of failing to prioritise measures that could curb fossil fuel imports in the near-term.
While the Strategy sets out enhanced long term ambitions for clean energy sources such as offshore wind, solar, hydrogen, and nuclear, the Chancellor himself was accused of significantly watering down earlier versions of the plan which had sought more support for onshore wind and energy efficiency programmes. (businessgreen)
Focus on: Carbon Dioxide Removal
Visualizing the scale of the carbon removal problem
To get climate change under control, experts say, we’re going to have to start sucking a whole lot more planet-heating carbon dioxide out of the air. And we need to start doing it fast.
We already have some direct air capture facilities that filter carbon dioxide out of the air. The captured CO2 can then be stored underground for safekeeping or used to make products like soda pop, concrete, or even aviation fuel.
But this kind of carbon removal is still being done at a very small scale. There are just 18 direct air capture facilities spread across Canada, Europe, and the United States. Altogether, they can capture just 0.01 million metric tons of CO2. To avoid the worst effects of climate change, we need a lot more facilities with much larger capacity, according to a recent report from the International Energy Agency (IEA). By 2030, direct air capture plants need to be able to draw down 85 million metric tons of the greenhouse gas. By 2050, the goal is a whopping 980 million metric tons of captured CO2.
On top of that, there’s the question of what happens to all that carbon once it’s sucked out of the air. In addition to building the plants, you’ve got to lay out pipelines to transport the captured CO2. And then you have to find places to safely store the greenhouse gas. Some carbon removal proponents want to bury CO2 at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, for example. As you can imagine, plans to build new pipelines and dredge the seafloor have already pissed people off.
Despite all that, companies, industries, and think tanks keep posing direct air capture as a key piece of the puzzle to stopping climate change. It might be possible. But looking at the sheer scale of the problem is an important reality check. From where we are now to the expansive future these new reports envision, carbon removal technologies face a long — and bumpy — road. (theverge)
To understand the sheer scale of the challenge described above The Verge put together the following graphics:
1. Next steps: the black box is the capacity of today’s tech. The blue represent the quantum jump to industrial scale capture needed for the next gen kit
2. The 2030 challenge: The blue box is as above, the yellow boxes are the scale up required to hit the 2030 target
3. To 2050: Blue and Yellow boxes as above plus the pink which is the scale up to hit the 2050 aspirations
Direct air capture start-up Heirloom raises $53m for first major deployment
Heirloom, a direct air capture company, has raised $53 million (£40.2m) for the first major deployment of its technology that permanently removes CO2 from the atmosphere.
The funding round was co-led by Carbon Direct Capital Management, Ahren Innovation Capital and Breakthrough Energy Ventures, with the Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund as an additional participant.
Heirloom’s technology, at gigaton scale, is claimed to have the lowest peer-reviewed, at-scale cost of any direct air capture technology on the market.
The company aims to remove one billion tons of CO2 from the atmosphere by 2035. (futurenetzero)
Eco: Dutch appartment block
Amsterdam apartments are tic-tac-toed in wildlife habitat
VMX Architects received the go-ahead to build a sustainable new building titled Tic-Tac-Toe in Amsterdam. Tic-Tac-Toe will be located in the business district Zuidas, which is expected to evolve into a mixed-use neighbourhood. The first residential plots developed in this area will also be part of the project, creating 75 large mid-priced rental family homes.
Tic-Tac-Toe is an energy-neutral, nature-inclusive, climate-adaptive and sustainably-orientated residential complex. The roofs and balconies incorporate rainwater capture and storage. Solar panels are integrated on the exterior with nesting facilities for wildlife. Facades also will include plantings of native species of plants.
Instead of the environmental footprint, the project focuses on the circularity concept. It attempts to maximize the lifespan and potential uses of the areas on, in and around the building. The building’s concrete structure will enable customization of spaces for various lifestyle needs of families at different stages of raising kids. Rooms can be repurposed for different layouts, and the building makes use of common areas for entertaining and meeting with friends. (inhabitat)
photo: VMX Architects
Edison validates Viking Cold Solution’s cooling thermal energy storage tech
Viking Cold Solutions has had its thermal energy storage (TES) technology validated after a two-year evaluation study by environmental consulting firm D+R International on behalf of utility Southern California Edison (SCE), part of Edison International.
Its solution, pictured above, stores cold energy with up to 25% more efficiency than conventional cold storage, the company said. The evaluation study recommends adopting Viking Cold Solutions’s TES into SCE’s portfolio of programs to promote greater energy efficiency and demand response in cold storage facilities, the company said.
Viking said the study, carried out at a foodservice distributor in Southern California, validates the commercial benefits of TES to improve grid stability and decrease electricity use. Refrigeration is the third-highest category of energy use in California. (energystoragenews)
photo: Viking Cold Solutions
We need organic regenerative farming
Farmers starting out with organic practices, but who aren’t ready to go the whole hog, can feel excluded by the term ‘organic’.
Conversely, farmers going above and beyond organic regulation feel that the term organic doesn’t do enough to convey what they’re doing and the progress towards the principles that they’ve made. Somewhat counter-intuitively, regenerative appeals to both ends of the spectrum.
This is good news, we need a broad church, and we won’t achieve the changes we need to see by making the perfect the enemy of the good.
But we also need to make sure that regenerative drives real and meaningful change, and that it isn’t hijacked by those seeking to greenwash. So it must be underpinned by a clear vision and direction of travel if it’s to have the impact it seeks. Recognising organic farmers as regenerative is a good place to start.
Likewise, organic can learn a lot from regenerative too. Whilst the market-focus of organic has had a clear benefit and impact – it’s now worth over 120 billion euros, with 75 million hectares of land grown across 190 countries worldwide, progress with driving continuous improvement and influencing the rest of agriculture has been slow.
The bureaucracy of legislation has somewhat stalled the incremental progress towards greater fulfilment of organic principles. This is where the innovations of the regenerative agriculture movement can provide organic with a rocket boost.
The focus on metrics and monitoring as tools to help improve and optimise everything from carbon storage in soils to biodiversity on farmland offers the opportunity for organic farmers to not only measure the impact of what they do, but improve it still further.
There’s a lot to be gained from recognising the shared values and trajectories of organic and regenerative. Being truly regenerative means being organic, but likewise being truly organic means being regenerative too. They’re interlinked and are stronger and more meaningful together. (theecologist)
HB11’s hydrogen-boron laser fusion test yields groundbreaking results
HB11 is approaching nuclear fusion from an entirely new angle, using high power, high precision lasers instead of hundred-million-degree temperatures to start the reaction. Its first demo has produced ten times more fusion reactions than expected, and the company says it’s now “the only commercial entity to achieve fusion so far,” making it “the global frontrunner in the race to commercialize the holy grail of clean energy.”
HB11 is using a different approach that’s closer to a snooker shot. It doesn’t require huge amounts of heat, or tricky, radioactive fuels like tritium. Instead, it takes advantage of recent advances in ultra-high powered “chirped pulse amplification” lasers that can produce monstrous, unprecedented power levels over 10 petawatts.
An HB11 reactor would be a mostly empty metal sphere, with a “modestly sized” boron fuel pellet held in the middle, and apertures in two spots on the sphere for a pair of lasers. One laser would be used to establish a magnetic containment field for the plasma, and the second is used to massively accelerate hydrogen atoms through the boron sample. So you’re not heating things up in the hope that they’ll smack together at speed, you’re literally aiming the hydrogen right at the boron and using these bleeding-edge lasers to make it go so fast that it’ll fuse if it hits a nucleus.
Hydrogen-boron fusion doesn’t create heat, it merely creates “naked” helium atoms, or alpha particles, which are missing electrons and thus positively charged. HB11 plans to simply collect that charge to create energy, rather than needing to superheat steam and drive lossy turbines. No nuclear waste is created.
Initial experiments on laser-triggered chain reactions returned reaction rates a billion times higher than anticipated, leading HB11 to claim in 2020 that it “stands a high chance of reaching the goal of net energy gain well ahead of other groups.” (newatlas)