Is my natural optimism running ahead of itself or did we have a bit of a lightbulb moment this week when the Court of Appeal rejected the third runway at Heathrow because the previous Conservative Government’s legal team ignored the UK’s commitments under the Paris 2016 agreement?

Whatever you believe about runways, this should surely create a precedent whereby no infrastructure projects can now be built without reference to the Paris Agreement.

Company news

BP Cutting Ties With Three U.S. Lobby Groups Over Climate Policies
Oil giant BP said it will sever links with three United States-based trade associations, including the country’s main refining lobby, because of disagreements over their climate-related policies and activities.
BP said it would pull out of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), following in the footsteps of Shell and France’s Total, which left the lobby group last April. It will also quit the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and the Western Energy Alliance (WEA).
Over the past six months, BP has conducted a review of how its climate crisis-related policies and activities compare with those of 30 trade associations. BP cited material differences in its views on carbon pricing in relation to the positions adopted by AFPM and WSPA. It will not renew its WEA membership because of significant differences around the federal regulation of methane. (yale360)

Greencoat affected by poor wind and power curves
Greencoat UK Wind Plc on Thursday said its portfolio generated 2,385 GWh in 2019, which was 11% below budget due to low winds.
Net cash generated by the group and wind farm special purpose vehicles amounted to £127.7, which provided cover of 1.4x dividends paid during the year.
As at end-December 2019, the group’s portfolio comprised 35 operating wind farms with a total net generating capacity of 979 MW and a gross asset value of about £2.443bn.
NAV per share, ex-dividend, fell to GBP 1.197 per share from GBP 1.214 per share on December 31, 2018, mainly because of a downward adjustment to the long-term power price estimates used.
Greencoat UK Wind declared total dividends of 6.94p per share for the full year. (renewablesnow)

UK news

Negative pricing will be a ‘big feature’ in net zero transition as UK sees 15 periods in 2020 so far
Negative power pricing is becoming an increasingly common occurrence on the UK energy networks. Already in 2020, there have been 15 half hour periods where the cost of electricity fell into negative figures, according to Drax Electric Insights.
Most recently, Storm Dennis over the weekend of 15-16 February led to negative pricing as strong gusts resulted in large amounts of wind on the network. Prices fell into negative figures twice on the Sunday morning, as wind power made up almost half of the power on the grid.
While this does not break any records, these periods are becoming increasingly common. (current-news)

Billion dollar oil & gas fund backs supermajor-led zero-carbon UK cluster
A consortium made up of oil & gas supermajors BP, Eni, Equinor, Shell and Total has taken over a carbon capture and storage (CCS) project designed to decarbonise an industrial cluster in Northeast England by building a system to collect CO2, compress it and inject it in a reservoir under the North Sea.
The group, part of $1bn-plus Oil & Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) investment fund, aims to accelerate development of Net Zero Teesside, previously known as the Clean Gas Project, said to be the UK’s “first zero-carbon cluster”. (rechargenews)

UK Government hints at RHI extension
Energy and Clean Growth minister Kwasi Kwarteng has claimed the Government is “absolutely committed” to exploring new support mechanisms for low-carbon heat in the UK once the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) expires in March 2021.
The RHI is due to close in March 2021, with the Government yet to outline how it will promote low-carbon heating beyond that point. From April 2021, households signed up to the scheme will continue to receive payments until the end of a seven-year agreement. (edie)

Scotland’s castles ditch gas heating and go green
Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has announced it is ditching gas heating from all of its sites, many of which are castles, as part of a newly-announced 2045 net zero goal.
The organisation aims not only to cover its energy needs with power from renewable sources by 2032, but also to double its annual emission reduction targets during the next ten years and beyond.
HES plans to optimise energy efficiency improvements at all sites, including Edinburgh Castle, by 2028 in order to reach its goals. (energylivenews)

Could ‘mobile phone-style bundles’ signpost way to decarbonising heat?
Two British energy firms have successfully trailed a new ‘heat-as-a-service’ approach to heating homes, based on smart heating systems that charge consumers per hour of warmth rather than unit of energy.
The trials, run by the Baxi Heating and Bristol Energy, were coordinated by the government-backed Energy Systems Catapult. It ran the trials in 100 homes across Newcastle, Manchester, the West Midlands, Gloucestershire, and Bridgend, where it fitted smart heating systems providing room by room temperature control and a wealth of data on consumer behaviour and the thermal performance of the home.
Baxi Heating trialled mobile phone-style bundles combining heating system and energy bills for a fixed monthly price in 20 of the homes. Labelling them ‘Heat Plans’, Baxi bundled together a heating device with servicing, maintenance, and energy. (businessgreen)

EV of the week

Is this the future of urban mobility?
Citroën expanded its lineup towards the bottom by introducing an electric, two-seater city car you don’t need a license to drive. Called Ami, it was developed with both private users and car-sharing programs in mind.
The newest addition to the Citroën range is about a foot shorter than a Smart ForTwo, shaped like a vacuum cleaner attachment, and named after a slightly more conventional-looking vintage model introduced in 1961. It looks like a car, and it’s ostensibly marketed as one, but the French government begs to differ; the Ami joins the Renault Twizy in the light quadricycle segment, meaning anyone can drive one without a license as long as they’re at least 14. The catch is that its top speed is limited to precisely 27.9 mph — on flat ground, of course.
Power comes from an eight-horsepower motor, which is enough to move a 1,070-pound vehicle. Citroën quoted up to 43 miles of driving range thanks to a 5.5-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery stuffed under the floor.
Whilst the performance stats don’t exactly knock you over, the suggested pricing is compelling: Citroen suggest leasing the Ami for €22 per month! Ami goes on sale this summer in France. (autoblog)


Iberdrola “two decades ahead of energy transition” and making it pay
Scottish Power parent Iberdrola’s 13 per cent surge in group profits to €3.4 billion last year reflects its two decades of steady renewables investment, according to CEO Ignacio Galán.
Galán said its push into clean generation puts Iberdrola “20 years ahead of the current energy transition.”
The group’s full 2019 results reveal a record 2.8GW of new green generation capacity, including East Anglia One’s first turbines commissioned last year. A further 9GW is under construction worldwide. (theenergyst)

VW ID.3 electric car’s software bugs threaten summer launch
Volkswagen’s issues with software code continue, according to a report in Germany’s Manager Magazin and picked up by . In December, Manager explained the VW ID.3’s software platform didn’t work; nevertheless, the automaker remained committed to its EV production schedule and summer 2020 delivery plans for the electric hatchback. The automaker planned to build and store up to 20,000 ID.3’s in parking lots, the cars to get fleshed-out software manually installed by technicians with mobile consoles. The first 10,000 cars were meant to get the proper software downloaded in March. If the newest Manager story is accurate, that won’t be happening. The publication cited company engineers as saying “the basic architecture was developed too hastily,” so the various modules “often do not understand each other” and suffer dropouts. Meanwhile, up to 50 of the electric hatchbacks roll off the line each day and are taken to storage facilities.
The report says there are more than 10,000 technicians from VW, Audi, Porsche, and outside suppliers addressing the glitches. Board members and development team heads meet twice a day, morning and afternoon, to discuss problems, after which hundreds of test drivers take ID.3 units out every evening to proof fixes. An attendee at the daily briefings claimed test drivers would report up to 300 software bugs every day.
VW remains publicly committed to the summer launch. Others don’t believe that will be possible and suspect a delay of anywhere from three to 12 month (autoblog)

New battery, heat pumps and green hydrogen ‘can decarbonise industry by 2030’
New battery storage chemistries, high-temperature heat pumps and green hydrogen have the potential to significantly decarbonise carbon-intensive industries by 2030.
That’s the suggestion from DNV GL, which forecasts the three “breakthrough technologies” could slash emissions from the energy, transport and heating sectors over the next decade.
These include new battery storage chemistries to decarbonise the transport sector, high-temperature heat pumps and green hydrogen to decarbonise the heat and transport sectors.
For instance, it claims solid-state batteries will be able to replace existing lithium-ion versions, improving safety, tripling energy intensity and doubling the effective lifecycle offered.
It also highlights new types of heat pumps that will be commercially available by 2023 will enable significant performance improvements and suggests the relevance of renewably-produced hydrogen will grow as costs fall by 2030. (energylivenews)
More detail from DNV GL website HERE

Focus on: Geothermal Energy

Want Unlimited Clean Energy? Just Drill the World’s Hottest Well
There’s treasure buried deep beneath the viridescent foothills of Tuscany’s Apennine Mountains, where the stark metal trusses of the Venelle-2 drilling tower mark its location like an X on a map. This geothermal well reaches nearly two miles beneath the surface to a region where temperatures and pressures are so high that rock begins to bend. Here, conditions are ripe for supercritical geothermal fluids, mineral-rich water that exhibits characteristics of both a liquid and a gas. It’s not exactly gold, but if Venelle-2 could tap into a reservoir of supercritical fluids and use them to spin a turbine on the surface, it would be one of the most energy-dense forms of renewable power in the world.
But getting there isn’t so easy. Boring deep into the ground risks triggering an earthquake if a large chunk of rock slips out of place. This risk was amplified at the Venelle-2 well, which aimed to breach the K horizon, a poorly understood boundary between the hard rock near the surface and the more pliant rock below. What would happen when the drill punched through this layer into the supercritical fluids below was anyone’s guess.
And for now, the mystery remains. Drilling at Venelle-2 stopped just shy of the K horizon when temperatures at the bottom of the well overwhelmed the equipment. Sensors at the bottom of the well indicated temperatures had breached 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit and pressures 300 times greater than at the surface. Nevertheless, Venelle-2 is the hottest borehole ever created, and it demonstrated that it’s possible to drill at the extreme end of supercritical conditions. And this week, a paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research showed that it could be done without producing any major seismic activity. (wired)

Google Spinout Dandelion Energy Ramps Up Home Geothermal Installations
The company, which emerged from the X “Moonshot Factory” in 2017, has grown to around 100 employees and installed hundreds of sites in New York state. It continues to refine its drilling technology to make residential drilling and heat pump installation easier and more competitive with incumbent fossil fuels. Last month, it pulled in another $12 million, bringing total investment to $35 million, and hired a new CEO to handle the growth stage while co-founder Kathy Hannun takes the president role to focus on technology development.
Installations grew nearly fivefold year-over-year in 2019, Hannun said in a recent interview, as the company dialed in on its core markets of Albany, the Hudson Valley and Westchester. Previous investors Comcast Ventures, GV, NEA and Lennar saw that progress and wanted to expand on last year’s Series A. (gtm)

Geothermal-powered education center anchors Louisville’s new Waterfront Botanical Gardens
A notorious old landfill in Louisville, Kentucky is being transformed into the new Waterfront Botanical Gardens, a verdant 23.5-acre site designed by architecture firm Perkins + Will. At the heart of the newly opened gardens is the 6,000-square-foot Graeser Family Education Center — also designed by Perkins + Will — that features an organic, sinuous form evocative of the nearby Ohio River. Engineered for a small environmental footprint, the energy-efficient building is powered with geothermal energy. (inhabitat)

Global stuff

Panasonic Ends Solar Partnership with Tesla, Readies Exit From Buffalo Gigafactory
Panasonic confirmed Wednesday it will exit Tesla’s Gigafactory in Buffalo, New York, where it worked with the automaker to produce solar cells and modules.
Panaosonic will cease its operations in New York and completely leave the facility by September, as part of a “broader streamlining of its global solar operations,” the Japanese electronics giant said in a statement. Aside from its manufacturing in the U.S., Panasonic maintains cell production in Japan. The company said it will continue to sell its panels into the U.S. market.
The latest shakeup comes soon after Tesla introduced its third version of the solar roof, a product that has yet to reach significant manufacturing volume or widescale deployment.
The two companies will continue working together at the Gigafactory in Nevada where they produce batteries and Tesla energy storage products. Though tensions between Tesla and Panasonic have been well-documented, Panasonic said the solar decision has no bearing on that “strong partnership in Nevada.” (gtm)

USA Braces For Tsunami Of Microgrids As Defense Dept. Wades In
The US Department of Defense has been exploring new microgrid technology for at least the past 10 years or so, and the massive agency is finally tired of pussyfooting around. Last week it decided on a step that could bring microgrids to scores of DoD facilities around the country. The ripple effect could also ripple out and tap any number of civilian communities for microgrids as well.
Resiliency is especially important to DoD, and with that in mind, last week the agency tapped the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association for a $1.9 million grant to apply a standardized, scalable microgrid planning tool to its facilities.
Does that sound like a big deal? It is! Rural electric coops cover 60% of the US land mass, control 42% of distribution lines, and serve about 42 million customers. They do what other utilities do, but they are tax exempt, consumer-owned organizations set up by an Act of Congress in 1936.
The nation’s electric cooperatives lit up rural areas that for-profit utilities wouldn’t touch in the years of the Great Depression, and they have been going strong ever since. (cleantechnica)

Techie corner

Autonomous Draper Drone to detect microplastics in the water
Microplastic pollution is everywhere, but its size — less than five millimeters in length — makes the threat almost invisible to the naked eye. That’s why Cambridge-based research and development lab Draper has teamed up with the Environmental Protection Agency and design firm Sprout Studios to create the Draper Drone, a concept for an autonomous underwater vehicle that implements Draper’s portable microplastics sensor. Engineered to rapidly count, measure the size of and determine the material makeup of microplastics in real-time, the Draper Drone could help create a global microplastics database for analyzing pollution trends, identifying sources and informing possible solutions to the problem. (inhabitat)