When is a new injection of cash not a new injection of cash? When the Government announces a new initiative which in fact has already been announced a year or so ago. This Government is good at that game and was playing it once more with this week’s Industrial Decarbonisation Plan.

Company news

Nest to invest millions in green energy with Octopus Renewables
Nest, the automatic enrolment scheme managing the pensions of nearly a third of the UK workforce, has appointed Octopus Renewables, part of Octopus Group, to boost its investment in clean energy infrastructure.
Octopus Renewables is the “largest investor” of utility scale solar power in Europe, as well as a leading UK investor in onshore wind and biomass, managing a global portfolio valued at more than £3 billion.
Research shows that the majority of people want their pension to be invested in a way that tackles climate change.
As part of the deal, Octopus Renewables will arrange investment deals directly with the owners of renewable infrastructure projects.
The mandate will target deployment into renewable energy projects and associated infrastructure, predominantly in the UK and Europe to support the transition to a net zero economy. (energyvoice)

photo: Octopus

National Grid swoops for Western Power Distribution in £7.8bn deal
National Grid has moved to snap up local power networks company Western Power Distribution (WPD) in a £7.8bn deal, as it announced a wider “strategic pivot towards electricity” that includes plans to sell off shares in its gas transmission business and step up work to explore the wider use of hydrogen in the energy system.
The proposed acquisition of WPD Group – the holding company of the UK’s largest electricity distribution business – from US power company PLL Corporation comes at the same time as National Grid said it has also agreed to sell its Narragansett Electric Company (NECO) to PLL for £2.7bn.
In addition, National Grid said it would commence a process later this year to sell a majority stake in National Grid Gas (NGG) plc, the owner of the national gas transmission system, as part of a “strategic portfolio repositioning” that will increase its share of assets in electricity from around 60 per cent to around 70 per cent. (businessgreen)

UK news

Energy efficiency upgrades to Manchester’s public buildings
Greater Manchester has been awarded over £78m in Government funding to support energy efficiency upgrades to more than 150 public buildings across the city-region, helping to cut emissions and create or safeguard 2000 jobs.
The award was the result of a successful bid from Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and 14 other partners to the Government’s Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme.
The measures will include the installation of air source heat pumps for heating, solar panels to generate and create electricity, insulation and LED lighting to improve energy efficiency, and energy monitoring and control systems to ensure these public facilities can accurately measure their energy usage. (theenergyst)

Government cuts plug-in car grants from £3,000 to £2,500
The government has today announced it is to cut payments through the Plug-in Car Grant scheme from £3,000 to £2,500, arguing the move will allow the popular scheme to support more motorists in making the switch to electric vehicles (EVs).
The cuts will be accompanied by new rules that ensure the scheme is focused on the most affordable EV models. From today, the government will provide grants of up to £2,500 for electric cars priced under £35,000, meaning the more expensive models on the market are no longer eligible for government support.
The government stressed that it has provided close to £1.3bn in plug-in vehicle grant funding to bring ultra-low emission vehicles onto UK roads, supporting the purchase of more than 285,000 vehicles. It also highlighted that it has previously said it would reduce grants through the scheme over time, as the price of EVs fall and the technology enters the mainstream.
And it reiterated that generous tax incentives, including favourable company car tax rates for EVs, would remain in place which can save drivers over £2,000 a year. (businessgreen)

bp unveils plans for ‘UK’s largest’ blue hydrogen production facility
bp has unveiled plans to build what is claimed to be the UK’s largest blue hydrogen production facility.
Located in Teesside, the large-scale project, which could begin operations in 2027 or earlier, is predicted to have a 1GW production capacity by 2030, around 20% of the UK’s hydrogen target.
bp estimates the ‘H2Teesside’ plant would capture and store up to two million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. (energylivenews)

photo: BP

Fashion brands set to cover recycling costs under new Government plans
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) opened consultations on the measures, which will form part of a broader Waste Prevention Programme, today. The Programme will form part of the Resources and Waste Strategy, which was first published in 2018. Several key strategy consultations had originally been diarised for 2020 but were pushed back due to Covid-19.
Topics covered by the consultation will include eco-design standards for sectors identified to have a high environmental impact, such as construction and furniture; minimum requirements on recycled content; changes to labelling requirements and reforms to Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) requirements in sectors that produce hard-to-recycle products.
Defra is anticipating that consultations on new EPR requirements for sectors like textiles will be completed by the end of 2022. Textiles is a particular focus area, given that global production is now fast outpacing the development of repair and recycling systems and infrastructure. (edie)

Ministers watering down green pledges post-Brexit, study finds
Ministers are weakening the UK’s environmental protections in the aftermath of leaving the EU, an assessment of the government’s performance has found, despite promises of a green Brexit.
Legally binding commitments on key areas of pollution, nature restoration, waste and resource use have been put off to 2037, and the proposed new environmental watchdog will lack teeth, according to a report by Greener UK, a coalition of 12 campaigning groups.
Newly published environmental principles, which are supposed to prevent branches of government acting in ways that could harm the environment, will not apply to key departments such as defence and the Treasury. New regulations on chemicals are likely to be both costly and ineffective, while ministers have repeatedly refused to enshrine in law a commitment that future rules will be no weaker than those which applied when the UK was an EU member state. (guardian)

EV of the week

BYD are coming to Europe with their Blade Battery
Titbits has been signalling that the transition to electric motoring carries more threats to the incumbent European and American car makers than just the upstart Tesla. Warren Buffet spotted the threat from China in 2008 when he bought 25% of the then unknown Chinese carmaker BYD.
13 years on and BYD probably make more electric vehicles than any other carmaker, if you include busses, lorries etc. Their EV cars have only made fleeting appearances in Europe so far, but last summer they announced a bespoke new battery technology called Blade, a lithium-iron-phosphate chemistry packaged in a cell-to-pack system which makes it match the performance of existing lithium batteries in a smaller, lighter, cheaper and safer configuration.
Now the first Blade powered car will come to Europe. The Tang is a 7 seat SUV that will launch in Norway in Q2. It is very well specified, will have a range of 314 miles and will cost €58,000. As the Titbit below points out, this is not a time for the European makers to be “asleep at the wheel”

photo: BYD


‘Asleep at the wheel’: European carmakers risking fines over vehicle emissions
The NGO ShareAction has warned investors that the five largest European automakers – Volkswagen, Renault, BMW, Daimler and Groupe PSA (which includes the Peugeot and Opel brands) – are not in alignment with policy aiming to phase out internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.
Analysis from the group finds that Renault is the best-prepared company for the ongoing low-carbon mobility transition, as it is the only company to have set a phase-out date for 2035 and has aligned emissions targets with European standards and goals.
Least prepared were Daimler, BMW and Groupe PSA, who ShareAction said “severely lag behind their rivals and appear to be asleep at the wheel on climate change”. Daimler, for example, has set a net-zero target for 2039, but ShareAction claims it has no short-term emissions reduction targets or an ICE phase-out commitment.
The group notes that Volkswagen, fresh off aiming to double its sale of electric vehicles (EVs) by 2021, is facing a fine of around €240m for failing to meet the European Union’s (EU) CO2 targets for last year. (edie)

Focus on: Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy

UK government lays out blueprint for industrial decarbonisation
The Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy sets out the government’s plan for decarbonising the public sector and UK industry using £1bn funding announced last year, while attempting to stimulate high-skilled job creation through the Covid-19 recovery.
The blueprint expands on the ’10-point plan for a Green Industrial Revolution’, which the government published last year as its first step towards meeting its legal obligation to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
£171m in funding has been allocated to nine green engineering projects: in Merseyside the HyNet North West project will be supported in turning the region into a low-carbon industrial cluster through hydrogen and carbon capture; in Aberdeenshire, funding will go towards offshore and onshore engineering studies connecting industrial sites with carbon sequestration sites below the North Sea; in Teesside, funding will go towards a project to create a flexible gas power plant which uses carbon capture and an offshore carbon transport and storage system; in Humber, a project aiming to turn the industry-heavy region into a net-zero cluster by 2040 through the delivery of one of the first low-carbon hydrogen production plants; and in South Wales, the government will back a project to create a net-zero industrial zone stretching from Pembrokeshire to the Welsh border with a focus on carbon capture and hydrogen.
A further £932m has been allocated to 429 projects in England for reduction of carbon emissions from public buildings, including hospitals, schools, and council buildings through the installation of low-carbon heating systems such as heat pumps and LED lighting.
The government will also introduce new rules for measuring the performance of the UK’s largest commercial and industrial buildings, such as office blocks and factories, according to energy efficiency and carbon emission metrics. The government hopes that this could provide energy savings to businesses of around £2bn per year in 2030. (e&t)

Eco: LA beach workplace

LEED Gold-certified WE3 shows off its skin at Silicon Beach
In the rapidly developing area of West Los Angeles known as “Silicon Beach,” local architecture firm SPF:architects has recently completed WE3 at Water’s Edge, a 160,000-square-foot creative workspace with a striking, perforated facade that takes inspiration from the play of light on water. This unique design protects the interior from unwanted solar gain. Certified LEED Gold, the six-story structure is optimized for energy savings and low-resource consumption, from the integration of operable, insulated windows and sunshades on every floor to the use of locally sourced and recycled construction materials. The newly completed workspace is the third and final building in a pre-existing, 6.5-acre commercial campus in the Playa Vista Specific Plan. (inhabitat)

photo: SPF Architects

Global stuff

US solar capacity soared by 43% in 2020 
The US solar industry grew 43% and installed a record 19.2GW of capacity in 2020.
A new report by the Solar Energy Industries Association and Wood Mackenzie suggests new solar capacity additions last year broke the market’s previous record of 15.1GW of new capacity in 2016.
The data also shows the fourth quarter of 2020 became the largest quarter for new installations in US solar history, recording a total of 8GW of new solar.
The analysis suggests the total operating solar fleet in the US is on track to quadruple by 2030.
According to the report, California, Texas and Florida installed the most annual solar capacity last year. (energylivenews)

Agrisolar: Solar industry hopes farmers will help solve grid access problems
The Clean Energy Council says working with Australian farmers could help solve the growing problem of grid access for new large-scale solar farms, in a new paper promoting “agrisolar”.
If done right, the paper argues solar farms can improve both grazing and crop land, while allowing solar farms to be built in areas where the electricity network is strong, providing a win-win for both solar developers and farmers.
While Australia has plentiful unused space with access to sunlight, sites with close proximity to transmission networks are often taken up by agriculture, the paper says.
Over the next 20 years the Australian Energy Market Operator estimates between 26 and 50 gigawatts of new solar and wind capacity will need to be added to the National Energy Market to replace retiring coal-fired power plants. Just under half of that would be solar.
Given network constraints are already causing problems, and “land use” is becoming an increasing issue in solar farm application fights, the benefits of getting more farmers to open up their land to solar projects are clear. (reneweconomy)

REE unveils new REEcorners, EV platforms for all sorts of vehicles
Israel based innovator in e-mobility REE Automotive has revealed five new and improved REEcorner architecture designs and the technology behind its EV platforms designed to support the broadest range of commercial electric vehicles.
REE’s proprietary, award-winning REEcorner technology packs critical vehicle components into a single compact module positioned between the chassis and the wheel – including steering, braking, suspension, powertrain, and control – resulting in a fully flat EV platform. Unlike diesel/fuel vehicles or conventional EVs, REE’s fully flat EV platforms are designed with a lower centre of gravity than vehicles with the motor located in between the wheels, and are intended to carry more passengers, cargo and batteries. REE’s smaller footprint and lower center of gravity will also allow for taller cabin designs and lower step-in height, yielding more volumetric efficiency.(renewableenergymagazine)

photo: Ree Automotive

Techie corner

New perovskite fabrication for solar cells paves way to large-scale production
A new, simpler solution process for fabricating stable perovskite solar cells overcomes the key bottleneck to large-scale production and commercialization of this promising renewable-energy technology, which has remained tantalizingly out of reach for more than a decade.
The team invented a one-step spin coating method using sulfolane, a liquid solvent. The new process allowed the team, a collaboration the Center of Integrated Nanotechnologies at Los Alamos National Laboratory and researchers from National Taiwan University (NTU), to produce high-yield, large-area photovoltaic devices that are highly efficient in creating power from sunlight. These perovskite solar cells also have a long operational lifetime. (sciencedaily)