This will be the last Titbits of the year, which is my excuse for a short wish list that might help drive the energy transition.

Here in the UK we need the new government to show proper commitment to “Getting te transition done”. Spending a few pennies supporting new, and in some cases improbable technologies won’t cut it. The requirement to subsidise wind and solar is far less, but help to maximise the potential benefits of renewables through enabling smart grids and storage are pressing issues. Both suffer from lack of a clear framework so investors lack the certainty required to finance the growth.

On a more general level three other areas that need attention: transport, heating (and cooling) both domestic and commercial and the efficiency of the circular economy.

I would re-iterate the plea in our feature today: It is now proven that the compliance carbon markets drive carbon efficiency. These need to be expanded, rolled out on a global basis and joined up.

The revolution is well underway, despite certain governments dragging their feet. One can see what needs to be done, but now comes the heavy lifting to achieve the objectives. It will be expensive short term but well worth it in the medium to longer term

Company news

Balfour Beatty wins Viking Link work
Balfour Beatty has secured a £90m contract to deliver the onshore civil works for the Viking Link interconnector project.
As part of the four-year contract Balfour Beatty will be responsible for the civil engineering and installation of 68Km of high voltage cabling across Lincolnshire, east England.
The cabling will form part of the 760Km Viking Link interconnector that will link Bicker Fen in Lincolnshire and Revsing in Denmark. (renews)

UK news

Subsidy-free bifacial solar PV-plus-storage project completed in England
Renewables developer GRIDSERVE has completed a “game changing” hybrid solar-plus-storage farm in York, UK, claiming it to be the first in the country to boast single-axis trackers and bifacial panels.
The site combined 37.4MWp of Suntech bifacial modules with 27MW of energy storage, using Nextracker single-axis trackers to shift the site’s generation portfolio into more beneficial hours.
The project is thought to be the most northerly combination of the two cutting edge technologies – bifacial panels and trackers – and the site ‘stacks’ a number of revenue streams in order to be financially feasible without subsidy support. (energy-storagenews)

UK renewables outperform gas
UK Government figures show that from July to September this year renewables generated a record quarterly amount of electricity, outperforming gas for the first quarter ever.
The latest Energy Trends report, published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) shows that in the third quarter of 2019 renewables provided a record 38.9% of the UK’s electricity requirement, just above gas at 38.8%. (renews)

SP Energy Networks turns to AI to forecast power demand
The artificial intelligence (AI) forecasting software, which uses historical network data and detailed weather data to make the predictions, will enable the network operator to maximise capacity and reliability across the electricity distribution network.
Sia’s software will go live in March 2020 and will be used in the real-time management of the network and forward planning when assessing the impact of new connections across the system. (energylivenews)

London to get UK’s first zero-emission street
A street in London will become Britain’s first zero-emission street, the City of London Corporation (CLC) said, as Barbican Estate’s Beech Street moves to ban petrol and diesel cars.
The city is working for Transport for London on plans to have no environmental disruption from vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians by spring 2020.
The measure will be achieved with an 18-month experimental traffic order, CLC said in a statement, which will allow air quality and traffic to be monitored.
Emergency vehicles, refuse collection and deliveries will be excepted from the order. (guardian)

EV of the week

And the Titbits EV of the year is…
I see this year as a transition year for electric motoring: the first affordable EV’s with decent range have started to appear, the charging infrastructure is growing and innovative solutions such as super-rapid chargers and lamppost charging are appearing. The buzz is growing.
Possibly more importantly, political heat is being applied by the EU, such that from January it will be painful for car makers NOT to sell EV’s, under the threat of heavy fines. This is inducing near panic within the auto makers, and should lead to some considerably more proactive marketing of EV’s by the big boys.
As to who wins this year: honourable mention to Croydon Council, who, I am told are forcing their contractors to install EV chargers, as per last year frustrated kudos for Huyundai/Kia for producing good EV’s, but not in quantity and respect to Jaguar, Audi, Porsche and Mercedes for producing beautiful EV’s for those that can afford them.
However the clear winner is the Tesla Model 3. It has done everything Elon promised and the sceptics doubted. It has sold in droves, it is sensibly priced, it is well made and is meant to be an absolute blast to drive. Throw in the charging network, even if you have to pay. And  there is the minimal interior that really works, plus unmatched autonomous driving features.The competition, when it arrives, is going to have to work very hard.

European News

ArcelorMittal Europe outlines plans for 30% carbon reduction by 2030
The firm’s new strategy outlines three pathways to the reduction, including using clean power steelmaking, circular carbon steelmaking and carbon capture and storage (CCS).
ArcelorMittal Europe said the strategy was made in support of the European Commission’s Green Deal for the continent which was unveiled at COP25 in Madrid last week.
It said in a statement that “supportive policy to ensure a global level playing field” was key to the success of the roadmap and “the right market mechanisms are a critical part of enabling the deployment of low-emissions steelmaking”. This includes a just transition fund for research and development into green technologies, and a carbon border adjustment to the existing EU Emissions Trading System. (edie)

Fuel-cell tram-buses now in revenue service in France
The ExquiCity 18 trams are driven by a Siemens PEM2022 / 210 kW permanent magnet drive motor; a double-motor option with two Siemens PEM2016 / 160 kW motors is an option.
Ballard initially announced a Letter of Intent in September, 2017 and shipped modules to Van Hool in 2018. These first fuel-cell-powered tram-buses were subsequently delivered to Pau in 2019 and are being operated by the SMTU-PPP (Syndicat Mixte de Transports urbains – Pau Portes des Pyrénées) and the STAP (Société de Transport de l’Agglomération Paloise).
The clean energy hybrid tram-buses use fuel cells for primary power and lithium batteries for additional power when needed. Each tram-bus is more than 18 meters (60 feet) long, has capacity for 125 passengers and can operate more than 300 kilometers (185 miles) between hydrogen refuelings.
In addition to environmental benefits, hybrid fuel cell tram-buses offer a number of important advantages, including: high level of operational flexibility and productivity; high level of passenger comfort and safety; lower cost than a traditional tram. (greencarcongress)

EU Finalizes ‘Green Deal’ for Clean Energy Investment
Monday’s deal says targets on emissions reductions by member states to reach the 2050 goal should be finalized by next summer, ahead of a planned EU-China bilateral meeting and the COP26 Summit in Glasgow, Scotland, next fall. The new deal advances the EU’s push to embed environmental goals in standards for banks, money managers, and insurers, by defining what is considered a green activity and what is not. The EU wants to regulate the market for green energy investment to direct money into the regional economy.
Pascal Canfin, a French member of the EU Parliament, in a statement said, “I am delighted that a deal was reached between the European Parliament and the Council.” Canfin chairs the European Parliament’s environment committee. “With this deal, we now have a common language and new rules for financial markets,” he said.
Canfin noted that the final version of the deal means both natural gas and nuclear power “are neither included nor excluded in principle” from parts of what’s called a taxonomy list, which in effect includes the EU’s definitions of sustainable activities for investment purposes. Canfin said nuclear power and gas can be included if they—along with other activities on the list—comply with a “do no significant harm” principle. (powermag)

Focus on: COP25 and the carbon markets

The Madrid climate conference’s real failure was not getting a broad deal on global carbon markets
Are there ways to persuade nations to increase their commitments over time? One key strategy is linking national policies, so that emitters can buy and sell carbon emissions allowances or credits across borders.
For example, California and Quebec have linked their emissions trading systems. On Jan. 1, 2020, the European Union and Switzerland will do likewise.
Expanding carbon markets in this way lowers costs, enabling countries to be more ambitious. One recent study estimates that linkage could, in theory, reduce compliance costs by 75%.
But for such systems to be meaningful, each country’s steps must be correctly counted toward its national target under the Paris Agreement. This is where Article 6 of the Paris Agreement comes in. Writing the rules for this article was the primary task for negotiators in Madrid (28 other articles were completed at the 2018 COP in Katowice, Poland).
Unfortunately, Brazil, Australia and a few other countries insisted on adopting accounting loopholes that made it impossible to reach agreement in Madrid on Article 6. Negotiators had an opportunity to define clear and consistent guidance for accounting for emissions transfers but failed to close a deal.
But if they had adopted guidance that extended much beyond basic accounting rules, as some countries wanted, the result could have been restrictive requirements that would actually impede effective linkage. This would have made it more expensive, not less, for nations to achieve their Paris targets. As Teresa Ribera, Minister for the Ecological Transition of Spain, observed at COP-25, “No deal is better than a bad deal” on carbon markets and Article 6.
The baton for completing Article 6 has been passed to COP-26 in Glasgow in November 2020. In the meantime, without agreement on an overall set of rules, countries may develop their own rules for international linkages that can foster high-integrity carbon markets, as California, Quebec, the European Union and Switzerland already have. If negotiators can keep their eyes on the prize and resist being diverted by demands from activists and interest groups, I believe real success is still possible (from an essay by Robert Stavins of Harvard published in the conversation)

Upcycled Home

Upcycled materials make up this beautiful cabin retreat in Denmark
Located an hour outside of Copenhagen, this beautiful vacation home is tucked into a lush forest mere steps away from a beach. Designed by Nordhavn-based Lendager Group, the Holiday Cabin consists of five connected structures, all of which are constructed from upcycled waste materials found from demolition sites and local factories.
According to the architects, the five connected volumes were built with circular principles in mind out of respect for the pristine nature that surrounds them. As they designed the holiday rental, the designers searched locally to find discarded building materials. They found a great source of waste wood at a local flooring company, and several demolition sites allowed them to salvage old bricks to repurpose for the retreat.
The cabin exterior, structural frame and exposed rafters are made from the waste wood. To prepare it for its new life in the cabin, the wood was treated in the Japanese traditional preservation of shou sugi ban. Not only does the 700-year-old practice add durability and resilience to the exterior, but dark cladding blends the home into the lush forest that surrounds the property. (inhabitat)

Global stuff….

Zero-carbon ships ‘on the horizon’ under fuel levy plan
Ships running on hydrogen or ammonia as fuel are thought to be technically possible, but more research and development is needed to bring forward the development of prototypes.
The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), which represents 80% of the global shipping industry, is proposing a $2 levy on every tonne of fuel consumed by ships, raising $500m a year that would be devoted to research and development of zero-carbon vessels.
Fuel costs about $400 a tonne at present, set to rise to an estimated $600 next year following the introduction of new regulations on cutting sulphur emissions from ship oil. The $2 levy is small in comparison, and Platten said it was kept low so that developing countries would see it as affordable, but it would still raise enough to fund the development of a new generation of ships in a decade or so. (edie)

The Plastics Pipeline: A Surge of New Production Is on the Way
Because the American fracking boom is unearthing, along with natural gas, large amounts of the plastic feedstock ethane, the United States is a big growth area for plastic production. With natural gas prices low, many fracking operations are losing money, so producers have been eager to find a use for the ethane they get as a byproduct of drilling.
Since 2010, companies have invested more than $200 billion in 333 plastic and other chemical projects in the U.S.
America’s petrochemical hub has historically been the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana, with a stretch along the lower Mississippi River dubbed “Cancer Alley” because of the impact of toxic emissions . Producers are expanding their footprint there with a slew of new projects, and proposals for more. They are also seeking to create a new plastics corridor in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, where fracking wells are rich in ethane.
Shell is building a $6 billion ethane cracking plant — a facility that turns ethane into ethylene, a building block for many kinds of plastic — in Monaca, Pennsylvania, 25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. It is expected to produce up 1.6 million tons of plastic annually after it opens in the early 2020s. It’s just the highest profile piece of what the industry hails as a “renaissance in U.S. plastics manufacturing,” whose output goes not only into packaging and single-use items such as cutlery, bottles, and bags, but also longer-lasting uses like construction materials and parts for cars and airplanes.
Since 2010, companies have invested more than $200 billion in 333 plastic and other chemical projects in the U.S., including expansions of existing facilities, new plants, and associated infrastructure such as pipelines, says the American Chemistry Council, an industry body. While some are already running or under construction, other projects await regulators’ approval. (yale360)

Techie corner

Biofuels – Biotech Breakthrough Turns Waste Biomass into Biofuel
A move towards a more sustainable bio-based economy has been given a boost by researchers at the University of Manchester who have been able to simplify a process to transform waste materials into biofuels and other valuable chemicals.
A collaboration between the UK and Brazil has shown that waste sugar cane and wheat straw from agricultural processes can be made directly into valuable chemicals with an increase in value of 5000-fold.
Unlike fossil fuels, biofuels are renewable. however, the economics of producing biofuels is currently very challenging compared to fossil fuels.
The new breakthrough demonstrates that biofuels and high-value chemicals, such as chemicals used by the food industry and precursors for human therapeutic drugs, can be produced directly from waste biomass in a single ‘one-pot’ process. This added value offers the potential to make the economics of biofuel production from plant-based sources more viable.
This study reports a consolidated biodegradation-biotransformation strategy for the efficient production of biofuel and high-value chemical building blocks directly from low value waste biomass, offering the potential to minimize environmental waste and add value to agro-industrial residues. (renewableenergymagazine)