Solar shines in global shift to renewables. #StopAdani #auspol #Qldpol

Solar shines in global shift to renewables

By Tim Buckley on 22 May 2018

A 70 MW floating PV plant in construction in Anhui province, China

Solar energy is taking an increasingly prominent role in driving the ongoing transformation of global electricity generation markets alongside gains in storage, wind, hydroelectricity and energy efficiency.

IEEFA has today released a new report examining the global solar market and the ever-increasing scale of investment, the speed of implementation and the rapidly broadening range of applications that are becoming commercially viable e.g. concentrated solar power, floating solar, solar fish farms, commercial behind the meter applications, hybrid wind-solar-battery projects and in India, even solar-coal hybrid structures.

As readers of Renew Economy hear repeatedly, corporates, policy makers and regulators are all finding the speed of transformation hard to grasp, particularly in the crucial China and India markets, but the results of the past year are a good indicator of the trend.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) reports that 98 gigawatts (GW) of solar was installed globally in 2017, a 31% increase from the prior year.

Meanwhile – and just as important – BNEF estimates the levelized cost of solar dropped 15% year-on-year to US$86/MWh for capacity installed in 2017.

Leading the charge, China accounted for more than half the newly installed solar capacity, or some 53 GW, a figure that as recently as 2014 would have eclipsed the global total of solar installations.

While India’s current installation numbers aren’t as dramatic as China’s, the country is clearly embarking on a massive transformation of its electricity sector as well.

The country’s National Electricity Plan, released in March 2018, affirms national intentions to increase renewable energy capacity to 275 GW by 2027, with solar representing two-thirds of this total.

As renewables rise in India, thermal power capacity is forecast to decline to just 43% of the nation’s total in 2027, down from 66% today.

Major solar energy tenders are occurring every week in India (for May 2018 so far 1,000MW,500MW,750MW,200MWand 50MW) at prices now consistently 10-20% below the cost of existing domestic thermal power generation (and 50% below new imported coal fired power).

There is a remarkable buy-in across the country from the government through to the largest corporate incumbents like NTPC, Adani and Tata, each of whom are now amongst the largest and most aggressively ambitious investors in Indian renewables.

Only last week Tata Power committed to invest US$5bn to reach 12GW of renewables by 2028, such that more than half their capacity will be zero emissions sourced (up from zero in 2014 and 30% today).

Our report tracks the largest solar projects operational in the world, and the lead keeps changing. Adani commissioned the then world’s largest solar project at 648MW in Tamil Nadu in mid-2017, but it has slipped to the sixth position in less than a year – refer table.

By 2019 Rajasthan’s 2,225MW Bhadla industrial park is due for full commissioning; three times the size.

And Gujarat is now exploring a 5GW solar park ;double again.

Fourteen of the World’s Largest Operating Solar Projects

Source: Company & Press reports, IEEFA estimates

China and India are hardly alone on this front, as scores of other countries embrace solar.

Saudi Arabia, for one, announced in March 2018 a plan to build 200 GW of solar capacity by 2030, yet another marker in the transition under way across global energy markets. The uptake of solar is gathering momentum too in Europe and the Americas.

As highlighted in The Climate Council’s new report “Renewables & Business: Cutting Prices & Pollution”, the rise of Australian commercial and industrial solar (particularly rooftop) is really starting to boom.

With record high electricity prices crippling businesses, this is expected to keep accelerating, such that even the deliberately flawed NEG is unlikely to to slow this trend.

Not-withstanding this lack of a central policy to sensibly transition our electricity system, Australia remains a world leader in the uptake of solar.

This month cumulative solar installs passed through 7GW. Every week we are reading about new solar investments each of A$100-200m or more for regional Australia, with the speed of construction and uptake clearly evident.

Last week saw the partial commissioning of Australia’s largest to-date solar plant under construction, that being Enel of Italy’s 220MW Bungala solar farm in Port Augusta.

The same week we saw Lighthouse Solar’s 100MW Clare solar farm grid connected – the biggest to date in Queensland.

But the list of projects underway is changing so fast it is impossible to keep up with the latest largest so far solar development. The Queensland government is trying, with a useful reference map.

Solar Reserve’sAurora150MW CSP with 1,100MWh storage is a leading example of Australia’s global leadership in deploying new solar technologies, with this development’s price for peaking electricity setting a new global benchmark low.

And following the brilliant success of Tesla’s South Australian lithium ion battery development, Victoria is now replicating this with two more distributed utility scale battery projects by Tesla and Fluence, one linked to a solar project.

Having shown the way in Australia, Tesla has now commissioned a 18MW Belgium storage system for grid stabilisation, with a 30-40MW virtual peaking solar power plant to come.

And having installed the U.K.’s largest to-date unsubsidised solar with storage power plant(10MW solar, 6MW of storage), Anesco is looking to install 380MW of UK solar and storage by 2020.

Floating solar – another innovation with multiple advantages – is rapidly scaling up.

While Australia is still just trialing this, having commissioned a 100kWsystem in January 2018 at Lismore’s sewage treatment plant, China commissioned a 40MW project in 2017 and has two 150MW projects nearing completion in 2018.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra has announced requests for proposals for 1,000MW of floating solar, with India’s Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) having issued an expression of interest in support of a national target of 10GWof floating solar being released back in December 2017.

Looking at the combination of our coking and thermal coal plus liquid natural gas (LNG) positions, Australia is one of the three largest exporters of fossil fuels globally.

We have major industries at clear stranded asset risk and potentially terminal decline over the very long term. Even our 64% global share of seaborne coking coal is threatened longer term by the combination of technology innovation and carbon emissions policies.

But there-in lies the need to pursue opportunities in industries of the future. Renew Economy provided a glimpse of what could be possible in terms of Australia with CWP’s $20bn 6GW of wind and 3GW of solar Pilbara mega-project for renewable energy exports at world scale.

A vision that might take a couple of decades to come to full fruition, but in doing so it could transform world energy markets entirely.

More immediately, the West Australian budget is a beneficiary of our growing position as a world leader in lithium ion processing.

Technology innovation, deflation, ever-larger scale and the constant breaking of records are the clear lessons of solar led energy transformation now underway.

Australia should be pursing the opportunities for investment, jobs and export industries of the future as a top national priority.

Authors: Tim Buckley / Kashish Shah – IEEFA

Tim Buckley is IEEFA’s director of energy finance studies, Australasia.

Press link for more: Renew Economy


Wind, solar boom beats Renewable Energy Target by a Hazelwood #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Australia is set to beat the Renewable Energy Target by the equivalent of a large coal fired power station. Picture shows a windfarm at Crookwell near Goulburn in NSW. Andrew Taylor

The boom in wind and solar energy investment has brought forward enough projects to beat the Renewable Energy Target by the capacity of the shuttered Hazelwood coal power station.

The Clean Energy Regulator said yesterday that 8000 megawatts of wind, solar and hydro power capacity has been built since January 2016, or is under construction now or underwritten by long term power purchase agreements and expected to be under construction by the end of the year.

Press link for more: AFR.COM

Wind and solar boom makes Malcolm Turnbull’s NEG a dead letter

The blistering pace of wind and solar energy investment is outflanking the Turnbull government’s target for carbon emissions cuts under its National Energy Guarantee, ramping up pressure for deeper cuts, a new report says.

Green Energy Markets says the capacity of wind and solar energy projects under construction, contracted or expected or due to be contracted under state and corporate auctions already exceeds the amount expected to be built under the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) with the government’s current emissions reduction target.

International Solar Alliance: Turning on the lights #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #India doesn’t need coal #ClimateChange

International Solar Alliance: Turning on the lights

Chris Fitch

The roof of a ‘solar kitchen’ in Auroville, India

Marco Saroldi

More than two years after first being announced, the International Solar Alliance has finally held a conference

‘The sun is the source of all energy.

The world must turn to solar, the power of our future.’

These optimistic words were spoken in 2015 by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during COP21 in Paris.

India had just signed an agreement with then-French President François Hollande for the two countries to lead a new initiative known as the ‘International Solar Alliance’ (ISA). But what became of this bold initiative?

In March this year, the alliance finally met in New Delhi for its founding conference, some 27 months after first being formed.

The heads of 23 nations and ten ministerial representatives were in attendance.

At the conference, President Macron was keen to emphasise the potential significance of bringing together so many countries in this way, pointing out that the ISA should cover 75 per cent of the global population, but also acknowledged the multiple regulatory challenges that need to be overcome in the process. ‘It is not enough to look at what governments are doing,’ he said. ‘We need a new international deal with the private sector, the international public sector and the civil society as well. It is common good, and it is for the development of all countries.’

Narendra Modi and Emmanuel Macron (Image: Frederic Legrand – COMEO)

As the hosts for the ground-breaking COP21 Paris summit, France has taken an active role in both the organising and the financing of the ISA from the very start.

Guest of honour at the inaugural conference was current French president Emmanuel Macron, who used the occasion to pledge a tripling of France’s original financial commitments with an additional €700million, bringing its total pledge to around €1billion.

Major development banks have also pledged funds, such as the Asian Development Bank’s $3billion per year by 2020, to add to the partnerships already entered into with the European Investment Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

The goal of the ISA is to boost solar energy in developing countries, particularly those ‘solar resource-rich countries lying fully or partially between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn’. As well as encouraging cooperation and sharing of best practice between these countries, the ISA’s purpose is to raise funds, specifically the astonishing $1trillion it claimed was required by 2030 in order to undertake the mass deployment of solar technology required to generate as much as 1TW (1,000GW) of electricity, thereby meeting the aspirational goals of the Paris Agreement.

In the shorter term, goals include creating investment opportunities, assisting members in drafting policies to encourage the adoption of solar energy, and striving for universal access to solar-powered lighting.

In theory, the alliance covers 121 countries whose national territories cross into the tropics. The ISA treaty became open for members to join after COP22 in Morocco in 2016, with first-day signings including India, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Dominican Republic, the Republic of Guinea, Mali, Nauru, Niger, Tanzania, Tuvalu, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Bangladesh and Madagascar.

To date, there are 61 signatories, with 33 countries having since fully ratified the agreement.

India has hopes of being a global leader in solar power, and ever since the alliance was announced, renewable capacity in the country has leapt from 39GW to 62GW. Climate Action Tracker forecasts an additional 154 to 267GW of solar and wind power to be installed in the country by 2030, which would make India compatible with the 2ºC threshold assigned by the Paris Agreement.’

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One chart shows an energy revolution is coming — #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

One simple chart shows why an energy revolution is coming —  and who is likely to come out on top

Jeremy Berke May 9, 2018, 2:18 AM

• The cost of producing solar power is rapidly declining: it now costs $US50 to produce one megawatt-hour of solar power, according to a new analysis.

Coal, on the other hand, costs $US102 per megawatt-hour to produce.

• This recent change could be a sign that the world is on the verge of an energy revolution.

The cost of solar power is decreasing so rapidly, it’s now cheaper than coal, based on a new analysis.

A recent report from Lazard shows how the costs of producing electricity from various sources are changing. Energy from utility-scale solar plants – plants that produce electricity that feeds into the grid – has seen the biggest price drop: an 86% decrease since 2009.

The cost of producing one megawatt-hour of electricity – a standard way to measure electricity production – is now around $US50 for solar power, according to Lazard’s maths. The cost of producing one megawatt-hour of electricity from coal, by comparison, is $US102 – more than double the cost of solar.

The dramatic change is clear in this chart:

Shayanne Gal/ Business Insider

Lazard’s analysis is based on a measurement known as the levelized cost of energy analysis (LCOE), which is a way of calculating the total production cost of building and operating an electricity-generating plant.

The rapidly declining cost of solar is a sign that the world may be on the verge of a dramatic change in how we power our buildings and vehicles. The price drop is likely to spur a shift toward renewable power sources like wind and solar and away from fossil fuels like oil and coal.

Changing our energy system to emphasise those clean sources is the only way to slow the process of climate change, since emissions from fossil fuels cause more heat to get trapped on the planet. But analysts have long pointed out the the transition will only realistically ramp up once renewable energy sources become cheaper than traditional fuels – which now seems to be happening.

The rise of renewables is apparent when you look at which types of new energy generation capacity are getting added around the world. In 2017, there was more new solar power capacity created than any other type of energy, according to a report from the United Nations Environment Programme.

Shayanne Gal/ Business Insider

Renewable energy, including wind, hydro, and solar, supplied a record 12% of the world’s energy needs last year. In 2017 alone, the solar sector attracted $US160.8 billion in investment, an 18% increase over 2016, according to the UNEP report.

While solar is getting much cheaper, Lazard notes that these sources of electricity are not a panacea. LCOE as a measurement does not take into account some external costs, like storing solar power for cloudy days, which is one of the lingering obstacles preventing the widespread adoption of solar. (Other sources of electricity like coal or natural gas don’t have the same problem, of course.)

That storage problem also makes it hard for developing economies to adopt energy systems that are fully renewable. Until battery and storage capabilities improve, the report says, countries will likely need to use a mix of traditional energy sources along with renewables.

In the US, solar still only provides 2% of the country’s total electricity needs, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. But California is trying to change that: The state is seeking to mandate that most new homes be outfitted with solar panels. State lawmakers are scheduled to vote on the proposal on Wednesday.

Press link for more: Business Insider

Renewables Account For Most New U.S. Power Capacity #auspol #StopAdani #ClimateChange

Renewable Sources Account For Most New U.S. Power Capacity

Robert Rapier

Electricity-generating wind turbines are seen on a wind farm in the San Gorgonio Pass area on Earth Day, April 22, 2016, near Palm Springs, California. Photo credit DAVID MCNEW/AFP/Getty Images.

The history of power production through the early part of the 21st century was very much a tale of nonrenewable energy resources. Power was produced primarily by coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy at large power plants at central locations and distributed to customers via the electrical grid.

But a revolution is underway in the world’s power markets.

The Rise of Renewables

The world’s energy mix has evolved substantially over the past 20 years. Since 1997, global cumulative installed solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind power have climbed from less than 8 GW to nearly 800 GW, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), renewables were responsible for almost 165 GW of new global power capacity in 2016—nearly two-thirds of the global total.

The U.S. has been a leader in this transition. According to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) “Energy Infrastructure Update” (EIU), renewable power sources accounted for half (49.9%) of the 24.6 gigawatts (GW) of new U.S. electrical generating capacity placed into service in 2017. Nearly all of the rest, 48.7%, was new natural gas capacity.

At the end of 2017, all renewables (including hydropower) accounted for more 20% of the nation’s installed generating capacity — up from 15.4% in 2021. Renewables accounted for 17.6% of total electrical generation in 2017, compared to 15.3% in 2016. The discrepancy between the 20% installed capacity and 17.6% of generation is attributable to the intermittency of renewable sources.

The Revolution Accelerates

But the first quarter of this year resulted in almost exclusively new renewable capacity. FERC’s most recent EIU showed that in the first three months of this year, renewables comprised nearly 95% of new power-generating capacity.

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What genuine, for real, no-bullshit ambition on climate change would look like. #auspol #StopAdani

What genuine, for real, no-bullshit ambition on climate change would look like

New scenarios show how to hit the most stringent targets, with no loopholes.

David Roberts

A new dawn of ambition, or something.


What would it take to really tackle climate change? No delays, no gimmicks, no loopholes, no shirking of responsibility — the real thing. What would it look like?

To answer that question, it helps to understand the upper threshold of climate ambition. The target agreed upon by the world’s nations in Paris in 2015 is global warming of “well below” 2 degrees Celsius, with good-faith efforts to hold temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.

Countries are not moving anywhere near fast enough to hit those targets, so we are currently on track for somewhere around 3 degrees. It is generally agreed that hitting 2 degrees would quite ambitious, while hitting 1.5 would be nothing short of miraculous.

While there is nothing like a real-world plan in place for hitting those targets yet, climate modelers have come up with many scenarios for how we might do so. However, as I wrote recently, most of those scenarios rely heavily on “negative emissions” — ways of pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. If negative emissions technologies can be scaled up later in the century, the reasoning goes, it gives us room to emit more earlier in the century.

And that’s what most current 2- or 1.5-degree scenarios show: Global carbon emissions rise in the short term, then plunge rapidly to become net negative around 2060, with gigatons of carbon subsequently captured and buried over the remainder of the century. The oil giant Shell released a scenario along those lines a few weeks ago.

Shell’s use of negative emissions, compared to other scenarios.

Glen Peters

The primary instrument of negative emissions is expected to be BECCS: bioenergy (burning plants to generate electricity) with carbon capture and sequestration. The idea is that plants absorb carbon as they grow; when we burn them, we can capture and bury that carbon. The result is electricity generated as carbon is removed from the cycle — net-negative carbon electricity.

Most current scenarios bank on a lot of BECCS later in the century to make up for the carbon sins of the near past and near future.


Sanchez 2015

One small complication in all this: There is currently no commercial BECCS industry. Neither the BE nor the CCS part has been demonstrated at any serious scale, much less at the scale necessary. (The land area needed to grow all that biomass for BECCS in these models is estimated to be around one to three times the size of India.)

Maybe we could pull off a massive BECCS industry quickly. But banking on negative emissions later in the century is, at the very least, an enormous, fateful gamble. It bets the lives and welfare of millions of future people on an industry that, for all intents and purposes, doesn’t yet exist.

Plenty of people reasonably conclude that’s a bad idea, but alternatives have been difficult to come by. There hasn’t been much scenario-building around truly ambitious goals: to zero out carbon as fast as possible, to hold temperature rise as close to 1.5 degrees as possible, and, most significantly, to do so while minimizing the need for negative emissions. That is the upper end of what’s possible.

Three recent publications help fill that gap:

• “Global Energy Transformation: A Roadmap to 2050,” by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), is a plan that targets a 66 percent chance of staying below 2 degrees, primarily through renewable energy.

• The analysts at Ecofys recently released a scenario for zeroing out global emissions by 2050, thus limiting temperature to 1.5 degrees and eliminating (most of) the need for negative emissions.

• A group of scholars led by Detlef van Vuuren of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency published a paper in Nature Climate Change investigating how to hit the 1.5 degree target while minimizing the need for negative emissions.

This graph will be very meaningful once you read the paper.

Nature Climate Change

Here’s how this post is going to go: First, we’ll have a quick look at why targeting 1.5 degrees is so urgent; second, we’ll look at a few things these scenarios have in common, the baseline for serious ambition; third, we’ll look more closely at the third paper, as it offers some interesting alternatives (like, oh, mass vegetarianism) to typical carbon thinking; and finally, I’ll conclude.

Why targeting 1.5 degrees is urgent

Americans can’t make much sense out of Celsius temperatures, and half a degree of temperature doesn’t sound like much regardless. But the difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees of global warming is a very big deal. (The IPCC is coming out with a science review on this in October.)

Another recent paper in Nature Climate Change makes the point vividly: Bumping ambition up from 2 to 1.5 degrees would prevent 150 million premature deaths through 2100, 90 million through reduced exposure to particulates, 60 million due to reduced ozone.

“More than a million premature deaths would be prevented in many metropolitan areas in Asia and Africa,” the researchers write, “and [more than] 200,000 in individual urban areas on every inhabited continent except Australia.”

That’s not nothing! And of course, the difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees could mean the difference between life and death for low-lying islands.

The Marshall Islands, for now.


There’s no time to waste. In fact, there may be, uh, negative time. Limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees is possible, even in theory, only if the “carbon budget” for that target is at the high end of current estimates.

Again: 1.5 is only possible if we get started, with boosters on, immediately, and we get lucky. Time is not running out — it’s out.

What’s required to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees

The three scenarios I mentioned are different in a number of ways. The first two project through 2050, but the Nature Climate Change paper goes out to 2100. They target different things and use different tools. But they share a few big action items — features that any ambitious climate plan will inevitably involve.

1) Radically increase energy efficiency.

Just how much energy will be needed through 2050? That depends on population and economic growth, obviously, but it also depends on the energy intensity of the world’s economies — how much primary energy they require to produce a unit of GDP.

Increasing energy efficiency (which, all else being equal, reduces emissions) is in a race with population and economic growth (which, all else being equal, increases them). To radically decarbonize with minimal negative emissions, efficiency will need to outrun growth. (Notably, Shell’s scenario shows much higher global energy demand in coming decades; growth outruns efficiency.)

IRENA’s scenario reduces global energy-related emissions 90 percent by 2050. Of that 90 percent, 40 comes from energy efficiency.

To do this, IRENA says, the energy intensity of the global economy must fall two-thirds by 2050. Improvements in energy intensity will have to accelerate from an average of 1.8 percent a year from 2010 to 2015 to an average of 2.8 percent a year through 2050.

In the Ecofys scenario, energy efficiency is so amped up that total global energy demand is lower in 2050 than today, despite a much larger population and a global economy three times larger than today’s.

The Nature Climate Change paper summarizes the necessary approach to efficiency this way: “Rapid application of the best available technologies for energy and material efficiency in all relevant sectors in all regions.”

“All relevant sectors in all regions” means electricity, transportation, buildings, and industry, all bumped up to the most efficient available materials and technologies, everywhere in the world, starting immediately. Cool, cool, cool.

2) Radically increase renewable energy.

All the scenarios envision renewables (primarily wind and solar) rapidly coming to dominate electricity. In the IRENA scenario, renewables grow sixfold faster than they are currently, supplying 85 percent of global electricity by 2050.

Ecofys has them supplying 100 percent of global electricity — with that sector completely decarbonized — by 2040, even as global demand for electricity triples.

The Nature Climate Change paper notes that the vision of rapid renewables dominance all these scenarios have in common involves “optimistic assumptions on the integration of variable renewables and on costs of transmission, distribution and storage,” which, yeah.

3) Electrify everything!

Notably, all three scenarios heavily involve electrification of sectors and applications that currently run on fossil fuels. In the IRENA case, electricity rises from 21 percent of total global energy consumption today to 40 percent by 2050.

In the Ecofys scenario, it rises to a whopping 70 percent. In the Nature Climate Change study, it rises to 46 percent (compared to 31 percent in the reference case).

I have made the case for electrification before, and it’s not complicated. We know how to radically increase the supply of zero-carbon electricity; increasing the supply of zero-carbon liquid fuels is much more difficult. So it makes sense to move as much energy use as possible over to electricity, particularly vehicles, home heating and cooling, and lower-temperature industrial applications.

The Ecofys scenario makes it particularly clear: If renewable energy and energy efficiency are to be your primary decarbonization tools (more on that in a second), full decarbonization requires going all out on electrification.

The rising yellow wedge at the bottom left — that’s electricity.


4) And still maybe do a little negative emissions.

Even though the intentions, of the Ecofys and Nature researchers particularly, was to minimize the need for negative emissions, neither was able to completely eliminate it.

“Regardless of the rapid decarbonisation” in the scenario, Ecofys researchers write, “the 1.5°C carbon budget is most likely still exceeded.” The only way to hold at 1.5 is to mop up that excess carbon with negative emissions. Ecofys thinks CCS applications will mostly be confined to industry and the rest can be taken care of by “afforestation, reforestation, and soil carbon sequestration,” i.e., non-CCS methods of negative emissions. And, it notes, this remaining excess carbon “is significantly less than most other low carbon scenarios.”

In the Nature Climate Change study, the need for BECCS can be completely eliminated only if every single one of the other strategies is maximized (see the next section).

Here’s what those researchers conclude about negative emissions:

[W]hile this study shows that alternative options can greatly reduce the volume of CDR [carbon dioxide removal] to achieve the 1.5°C goal, nearly all scenarios still rely on BECCS and/or reforestation (even the hypothetical combination of all alternative options still captured 400 GtCO2 by reforestation). Therefore, investment in the development of CDR options remains an important strategy if the international community intends to implement the Paris target.

They advise policymakers (wisely, it seems to me) to pursue negative emissions strategies but to think of alternative scenarios as insurance against the possibility that those strategies run up against unanticipated social or economic barriers.

The Kemper Project, meant to capture carbon from coal emissions, died a painful death.


Decarbonization beyond renewable electricity and efficiency

The IRENA and Ecofys scenarios, like most rapid decarbonization scenarios, rely overwhelmingly on renewable energy and energy efficiency. But as environmentalist Paul Hawken reminds us with his Drawdown Project, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in most climate policy. (For instance, we’re going to talk about fake meat here in a minute.)

Like most climate-economic modelers, the Nature Climate Change researchers use integrated assessment models (IAMs) to generate their scenarios. They tested their decarbonization strategies against the second of five shared socioeconomic pathways (SSPs), which are the modeling community’s set of different visions for the future — different mixes of population, economic growth, oil prices, technology development, etc. SSP2 contains roughly median predictions. (If you’re curious about SSPs, here’s an explainer.)

But they also challenge some of the limitations in how IAMs have typically been used:

As IAMs select technologies on the basis of relative costs, they normally concentrate on reduction measures for which reasonable estimates of future performance and costs can be made. This implies that some possible response strategies receive less attention, as their future performance is more speculative or their introduction would be based on drivers other than cost, such as lifestyle change or more rapid electrification.

The Nature Climate Change paper attempts to model some of these more ambitious, uncertain, or non-cost-driven strategies, assembling a whole suite of decarbonization scenarios in different combinations.

Several of them are familiar: There’s a “uniform carbon tax in all regions and sectors,” along with maximized energy efficiency and renewable energy. But others are more novel in these modeling contexts.

Agricultural intensification: “High agricultural yields and application of intensified animal husbandry globally.”

Low non-CO2: “Implementation of the best available technologies for reducing non-CO2 emissions and full adoption of cultured meat in 2050.” (Non-CO2 greenhouse gases include methane, nitrous oxide, black carbon, fluorocarbons, aerosols, and tropospheric ozone. Cattle are a big source of methane, thus the cultured meat.)

Lifestyle change: “Consumers change their habits towards a lifestyle that leads to lower GHG emissions. This includes a less meat-intensive diet (conforming to health recommendations), less CO2-intensive transport modes (following the current modal split in Japan), less intensive use of heating and cooling (change of 1°C in heating and cooling reference levels) and a reduction in the use of several domestic appliances.” Though they don’t call it out specifically, this would very much involve less flying, one of the most carbon-intensive habits of the affluent.

Low population: “Scenario based on SSP1, projecting low population growth.” Population growth can be curbed most effectively through access to family planning and education of girls (which, notably, have many other benefits as well).

Good climate policy.


You can decide for yourself how likely you find any of these changes. The researchers say they are modeling “ambitious, but not unrealistic implementation.”

Reducing non-CO2 GHGs and widespread lifestyle changes have the most short-term impact on emissions. However, “by 2100,” they write, “the strongest reductions are found in the renewable electrification and low population scenarios.” This echoes what the Drawdown Project found, which is that educating girls and making family planning widely available (thus reducing population growth) is the most potent long-term climate policy.

Deep thoughts

Needless to say, accomplishing any one of these goals — a global carbon tax, maximized efficiency, an explosion of renewable energy, a wholesale revolution in agriculture, rapid reduction of non-CO2 GHGs, a rapid shift in global lifestyle choices, and successful measures to curb population growth — would be an enormous achievement.

To completely avoid BECCS while still hitting the 1.5 degree target, we would have to accomplish all of them.

That is highly unlikely. Still, the important point of the Nature Climate Change research remains: “alternative pathways exist allowing for more moderate use and postponement of BECCS.” Given the substantial and uncharted difficulties facing BECCS, policymakers owe those alternative pathways a look.

Obviously these strategies face all kinds of social and economic barriers. (I’m trying to envision what it would take to rapidly shift Americans from beef to cultured meat … trying and failing.) But they also come with co-benefits. Reducing fossil fuels reduces local air pollution and its health impacts. Energy efficiency reduces energy bills. Eating less meat and driving less are healthy.

Overall, a radical energy transition would mean a net boost in global GDP (relative to the reference case) in every year through 2050.


An energy transition would also create millions of net jobs. But that doesn’t mean it will be easy.

Engineering any of these shifts, the Nature Climate Change researchers write with some understatement, “requires not only insights from IAMs, but also in-depth knowledge of social transitions.” They suggest (and I heartily endorse) that subsequent research focus on social and political barriers and strategies.

In the end, perhaps the most important conclusion in the Nature Climate Change paper is the simplest and the one that we already knew: “a rapid transformation in energy consumption and land use is needed in all scenarios.”

At this point, whether it’s possible to hit various targets is almost beside the point. All the science and modeling are saying the same thing, which is that humanity faces serious danger and needs to reduce carbon emissions to zero as quickly as possible.

The chances of us getting our collective shit together and accomplishing what these scenarios describe are … slim. There are so many vested interests and so much public aversion to rapid change, so many governments to be coordinated, so many economic and technology trends that must fall just the right way. It’s daunting.

Conversely, the chances of us overdoing it — trying too hard, spending too much money, reducing emissions too much or too fast — are effectively nil.

So the only rule of climate policy that really matters is: go as hard and fast as possible, forever and ever, amen.

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Can the world kick its fossil-fuel addiction fast enough? #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Can the world kick its fossil-fuel addiction fast enough?

Clean energy is growing quickly. But time is running out to rein in carbon emissions.


Jeff Tollefson

A worker walks through a sorting area at a coal mine in Shanxi, China. Credit: Kevin Frayer/Getty

Making sense of recent energy trends can seem like a high-stakes Rorschach test.

Some experts see the boom in renewable energy and the shift away from coal in many countries as evidence that the world is beginning to turn a corner on global warming. Others see simply a continuing reliance on low-cost fossil fuels, slow governmental action and a rising risk of planetary meltdown.

The fact is that both sides are right.

Renewable energy is indeed undergoing a revolution, as prices for things such as solar panels, wind turbines and lithium-ion batteries continue to plummet. And yet it is also true that the world remains dependent on fossil fuels — so much so that even small economic shifts can quickly overwhelm the gains made with clean energy.

So it was in 2017, when, after staying relatively flat from 2014 to 2016, carbon emissions grew by about 1.5% (see ‘A brief lull’).

All it took to create that spike was a small rise in economic growth across the developing world, according to a final estimate released in March by the Global Carbon Project, an international research consortium that monitors carbon emissions and climate trends.

Design: Jasiek Krzysztofiak/Nature; Source: Global Carbon Project

The setback is likely to loom large in December, when countries will meet in Katowice, Poland, to complete the first assessment of their progress in implementing the 2015 Paris climate agreement — an ambitious pact that aims to limit global warming to 1.5–2 °C above pre-industrial levels.

The bottom line is hardly encouraging: by and large, governments are falling well short of their commitments, both collectively and individually.

Many countries are likely to miss the emissions targets that they made in 2015, and the world is on track for more than 3 °C of warming by the end of the century (see ‘Plotting the future’).

Design: Jasiek Krzysztofiak/Nature; Source: Carbon Action Tracker

The spike in 2017 threw the situation into sharp relief.

Governments are going to have to face the fact that they need to do more if they are serious about meeting the Paris climate agreement’s goals, says Glen Peters, a climate-policy researcher at the Center for International Climate Research in Oslo and co-author of the Global Carbon Project’s March report. “A lot of hard truths will have to come out in 2018,” he says.

Here, Nature examines the forces behind the recent emissions trends and what they signal for the future.

The good news is that clean-energy technology is at last making substantial strides.

The bad news is that the pace isn’t nearly quick enough.

Big economic and political hurdles stand in the way of shutting off the fossil-fuel spigot and the cheap energy it provides.

The plateau and the spike

To determine where carbon emissions are heading, researchers must first understand why they flattened out for three years.

The most optimistic answer is that the seeds of a clean-energy revolution have been planted and are now growing like weeds.

More than a decade of government mandates and economic incentives have helped the renewable-energy industry to take root.

Thanks to a combination of technological advances and economies of scale, prices have fallen dramatically for wind and solar (see ‘Seeds of a revolution’).

Meanwhile, improvements in lithium-ion batteries have made electric vehicles the clean technology to beat in the transport sector.

Design: Jasiek Krzysztofiak/Nature; Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

All of this has created a virtuous cycle that is driving prices down and sales up, says Jules Kortenhorst, chief executive of the Rocky Mountain Institute, an environmental think tank based in Basalt, Colorado.

“President Trump can easily imagine a world where we all turned back to coal-fired electricity and horses and buggies and kerosene lamps, but the reality is that the world is shifting at an accelerating pace to a completely different reality,” Kortenhorst says.

The impact of the renewables boom can be readily seen in the United States and China, the world’s two largest greenhouse-gas emitters.

In the United States, where annual carbon emissions have decreased more than 13% since 2005, renewable sources have become an increasingly important part of the story, contributing more than half of the energy-generating capacity added in 2017 — the equivalent of about 46 average-sized coal plants.

In China, the development of renewable energy sources has helped to scale back coal consumption and rein in the country’s skyrocketing emissions.

In late 2017, Climate Action Tracker, a research consortium that monitors international climate policies, reduced its projection for China’s annual emissions in 2030 by 700 million tonnes of CO2.

That figure, which is more than twice the current annual carbon emissions from France, could double if China’s efforts to curb coal use continue apace.

Work is done on a rooftop solar panel installation in Wuhan, China.Credit: Kevin Frayer/Getty

But the 2014–16 emissions plateau was shaped by more than just a clean-energy push. One of the biggest factors in keeping levels in check was an economic slowdown in China, which lowered demand for everything from energy to concrete and steel.

In the power sector, the country’s aggressive pursuit of renewables and nuclear energy has been accompanied by efforts to boost the efficiency of modern coal plants and retire old ones.

Similarly, much of the decline in US emissions comes from a shift from coal to natural gas, which emits less carbon.

The upshot, says David Victor, a climate-policy specialist at the University of California, San Diego, is that two of the biggest factors in reducing emissions from electricity come from the fossil-fuel sector itself: increasing coal-plant efficiency in China and the expansion of shale gas in the United States.

Because so much energy comes from coal, slight fluctuations from year to year can wipe out massive gains in renewables (see ‘The scale of things’).

Design: Jasiek Krzysztofiak/Nature; Source: BP

And, to a large extent, that is precisely what happened in 2017. Solar continued to grow at a breakneck pace, but coal consumption in China also rose. A lack of rainfall in parts of China reduced hydropower output, and coal made up the difference. The government had also initiated a stimulus programme towards the end of 2016, aimed at boosting the economy ahead of the Communist party congress in October 2017. All told, China’s carbon dioxide emissions, driven by coal consumption, increased by 3.5% in the first half of 2017, according to the Global Carbon Project.

That small blip in China’s coal emissions might have been a major contributor to the spike, but developments in other countries also played a part (see ‘The big contributors’). India’s emissions rose faster than expected, owing to stronger economic growth. Thanks to changes in fossil-fuel consumption, emissions in the United States and European Union dropped more slowly in 2017 than in years past. Then there is the rest of the world, whose emissions rose by 2% in 2017, according to the Global Carbon Project’s analysis. That includes developing countries, where tapping fossil fuels remains a relatively cheap and easy way of making economic progress.

Design: Jasiek Krzysztofiak/Nature; Source: Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center/Global Carbon Project

Bending the curve

Little time remains for the world to get its emissions under control. The Paris agreement is predicated on a single global carbon budget that countries are collectively using up each year.

The longer humanity waits to reduce emissions, the more aggressive future measures will need to be to keep the total under budget.

It is difficult to say exactly how much time is left.

Estimates for the maximum amount of carbon that can be emitted if warming is to remain below 1.5 °C, for example, vary widely.

There could be 10 or even 15 years of leeway remaining.

Or, humanity might have already burned through the total allotment six years ago.

Either way, the tight margins have led many researchers to suspect that even the 2 °C Paris target could be out of reach — at least without developing technologies to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere or artificially cooling Earth by blocking incoming solar radiation.

The amount by which the world will ultimately warm hinges on a key question: how quickly will the emissions curve bend?

An optimist might point to the fact that almost all projections for clean energy have proved to be overly conservative.

In 2008, for instance, China set a goal of installing 2 gigawatts of solar photovoltaics by 2020. But it is now likely to achieve more than 200 gigawatts, says Jiang Kejun, a senior researcher at China’s Energy Research Institute in Beijing. Kejun says that the pattern is likely to be repeated in the future. “Modellers are underestimating the potential of renewable energy,” he says.

Some analysts think that solar energy, in particular, is poised to hit a tipping point that could change the face of the energy market.

Watt for watt, solar energy already costs as little as coal in some places. And intriguingly, the London-based energy consultancy Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) has calculated that solar could become so cheap that, by 2030, it would be more cost-effective in many regions to build a solar plant than to continue supplying fuel to an existing coal plant (see ‘Solar tipping point’).

Similarly, beginning in the mid-2020s, the consultancy projects that falling battery prices will make electric cars cheaper to buy and run than their conventional counterparts — without the government subsidies that have fuelled the market so far.

Design: Jasiek Krzysztofiak/Nature; Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

“These are very important tipping points, but nobody quite knows what will happen and how policymakers will respond,” says Angus McCrone, chief editor at BNEF. “Politics is a bottleneck, particularly when there’s a powerful incumbency in an industry that is going to be affected by these new technologies.”

But politics can also help to bring about rapid change.

While Trump is fighting on behalf of the fossil-fuel industry, leaders of other countries are moving in the opposite direction.

The United Kingdom and France have both announced plans to ban the sale of petrol- and diesel-powered vehicles by 2040. And more than two dozen countries have committed to phasing out coal by as early as 2030.

These types of mandate are a sign that energy politics might be shifting towards more brute-force methods, says Michael Mehling, an energy and environmental-policy researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

Economists tend to favour market-based programmes, such as the EU’s Emissions Trading System, but Mehling says there is little evidence that such arrangements will drive the kind of rapid transformational change needed to meet global climate goals. Old-school government mandates might be the last resort, Mehling says. “If the decisions are made at a sufficiently high level,” he says, “they can change the landscape pretty much overnight”.

Kejun’s calculations suggest that, driven both by policy and economics, China’s carbon emissions are still on track to peak as early as 2020, and its coal consumption could drop by as much as 40–50% by 2030. “The transition has already started,” says Kejun.

A similar movement seems to be under way in India, which is racing to provide reliable power — and cleaner air — to more than 1.3 billion people. If India can chart a path to sustainable development, it would set an example for other developing countries and avoid a repeat of China’s coal-fuelled ascension.

Today, the solar-power industry is booming in India, thanks to government incentives and falling prices, and the Indian government aims to install 100 gigawatts of solar capacity by 2022 — nearly double the current solar-generation capacity in the United States. Meeting that goal could be challenging, because solar power will increasingly need to compete with existing coal-fired power plants for limited space on the electricity grid, says Rahul Tongia, an energy researcher at the non-profit public-policy organization the Brookings Institution in New Delhi. Still, he says, the trends are impressive. “Maybe it takes a bit longer to hit the targets. Who cares?” Tongia says. “The progress is still remarkable, measurable, dramatic and meaningful.”

But can such progress realistically rein in warming?

For Peters, the boom in renewable energy is necessary and welcome, but still insufficient.

Ultimately, the only thing that matters to the climate is the quantity of greenhouse gases emitted — and so the question is when humanity will begin to close the spigot and shut down fossil-fuel infrastructure.

When that happens, he says, “you can start to feel a little bit better”.

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Big Oil knew. #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Big Oil Knew.

Australia can cut emissions & grow its economy. #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #ClimateChange

Australia can cut emissions and grow its economy

Australia can make deep cuts to its carbon emissions and move to full renewable energy for its electricity supply at a relatively low cost, an ANU report has found.

The report, written by Associate Professor Frank Jotzo and PhD scholar Luke Kemp, reviews the evidence from major studies over the past eight years.

It finds that the cost estimates for Australia reaching ambitious emissions reduction goals came down in every successive major report.

“Deep cuts to Australia’s emissions can be achieved, at a low cost,” said Associate Professor Jotzo, director of the ANU Centre for Climate Economics and Policy at the Crawford School of Public Policy.

Australia has committed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by five per cent of year 2000 levels by 2020, and is due in coming months to decide on emissions reduction targets for after 2020.

Australia is among the world’s highest producers of per-capita carbon emissions, due to a heavy reliance on coal for electricity generation.

Associate Professor Jotzo’s report, commissioned by WWF Australia (World Wildlife Fund), found the cost of moving to renewable energy was becoming cheaper, and strong climate action could be achieved while maintaining economic growth.

“At the heart of a low-carbon strategy for Australia is a carbon-free power system,” he said.

“Australia has among the best prerequisites in the world for moving to a fully renewable energy electricity supply.”

He said the costs of carbon-free technology, such as wind and solar power, have fallen faster than expected.

“For example, large-scale solar panel power stations are already only half the cost that the Treasury’s 2008 and 2011 modelling studies estimated they would be in the year 2030,” he said.

The report is available at the WWF Australia website.

World’s most powerful wind turbine. #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

World’s Most Powerful Wind Turbine: One Rotation ‘Can Power the Average UK Home for a Day’

Vattenfall deployed the first of two Vestas 8.8-megawatt wind turbines at its European testing center.

Emma Foehringer MerchantApril 10, 2018

Swedish energy giant Vattenfall announced Tuesday that it successfully installed an 8.8-megawatt capacity offshore wind turbine from Vestas at the European Offshore Wind Deployment Center (EOWDC) off the coast of Scotland.

It’s the first of 11 turbines planned for the project and the first deployment of a model of that size for commercial use. Vattenfall will also install another 8.8-megawatt model from Vestas at the site.

It’s an important milestone for a project that faced years of legal challenges from Donald Trump. Before becoming president, Trump battled the project because it conflicted with a planned golf course development in the area. At the time, his organization said it “will completely destroy the bucolic Aberdeen Bay.” The U.K.’s Supreme Court struck down Trump’s challenge in 2015.

Now, Vattenfall will use the site to test the high-capacity turbines. For the two 8.8-megawatt turbines, enhanced internal power modes bumped capacity up from 8.4 megawatts on MHI Vestas’ flagship V164 turbine platform.

Søren Lassen, a business analyst at MAKE Consulting, said the uprating trend is noteworthy, but the 0.4 megawatt increase is not revolutionary. He noted that MHI Vestas already has orders for a 9.5-megawatt version of its V164 platform turbine launched in June.

“The trend of uprating is symptomatic of the offshore wind market in Europe, as developers push to take advantage of the favorable wind resources,” said Lassen. “Turbine [manufacturers] will continue to boost the rating of their current offshore platforms into the early 2020s.”

Turbines, offshore and onshore, will just keep getting bigger. The MHI Vestas turbines have a tip height of 191 meters and 80-meter-long blades. Looking beyond 2020, MAKE projects the U.K. market will lead offshore turbine capacity growth, with the average rating nearing 12 megawatts by the end of 2024.

According to EOWDC Project Director at Vattenfall, Adam Ezzamel, “just one rotation of the blades can power the average U.K. home for a day.”

With an installed capacity of 93.2 megawatts, Vattenfall said the entire facility will produce 312 gigawatt-hours per year, enough to power nearly 80,000 homes and meet 23 percent of Aberdeen’s total electricity demand. It will displace 134,128 metric tons of carbon dioxide. Vattenfall has a goal to excise fossil fuels from its portfolio within one generation.

The European Union threw €40 million (about $49.3 million) behind the plant.

The announcement out of Scotland comes just days after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke proposed offshore wind lease sales for 390,000 acres off the coast of Massachusetts.

Those sales are part of the “America-First Offshore Energy Strategy” executive order that Trump signed last April.

“The Trump administration supports an all-of-the-above energy policy and using every tool available to achieve American energy dominance,” said Zinke when announcing the proposed wind sales.

The 2017 executive order was meant to overturn an Obama directive that closed parts of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans to oil and gas exploration. It’s now facing court challenges over whether Trump has the authority to overturn Obama’s protections.

The Europeans are taking a different approach to offshore energy development.

“The EOWDC, through its innovative approach to cost reduction and pioneering technologies, leads the industry drive toward generating clean and competitive wind energy power — one that will reinforce Scotland’s global energy status,” said Gunnar Groebler of Vattenfall’s wind unit.

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