This week we return to the shaky state of UK energy security, with Barclays projecting that an investment of £215bn by 2030, which presently is nowhere to be seen, will be needed to decarbonize the electricity sector while keeping the lights on.
Utility Week: UK needs to invest £215bn in energy by 2030
The UK will need to invest an “eye-watering” £215 billion in its energy system by 2030 in order to replace aging assets and decarbonise, analysis by Barclays Research has found. “With electricity security of supply already on a knife edge, the UK faces the obsolescence of approximately 40 per cent of its current combined cycle gas turbine fleet by around 2020 and approximately 70 per cent of all reliable generation capacity by 2030,” the report said.
In addition to losing 15GW of unabated coal capacity by 2025 due to pledged phase out, the report said by 2030 the UK is also expected to lose: 7.7GW of the current 8.9GW of operational nuclear capacity; 22GW of gas generation capacity, 13GW of it by 2020; and 2.3GW of biomass conversion capacity due to the ending of government subsidies in 2027. “Shoring up the UK’s current tenuous electricity security of supply in the face of this mass obsolescence of baseload generation capacity, combined with government policy to achieve a 57 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2032, will require an eye-watering level of investment over coming years,” it said. The report’s estimates are based on an average of National Grid’s four ‘Future Energy Scenarios’ published in July. This average scenario sees a 5 per cent (16TWh) increase in annual energy demand, as a 42TWh increase in demand from electric vehicles and the electrification of heating more than offsets a 25TWh reduction due to energy efficiency measures. To meet this demand, it envisions a 45GW increase in overall capacity, most of it coming from intermittent renewables. Securing sufficient investment will require “transparent, stable and supportive policies”, especially as the wholesale pricing mechanism is “effectively permanently broken as a signal to develop new generation capacity, undermined by the introduction of significant levels of subsidised low/zero dispatch cost renewables.The wholesale price and load factor uncertainty resulting from further renewables capacity growth mean the vast majority of the UK’s required new generation capacity investment will not materialise without a subsidy or other high confidence revenue stream,” the report added.
Elsewhere in this week’s Blowout: Iran / OPEC deal on the cards; China accused of nuclear espionage; UK government looks for ways to torpedo Hinkley Point; Fessenheim nuclear power plant in France to close; coking coal price on the rise; £200 million pumped storage hydro scheme on Lewis; National grid clutching at straw batteries; Telegraph living in the real world; Tesla cramming in more electrons; Human caused climate change started in 1830; Air Africa to run on Woodbines; France opts for tree wind power over nuclear power.
Iran will help other oil producers stabilize the world market so long as fellow OPEC members recognize its right to regain lost market share, the country’s oil minister said on Friday in remarks made ahead of next month’s meeting of the oil exporters group. ran, OPEC’s third-largest producer, boosted output after Western sanctions were lifted in January, and had refused to join OPEC and some non-members in an accord earlier this year to freeze production levels. “Iran will cooperate with OPEC to help the oil market recover, but expects others to respect its rights to regain its lost share of the market,” Bijan Namdar Zanganeh was quoted as saying by the oil ministry’s news agency SHANA. Tehran insists it will be ready for joint action only once it regains pre-sanctions output of 4 million barrels per day (bpd). It pumped 3.6 million bpd in July, OPEC figures show. Zanganeh said Iran had no role in instability of the oil market, as the crisis happened when Tehran’s exports were less than 1 million bpd. Members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries will meet on the sidelines of the International Energy Forum (IEF), which groups producers and consumers, in Algeria on Sept. 26-28.
While the rig count tumbles and bankruptcies mount, research from the US Energy Information Agency indicates that the industry may now have troughed and production will again start growing again. Around 2010, US shale oil and gas production was turned from a marginal outlier to a mainstream energy supplier by a combination of rising oil prices and technological improvements in hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – that saw drill costs fall between 25 and 30 per cent in the past three years alone. That success prompted a none-too-subtle response from the giant producers in the Gulf States – particularly the Saudis – to pump the nascent sector out business.The flood of oil has created a massive glut, crushing prices in both the oil and gas markets, making the economics of the higher-cost US industry marginal at best. The oil and gas rig count tumbled along with the industry’s creditworthiness with more than 80 US oilfield service suppliers being declared bankrupt since the start of 2015. Late in 2014 there were around 1,600 oil and almost 400 gas rigs plying their trade above the shale beds dotted throughout the US. By May this year the combined total was 404. Firmer prices recently have seen the rig count on the rise again with another 100 back in action, although still down around 400 from the same time last year, according to industry analysts Baker Hughes.
The federal government needs to consider greenhouse emissions and the potential contribution to climate change before allowing oil and gas development on public land, two environmental groups asserted Thursday in a lawsuit over drilling in Western states. The lawsuit filed by WildEarth Guardians and Physicians for Social Responsibility in federal court in Washington, D.C., challenges 397 oil and gas leases the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has issued since early 2015 in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado. Almost 10 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions trace back to publicly owned oil and gas reserves, an amount more than the total greenhouse emissions of Central America, the groups claim. The Interior Department in January announced a three-year moratorium on federal coal leasing in Wyoming and elsewhere to analyze whether the government is getting a fair return on those leases and the environmental effects of burning that coal to produce electricity. WildEarth Guardians asked for similar action for the federal oil and gas leasing program but hasn’t heard back from the government, the lawsuit says. “President Obama seems to get climate change, but he has an unexplainable blind spot when it comes to leasing public lands to oil and gas companies,” said Tim Ream, WildEarth Guardians climate and energy campaign director, in a release.
The federal government’s annual sale of oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico attracted hardly any interest on Wednesday, reflecting a dismal outlook for offshore drilling. Only three oil companies bid, on just 24 of the nearly 4,400 tracts offered for drilling and exploration in the Gulf of Mexico off the Texas coast. None competed against each other. Between them, BP Exploration and Production Inc., BHP Billiton Petroleum Inc., and Exxon Mobil Corp. offered a total of $18 million, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said. For perspective, that’s about 32 millionths of the combined market capital of the bidders’ parent companies, which totals more than half a trillion dollars. It represents the least revenue offered by the smallest number of companies making the fewest bids yet on leases in the central or western Gulf of Mexico, said Michael Celata, the agency’s regional director. Last year, five companies made 33 bids, totaling $22.7 million. That’s a far cry from November 2012, when oil was selling at $91.20 and 13 companies offered $133.8 million in high bids on 116 tracts in the same area.
The two trading partners are focusing on different areas for GHG reductions and are using different policy tools because of their unique resource endowments, geography, climate, history and politics, according to the study by IHS Energy, led by Kevin Birn. In the U.S., the front line is power generation from coal, because that is its largest source of emissions. In Canada, the bull’s eye is on oil and gas, and particularly the oilsands. The upshot is that the policies go easy on and even benefit the U.S. oilpatch because of the key role played by shale gas, and come down hard on the Canadian oilpatch, heavily concentrated in a single province, Alberta. “This is a concern for Canada’s large oil and gas sector, which competes globally for investment and export markets,” says the newly released report. “Unilateral climate policy adds cost that could move investment, activity, and associated emissions from Canada to regions with less-stringent policies, with little or no net reduction in global emissions.” The exodus of capital is already well under way. The Alberta government’s fiscal update this week said energy investment is forecast to be about half 2014 levels, and non-energy investment is also in decline as the oilpatch recession that started with the drop in oil prices spread to housing, retail activity, labour markets and manufacturing.
Gazprom’s partners in the Nord Stream-2 pipeline project have given up the merger plan that would have seen Gazprom, Shell, OMV, French Engie, and German Uniper and Wintershall combine into a consortium to build a gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea. The change of plans was prompted by opposition from the Polish anti-monopoly regulator, which said earlier this year that such a consortium would unduly increase Gazprom’s already substantial influence over the Central European energy market and create an environment that could stimulate unfair competition. According to some Russian media, Gazprom’s partners pulled out of the consortium due to worries about their business in Poland. It was precisely this existing business that necessitated the approval of UOKiK, the Polish regulator: Gazprom, Shell, Wintershall, and Uniper have a significant presence on that market. The partners said in a statement they still consider Nord Stream-2 an important one for the European energy system and each of them will individually seek other ways to take part in it. Nord Stream-2 consists of twin pipelines running from Russia’s Baltic coast to Germany, bypassing Ukraine, which is currently the umbilical cord between Russian gas fields and European markets.
South China Morning Post: US accuses China General Nuclear Power Corp of pushing American experts for nuclear secrets
A state-owned Chinese power company under indictment in the US pressed American nuclear consultants for years to hand over secret technologies and documents they weren’t supposed to disclose — and in some cases it got them, several of the consultants have told the FBI. Summaries of the consultants’ interviews with agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation were filed this month in a federal court where the company, China General Nuclear Power Corp. (CGN), has been charged with conspiring to steal nuclear technology. One of the consultants said CGN employees asked for off-limits operational manuals to nuclear equipment and software, according to the interview summaries. Another said he was asked to provide proprietary temperature settings for material used to contain nuclear fuel. After he refused, he wasn’t offered more consulting jobs, he told the FBI. Employees of CGN “frequently asked for documents which were proprietary or limited to restricted access,” according to a summary of one interview. In several instances, the company got what it wanted, according to the FBI documents. In a statement, CGN said it “attaches high importance” to the US case. “The company always sticks to the principle of following laws and regulations,” it said in the Chinese-language statement translated by Bloomberg. “The company will continue to stick to such a principle moving forward.” While the US court case doesn’t address the UK plant, the FBI interviews could add to concerns expressed by British officials like Nick Timothy, a close adviser to the new prime minister, Theresa May. Timothy warned last year that China’s involvement in nuclear projects there might allow it to “shut down Britain’s energy production at will.”
Westminster sources told The Independent civil servants are looking to see if there is any loophole, clause or issue in contracts yet to be signed that allow the Government to pull back without huge loss and while also saving face. Ministers are acutely aware of the potential damage a withdrawal could do to relations with China, which is committed to pouring billions of pounds into the controversial project. A Whitehall source said: “There is a working assumption of people in government that the civil service is looking for a way out, a legal loophole, a clause. “They are looking for anything that will allow the Government to withdraw and also allow the Chinese to withdraw while also saving face.” It was expected last month when the board of French energy company EDF voted to go ahead with Hinkley C power station that the British Government would give its approval. Instead new Business Secretary Greg Clark announced he needed more time to make a decision. It followed claims that the price promised for Hinkley’s electricity at £92.50 per MWh, more than double the wholesale price, was too expensive. The two new reactors that would be built at Hinkley are also of unproven design, with the two being constructing elsewhere beset by budget overruns and delays. There have also been concerns over whether China’s involvement is a security risk.
While it’s been touted by some energy experts as a so-called “bridge” to help slash carbon emissions, a new study suggests that a commitment to nuclear power may in fact be a path towards climate failure. For their study, researchers at the University of Sussex and the Vienna School of International Studies grouped European countries by levels of nuclear energy usage and plans, and compared their progress with part of the European Union’s 2020 Strategy. The researchers found that “progress in both carbon emissions reduction and in adoption of renewables appears to be inversely related to the strength of continuing nuclear commitments.” For the study, the authors looked at three groupings. First is those with no nuclear energy. Group 1 includes Denmark, Ireland and Portugal. Group 2, which counts Germany and Sweden among its members, includes those with some continuing nuclear commitments, but also with plans to decommission existing nuclear plants. The third group, meanwhile, includes countries like Hungary and the UK which have plans to maintain current nuclear units or even expand nuclear capacity. For non-nuclear Group 1 countries, the average percentage of reduced emissions was 6 percent and they had an average of a 26 percent increase in renewable energy consumption. Group 2 had the highest average percentage of reduced emissions at 11 percent and they also boosted renewable energy to 19 percent. Pro-nuclear Group 3, meanwhile, had their emissions on average go up 3 percent and they had the smallest increase in renewable shares—16 percent.
Nuclear Street: French Government, EDF, Strike Deal To Close Fessenheim
The French Ministry of Energy announced Wednesday that the government had agreed to compensate state-owned utility Electricite de France (EDF) for the closure of the Fessenheim nuclear power plant, which is the country’s oldest and has been under political and pressure aimed at shutting the plant down. Construction of the two pressurized water reactors at Fessenheim was begun in 1970 with the plant commissioned seven years later, in 1977. But there have been recent calls for operators to re-evaluate and upgrade the plant based on higher seismic standards, which were raised by a local Oversight Commission in the wake of the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear generating station in Japan. It was originally built to withstand seismic activity at magnitude of 6.7. New standards call for the plant to withstand a 7.2 magnitude seismic disturbance. In addition, the Fessenheim plant is situated in northeastern France, less than a mile from the border with Germany and about 25 miles from the Swiss border. Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is running for a return to office, has said he would not seek to close the Fessenheim plant, but current President Francois Holland, in office since 2012, has taken the opposite position. In the post-Fukushima Daiichi era, France has re-evaluated its stance on nuclear power and is aiming to reduce its share of the country’s energy generation mix from the current level of 70 percent to 50 percent.
Oil Price: Brexit Gives A Lifeline To British Coal
Britain’s recent decision to leave the European Union may hinder its 15-year plan to shut down coal-fired power stations and decommission all but one of its ageing nuclear plants. The nation, which would lose 23 gigawatts (GW) of power-generating capacity with such measures, would then have to rely more than ever on imports of natural gas and electricity… or not. According to Alex Harrison, counsel at Hogan Lovells in London, who specializes in electricity markets and utilities, coal-fired generation may remain a key part of Britain’s energy supply for longer than planned. Speaking to Bloomberg, Harrison said Britain’s planned exit from the EU will make access to cleaner sources of fuel challenging, which in turn may mean the country will have to keep coal-fired generation past its self-imposed 2025 deadline. With this, the nation would also fail to meet its obligation under the 2008 Climate Change Act to reduce greenhouse gases to 80 percent below their 1990 level by 2050. Former Energy Secretary Amber Rudd had said that if coal power plants were able to install carbon capture and storage (CCS) before 2025, they would not have to close. That approach has led to a boom of investments in heavily subsidized low carbon technologies in recent months, but as Jonathan Ford wrote for Financial Times (subs. required), “it has not added a single megawatt to Britain’s overall capacity.” On the contrary, it has actually been shrinking. The UK’s main transmission company, National Grid, has just warned that the nation’s margin of supply might shrink to 0.1 percent this winter — down from 17 percent five years ago.
If you live in Oregon and rely on certain fancy, high tech features of the industrial revolution such as having lights in your home and refrigerated food, you might want to start stocking up on candles and non-perishable goods. The green energy warriors have pretty much taken over the state legislature in the Beaver State for more than the past decade and they’ve managed to pass all sorts of interesting laws. One of them was a rule which says that all coal fired power will be eliminated by 2020… a deadline which is pretty much right around the corner. The Boardman Coal Plant is scheduled to shut down completely in the next few years and at that point there will be little besides wind turbines in terms of in-state power generation. What could possibly go wrong? The first thing the residents can prepare to do is tighten their purse strings. Energy generation remains in the realm of the free market and in order to comply with these state mandates, energy is going to cost more. The utility companies don’t simply suck up those increased costs, so they get passed on to the consumer. But what will be more interesting to observe is not the bottom line people are paying, but if the lights will stay on at all. Coal currently provides more than a third of Oregon’s energy needs. The total energy provided by wind turbines accounts for… eight percent. And it’s a highly unreliable eight percent because that production drops to nearly zero every time the wind stops blowing. There are nowhere near the number of new wind turbine projects under construction right now to make up that gap even if you could ensure steady breezes blowing all year long.
Business Insider: Coking coal prices are going bonkers
Coking coal prices are going absolutely bonkers right now, surging higher yet again after climbing by the most in five years last week. According to the Commonwealth Bank, spot premium coking coal rose 3.7% to $US127 a tonne (FOB, Australia) on Thursday, extending the rally seen in August to 24%. From the multi-year lows struck in February, prices have now surged by a staggering 73%. Vivek Dhar, a mining and energy commodities analyst at the Commonwealth Bank, says prices are being driven by supply shortages in China. “A coking coal shortage in China has emerged as highways in the coal-producing province of Shanxi were closed for repairs following heavy rainfall last month,” he wrote in a research note released on Friday. “While transport conditions are reportedly improving, steel mills are still anxious to secure coking coal.” Despite the breakneck rally, Dhar believes that prices are likely to remain well supported in the short-term. “Coking coal prices could continue to increase in the short term so long as Chinese steel mill margins remain positive,” he says. Given strength in coal and iron ore prices recently, it goes a long way to explaining recent strength in the Australian dollar.
South China Morning Post: China and US to ratify landmark Paris climate deal ahead of G20 summit
China and the United States are set to jointly announce their ratification of a landmark climate change pact before the G20 summit early next month, the South China Morning Post has learned. Senior climate officials from both countries worked late into the night in Beijing on Tuesday to finalise details, and a bilateral announcement is likely to be made on September 2, according to sources familiar with the issue. President Xi Jinping will meet his US counterpart Barack Obama for the G20 summit in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, two days later on September 4. “There are still some uncertainties from the US side due to the complicated US system in ratifying such a treaty, but the announcement is still quite likely to be ready by Sept 2,” said a source, who declined to be named. If both sides announce the ratification on the day, it would be the last major joint statement between the two leaders before Obama leaves office. China and the US account for about 38 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the World Resources Institute. By ratifying the Paris Agreement on climate change, Beijing and Washington could generate momentum for the accord to come into effect as a binding international treaty.
Sola Power Portal: European energy M&A market likely to be hit by Brexit impact
The European investment market for power generation assets is likely to be severely hit by the continuing impacts of the UK’s Brexit vote, ‘Big Four’ consultancy EY has warned. However clean energy assets backed by long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs) will remain of particular interest due to their ability to provide stable, long-term returns. The sentiments were raised in EY’s latest power transactions and trends report, updated for Q2 2016.Within it, the consultancy has warned that until the UK’s energy policy and position in the EU energy market becomes clearer, investors could be put off acquiring utility-scale energy generation assets, particularly those in the UK. Since the British public voted to leave the European Union on 23 June there has been substantial uncertainty over how the country will engage with continental Europe and the wider European energy market. Various reports published prior to the vote discussed the possibility of tariffs being added to any imported energy, a practice which economics consultancy Oxera warned would add £140 million to household bills. EY also warned of the “mixed” regulatory support renewables had been afforded across Europe. While France and Italy have backed solar and other clean generators with fresh targets and support frameworks, Germany and the UK in particular had withdrawn support. The UK has tumbled down EY’s Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index (RECAI) in successive quarters and at the last update occupied 11th position.
Financial Times: Offshore UK wind farms hit by subsidy deal delay
An auction for billions of pounds worth of offshore wind farm subsidy contracts has been delayed until next year. The previous energy secretary, Amber Rudd, had said she intended to hold the auction before the end of 2016 but this will not happen now until early 2017, people close to the process have told the Financial Times. The delay follows the decision by Theresa May to abolish the energy department and fold it into a new Business Energy and Industrial Strategy department after she became prime minister following the Brexit vote. This bureaucratic reshuffling, combined with the August summer holiday break, was causing the delay, said one person with knowledge of the auction timetable, rather than any change of renewable energy policy under the new government. The move comes just weeks after the energy industry was jolted by the government’s unexpected decision to review the £18bn Hinkley Point nuclear power plant hours after EDF, the project’s French developer, gave it the go-ahead. Gordon Edge, for economics and regulation policy director at the wind industry trade body, RenewableUK, said news of the delay in the auction for subsidy contracts was not a concern at present. “Nobody is panicking,” he said. “We feel pretty confident about government support. A bit of a delay is not terrible but obviously we don’t want it to drag on.”
The £200m PSH electricity storage facility on the Isle of Lewis will significantly increase (from 40% to 80%) the use of the Western Isles cable being installed by the National Grid to export and import electricity generated from renewable energy sources on the islands. Generating enough electricity to power more than 200,000 homes, the innovative Eishken Limited-operated scheme will utilise the sea as the lower reservoir from which water will be pumped uphill to a second reservoir at a higher reservoir. Eishken expects that this method will create a much lower environmental impact than would be caused by creating a second reservoir. The company’s owner Nick Oppenheim said: “There are very few PSH schemes throughout the UK and what we are proposing is particularly innovative given the use of the sea as the lower reservoir. “This scheme will not only materially enhance the benefits to be derived from the Western Isles link but will make a material difference in the supply of energy to the mainland. It will also be a key element in the Scotland’s renewable energy armoury.”
Grid-scale electricity storage will move closer to commercial reality on Friday when the U.K.’s grid operator offers contracts to companies to help balance the network, a key measure needed to help balance increasing supply from renewables. National Grid Plc will announce the winners of a bidding round for as much as 200 megawatts of storage capacity, which is about the size of a small power plant. It’s likely to be the storage industry’s biggest award this year in global market expected to install $5.1 billion of equipment in 2020, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Storage plays a key role in the greening of utilities’ networks by allowing grid managers to handle higher volumes of intermittent power from the wind and sun. Any winning bidder of National Grid’s tender must be able to supply power within 1 second and deliver 100 percent of the capacity it offered for at least 15 minutes. Even though the tender is relatively small, and is essentially a pilot, it could pave the way for future rounds and greater investment. For the moment, the vessel of choice for investors and National Grid is a battery. Most of those units are based on lithium — a bigger version of the power packs found in the back of mobile phones and electric cars.
Common Space Scotland: Scottish parties call for a “national plan” for renewable energy storage
Callum McCaig, SNP MP and spokesperson for energy and climate at Westminster, said: “For the potential of renewable energy to be fully realised we will continue to need newer and better storage technologies; mastering that is the solution to making renewables as attractive financially as they are environmentally. The impressive levels of electricity generated from wind turbines last weekend are evidence that we should be investing in Scotland’s enviable potential for a clean and reliable source of energy for our future.” The SNP states that energy storage facilities for renewables would allow the country to overcome what is termed as the ‘design flaw’ of wind power turbines, which is the argument that they are wasted when the wind doesn’t blow. McCaig claimed that either if there is too little wind or too much wind the companies operating wind turbines are sometimes paid to shut down by the grid for over-producing or under-producing. The storage of any energy from wind, solar or hydro would, he said, put an end to this energy waste and increase financial viability for the future.
In her Birmingham speech Mrs May said she wanted an energy policy that “emphasises the reliability of supply and lower costs for users”, and she voiced her commitment to greater prosperity in which everyone shares. The problem is that job creation, raising productivity and encouraging higher wages are not compatible with carbon reduction. After the 2008 Climate change Act, the Government’s climate-change policies have added to the cost of electricity and destroyed thousands of high-paid jobs. Between 2010 and 2015, two British aluminium smelters closed because of the Government’s energy policy, leaving only a small factory in Scotland that uses hydro-electric power. The steel industry has suffered closures and job losses because of the cost of energy and remains under threat. A proper industrial strategy will need to end policies that add significantly to the cost of production. Until 2008 the policy was to be among the cheapest three energy producing nations, but our own energy department has reported that electricity costs for manufacturers are about twice as high as in Germany. The Government could start by scrapping the carbon price floor, a UK scheme that deliberately increases the cost of energy above the market price under the EU emissions trading system. And it should press on with fracking to increase home-produced energy. Economic self-harm does not make any difference to global warming. UK emissions are less than 2 per cent of the world total. Whether we think that carbon emissions are a serious problem or that global warming concerns are alarmist, closing down our aluminium industry has not reduced total emissions. They just happen elsewhere.
Fortune: Tesla’s New Battery Pack
According to Tesla, the new Model S P100D—thanks to the new battery pack—is the third fastest accelerating production car ever produced (including traditional gas-powered cars). And at 315 miles, it has the longest range ever for a production electric vehicle. Thanks to Tesla’s engineers, the company has now crammed even more energy into the same size pack, using the same battery cells. Tesla’s battery packs contain thousands of lithium-ion battery cells that discharge energy to power the car. This milestone isn’t just another notch on Tesla’s belt. It shows how as Tesla continues to innovate, how it’s leading the auto industry, and how far it is ahead of competitors when it comes to developing electric car battery technology. Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk said during a call with reporters on Tuesday that the 100-kilowatt battery pack is coming close to reaching the theoretical limit of how much energy density the company can pack into that size and shape battery pack using those specific batteries. For Tesla to achieve a higher energy density for future battery packs, it would need to improve the battery chemistry itself by adding new materials or tweaking the battery cell design.
“The Science Guy,” the science educator best known for his beloved 1990s educational videos, appeared on CNN yesterday (Aug. 23) to discuss the recent flooding in Louisiana that killed 13 people, damaged 60,000 homes, and forced the evacuation of thousands of others. Nye was clear about what’s to blame for the disaster. “This is the result of climate change,” he said. “It’s only going to get worse.” Last week, a slow-moving, low-pressure storm hit parts of coastal Louisiana, creating torrential downpours that resulted in as much as 31 inches of rainfall over a two-day period. The Red Cross is calling the consequent flooding the worst natural disaster in the US since Hurricane Sandy, which killed over 200 people across the country’s eastern seaboard in 2012. “As the ocean gets warmer, which it is getting, it expands,” Nye explained. “Molecules spread apart, and then as the sea surface is warmer, more water evaporates, and so it’s very reasonable that these storms are connected to these big effects.” Scientists from around the world have concurred with Nye that this is exactly what the effects of climate change look like, and that disasters like the Louisiana floods are going to happen more and more. According to a National Academy of Sciences report published earlier this year, extreme flooding can be traced directly to human-induced global warming. As the atmosphere warms, it retains more moisture, leading to bouts of sustained, heavy precipitation that can cause floods.
A new paper is challenging our understanding of how long human-caused climate change has been at work on Earth. And the authors say their findings may question existing ideas about how sensitive the planet is to greenhouse gas emissions — with potentially big implications for our global climate policy. The new study, just out on Wednesday in the journal Nature, suggests human-caused, or anthropogenic, climate change has been going on for decades longer than existing temperature records indicate. Using paleoclimate records from the past 500 years, the researchers show that sustained warming began to occur in both the tropical oceans and the Northern Hemisphere land masses as far back as the 1830s — and they’re saying industrial-era greenhouse gas emissions were the cause, even back then. The new research involved 25 scientists from around the world, including more than a dozen researchers from the PAGES 2k (or Past Global Change 2000 year) Consortium, a group supporting research into Earth’s past in order to gain a better understanding of its climate future. The team’s reconstructions indicated that significant and sustained warming began in the tropical oceans around the 1830s, about the same time it began over the continental land masses in the Northern Hemisphere. Warming in the Southern Hemisphere was delayed until about 50 years later, the reconstructions suggested — this likely has to do with differences in oceanic and atmospheric circulation there.
Earlier this month, an outbreak of anthrax in northern Russia caused the death of a 12-year-old boy and his grandmother and put 90 people in the hospital. These deadly spores – which had not been seen in the Arctic since 1941 – also spread to 2,300 caribou. Russian troops trained in biological warfare were dispatched to the Yamalo-Nenets region to evacuate hundreds of the indigenous, nomadic people and quarantine the disease. Americans are likely to associate anthrax with the mysterious white powder that was mailed to news media and US Senate offices in the weeks following 11 September 2001. The bacteria – usually sequestered in biological weapons labs – killed five people and infected 17 others in the most devastating bioterrorism attack in US history. But in Russia, the spread of illness was not the result of bioterrorism; it was a result of global warming. Record-high temperatures melted Arctic permafrost and released deadly anthrax spores from a thawing carcass of a caribou that had been infected 75 years ago and had stayed frozen in limbo until now. It is not just animal carcasses that are thawing. Indigenous groups living in the tundra do not bury their dead deep underground, opting instead for wooden coffins arranged in above-ground cemeteries. This raises the potential for infections to spread from this source as well.
Sydney Morning Herald: Solar powered apartment block rises in Melbourne
A landmark high-rise apartment tower in Southbank whose glass exterior is wrapped in solar cells will provide its residents with “off-the-grid” power stored in Tesla-like batteries, its designers say. The 60-level building will be the first skyscraper in Australia environmentally engineered to include solar cells in the facade, creating a far greater surface area for catching the sun’s rays. To do that, high-tech solar materials will be sourced from China, wind turbines will be fitted on the roof, glass will be double-glazed, a battery storage system will service the 520 apartments and it will have low-energy LED lighting throughout. The Sol Invictus tower has been designed to capture the sun’s movement from east to west. ICR Property Group’s Raff De Luise, who represents the landowner behind the project, said it will be known as the Sol Invictus Tower – Sol Invictus meaning “the invincible sun”, after a Roman sun god.
South Africa: Africa’s first biofuel flights take off
History was made in mid-July. Africa’s first sustainable biofuel powered flights successfully flew between Johannesburg and Cape Town. The South African Airways (SAA) and Mango Boeing 737-800s used biofuel to power their engines on 15 July 2016. The fuel is made from a tobacco plant cultivated in Limpopo. Under Project Solaris, the plant, also named Solaris, produces small leaves, flowers and seeds which are crushed to extract a vegetable crude oil. It is a nicotine-free, hybridised tobacco plant. Growing the crops locally had contributed to the country’s National Development Plan of economic and rural development, said Musa Zwane, SAA’s acting CEO. He also noted that the project had established a regional bio jet fuel supply chain, something of which we could be proud. Nico Bezuidenhout, Mango CEO, echoed Zwane’s pride. “The project also shows how, when various role players come together and collaborate, success is imminent,” he said.
Last December, two “wind trees”—or arbres à vent—quietly churned in a plaza in Paris, as world leaders met for the historic climate talks at the Le Bourget conference center nearby. Developed by a French company called New Wind, the “trees” had plastic “leaves” painted green, with curves that held dozens of tiny blades soundlessly harnessing the wind no matter which way it blew. Unlike larger industrial turbines, which need winds of over 22 miles per hour to function, the leaves captured energy from wind speeds of less than five mph. The latest design is just under 30 feet tall and 23 feet wide, sporting a total of 54 leaf-turbines that can capture up to 5.4 kilowatts of energy at a time and produce around 2,400 kWh annually, said New Wind spokesperson Marine Bieliaeff. The startup estimates this would meet half of the average French household’s annual energy needs; run a small, low-consumption office for 12 months; or charge an electric car for 10,000 miles each year. That’s the equivalent of about 160 gallons of fuel.