The Obama Administration is becoming progressively more strident in its attempts to bring home the perils of climate change to a largely disinterested public. Last week it published the results of a 300-page multi-year study involving “scores of researchers and the work of eight federal agencies”. The study’s conclusion was that climate change could kill tens of thousands of Americans each year by the end of the century. One wonders how many lives could have been saved if the cost of preparing the report had been spent on mosquito nets instead.
More deaths from extreme heat. Longer allergy seasons. Increasingly polluted air and water. Diseases transmitted by mosquitoes and ticks spreading farther and faster. Those are among the health risks that could be exacerbated by global warming in coming decades, the Obama administration warned in a new report Monday.
The study, more than 300 pages long and several years in the making, focuses on what the White House has described as one of the gravest threats to the nation: major health problems associated with climate change. “This isn’t just about glaciers and polar bears. It’s about the health of our family and our kids,” Gina McCarthy, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said Monday. “To protect ourselves and future generations, we need to understand the health impacts of climate change that are already happening, and those that we expect to see down the road.” The Obama administration study found that as the world warms, exploding populations and greater urbanization could increase the number of people exposed to extreme heat, which already kills thousands of Americans each year. For instance, researchers projected that a warmer future could result in “thousands to tens of thousands of additional premature deaths per year across the United States by the end of this century” from heat-related illnesses, more than off-setting any reduction of cold-related deaths.
We continue with a jumble of stories from around the world, including nuclear plants in Iran, the coming boom in coal, Germany to abandon its $1 trillion wind power program, Texas, California and UK to generate more renewable energy than they can use this summer, nuclear decommissioning to cost Europe €253 billion, solar growth in India hit by SunEdison collapse, Obama and Xi vow to sign Paris Climate Accord, China to burn coal in space, yet another miracle storage battery, Mexico’s renewables auction, Venezuela blames blackouts on global warming and La Niña is coming. Normal coverage of OPEC will be resumed when something newsworthy happens.
Engineering and Technology Magazine: India’s renewables sector hit by collapse of mega-solar project
A 500-megawatt solar power plant that would have kick-started India’s renewable energy revolution is now unlikely to go ahead, as the operator is struggling to stave off bankruptcy. The contract to build the Andra Pradesh solar plant – the first of 32 planned solar mega projects envisioned to clean up India’s power supply – was awarded last year to American solar energy company SunEdison. The firm beat its competitors by offering a record-low tariff of 4.63 rupees (7 US cents) per kilowatt-hour. However, it has not even broken ground and is, according to some sources, looking to sell about 1GW of its existing assets in the country. Many industry insiders called SunEdison’s bid unrealistic from the start and describe the situation as a major lesson to be learned for future renewable energy auctions. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi aims for a fivefold increase in India’s renewable energy generation capacity in the next few years. The country is yet to auction the further 31 mega projects of 500MW or more but the SunEdison experience suggests the venture will most likely cost India much more. The whole process is also likely to take longer.
The government has today (1 April 2016) published a consultation on introducing an exemption for Energy Intensive Industries (EIIs), such as the steel industry, from renewable electricity costs – in a move that could save the steel industry over £400 million over this Parliament. The move, first announced at Autumn Statement, will exempt all EIIs from paying £390 million a year in policy costs of the Renewables Obligation and Feed-in Tariff. It is specifically worth more than £400 million to the steel sector by the end of this Parliament, and will provide greater investment certainty for the future. Business Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Help with energy costs has been one of the steel industry’s key asks and, having extended last year the compensation we are paying out, I want to see progress on exempting them altogether. While we can’t control the global price of steel, we are doing everything we can to help our steel industry, not just on energy costs but also securing flexibility on EU emissions rules and on tariffs.”
Beijing’s growing confidence in its plans to help build new reactors at Hinkley in Somerset and Bradwell in Essex has been underlined by the recent incorporation of seven new Chinese nuclear-related firms in London. Beijing’s creation of so many new businesses could further alarm those concerned at the degree of complexity surrounding the £18bn Hinkley scheme. All seven companies use the same Stratton Street address in Mayfair, west London used by the state-owned China General Nuclear Power Corporation. They also have the same director, Zhu Minhong, the public face of China’s nuclear power business in Britain. A spokesman for China General Nuclear Power Corporation, where Zhu is a general director for the UK, said he could not immediately explain why so many new UK-based businesses had been established or their exact purpose.
A far darker shadow is hanging over Britain than that of the collapse of our steel industry. As she is the sister of a leading figure in the campaign to keep Britain in the EU, we may not be surprised by the warning from Amber Rudd, our Energy and Climate Change Secretary, that “Brexit” would raise our energy bills by £500 million a year. But in making that “half a billion a year” claim, Ms Rudd must hope that we don’t recall those recent figures from the Office for Budget Responsibility projecting that within four years – due entirely to her own Government’s policies – we will be paying £13.6 billion a year in climate change levies alone, up a further £7.6 billion from the year just ending. Even this is only a small part of the disaster Ms Rudd is heading us towards, as she sets about “decarbonising” our economy by closing down all the fossil-fuel power stations which, until recently, were supplying two thirds of all our electricity, in order to rely instead on ever more “renewables” and those new nuclear power stations which simply aren’t getting built.
Handelsblatt: How to kill an industry
The fact that Germany is a world leader in green power is by now familiar. Much less familiar is the price the country is paying for it, not just in cold hard cash, but in growing losses and dislocations across the entire economy. The losers include once-stalwart utility giants like E.ON and RWE that are struggling with rising debt and falling shares. Manufacturing companies, from chemicals maker BASF to carbon fiber producer SGL Carbon, have shifted investments abroad, where energy costs are often a fraction of Germany’s. Losers include laid-off workers in these industries, but also millions of ordinary consumers. Their utility bills have skyrocketed, largely driven by subsidies for eco-friendly fuels. As much as the transition creates new jobs building wind turbines, farming biofuels or installing solar panels on rooftops, the changes are cutting a deep swathe through other parts of the economy. Germany’s “green” revolution has a dark shadow.
President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China said Thursday that they would sign the Paris Agreement on climate change on April 22, the first day the United Nations accord will be open for government signatures. Officials cast the announcement as a statement of joint resolve by the world’s two largest greenhouse gas polluters, even though there are doubts about whether the United States can meet its obligations under the agreement. In February, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked an Obama administration regulation to curb greenhouse gas pollution from power plants, the centerpiece of Mr. Obama’s climate change policy and the major way for the administration to meet its targets under the Paris accord. “Our cooperation and our joint statements were critical in arriving at the Paris agreement, and our two countries have agreed that we will not only sign the agreement on the first day possible, but we’re committing to formally join it as soon as possible this year,” Mr. Obama told reporters at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, where he was meeting with Mr. Xi at the nuclear gathering. Mr. Obama, who spoke across a table from Mr. Xi, added, “And we urge other countries to do the same.”
The head of the U.S. Geological Survey told senators Thursday that her agency would work with federal regulators on developing new rules around oil and gas activity tied to a surge in earthquakes in Oklahoma, Texas and other states. Director Suzette Kimball appeared before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources a week after her agency released a report showing the risk of damage from seismic activity in areas including Oklahoma City and Dallas is now as high as that in California. The sudden jump in earthquakes has been tied not to oil and gas drilling itself but rather the underground injection wells used to store the vast volumes of waste water associated with drilling. “Our work on induced seismicity leads us to believe it is most often associated with deep wastewater injection wells and depending on how those wells are constructed and how the operations take place can affect that,” Kimball said. The threat of greater federal regulation around injection wells, an activity largely governed by states, has worried many around the country’s oil and gas regions. U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., expressed concern the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency might come in and shut down injection well activity all together.
National Public Radio: Unable To Compete On Price, Nuclear Power On The Decline In The U.S.
Renewable energy and new technologies that are making low-carbon power more reliable are growing rapidly in the U.S. Renewables are so cheap in some parts of the country that they’re undercutting the price of older sources of electricity such as nuclear power. The impact has been significant on the nuclear industry, and a growing number of unprofitable reactors are shutting down. In all, 19 nuclear reactors are undergoing decommissioning, of which five have been shut down in the past decade, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The main reason behind the wave of closures is a new generation of cheap, gas-fired power plants that has pushed the wholesale price of electricity into the basement. But Mycle Schneider, a nuclear industry analyst, says nuclear also faces growing price pressure from wind and solar. Renewable energy is so cheap in some parts of the U.S. that it’s even undercutting coal and natural gas. “We are seeing really a radical shift in the competitive markets which leave nuclear power pretty much out in the rain,” Schneider says.
Tehran Times: Iran plans to build 9 nuclear power plants by 2025
Iran will build 9 nuclear power plants by 2025 which marks the end of the 20-year vision plan, the spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) announced on Saturday. “At the end of the country’s 20-year vision plan, 10 percent of the country’s electricity should be produced through atomic energy and 9 nuclear power plants is required for this purpose,” Behrouz Kamalvandi, stated. He said the technology is “effective” in helping the country make progress. Kamalvandi added that the nuclear energy is an efficient source which does not harm the environment. The AEOI spokesman also said a “long term view” on nuclear energy is needed, adding long time is required to achieve the necessary progress in the nuclear industry. He also said that Iran’s power plants are among the “safest” in the world.
Guardian: Europe faces €253bn nuclear waste bill
Europe is facing a €253bn bill for nuclear waste management and plant decommissioning which outstrips available funds by €120bn, according to a major stock-take of the industry by the European commission. The sum breaks down into €123bn for the decommissioning of old reactors and €130bn for the management of spent fuel, radioactive waste and deep geological disposal processes. Of the EU’s 16 nuclear nations, only the UK had enough money ring-fenced to cover the coming financial crunch, according to the Nuclear Illustrative Programme of the Commission (Pinc), which covers trends to 2050. Some 90% of the continent’s nuclear plants are set to shut by 2050 – almost half within the next decade – and the paper sets out a daunting picture of the scale of the challenge facing nuclear power: up to €500bn will be needed to meet the cost of new plant builds and lifetime extensions, it says. By 2050, a 47% increase in the cost of additional capacity is foreseen, combined with a 20% reduction in nuclear’s contribution to Europe’s electricity mix.
World Nuclear News: Organizations call for positive EU leadership on nuclear
European electricity association Eurelectric has welcomed the European Commission’s recently published Nuclear Illustrative Program (PINC), but expressed regrets at its failure to address the issue of premature reactor closures due to market conditions. Eurelectric described the PINC document, published on 4 April, as a “good basis” for discussions on the role of nuclear energy in achieving European Union (EU) energy objectives and praised it for recognising the significant investment required in the sector. “A continuing contribution of nuclear power will be needed as Europe undertakes the low-carbon energy transition, but a more positive EU policy framework is needed if this is to be achieved,” the organization’s secretary general, Hans ten Berge, said yesterday. “We however regret that the PINC document does not address the competitiveness of existing and technically well-functioning nuclear reactors, which, in some countries, are being forced to shut down due to the difficult market situation and distortive national policy measures,” he added.
South China Morning Post: China to burn coal – in space
China is to carry out an experiment on burning coal in space for the first time, which scientists say may help led to cleaner power stations and reduce air pollution.The experiment will be carried out aboard an unmanned research probe – the Shijian 10 – that was launched from the Gobi Desert earlier this week. Researchers hope the experiment will provide further insight into the physics of coal combustion and clues on how to burn the fuel more cleanly. The experiment involves igniting fine grains of coal dust in a small chamber, similar to the conditions in a power station furnace, but under near zero-gravity conditions. Professor Liu Qiusheng, a space physicist at the Institute of Mechanics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said the experiment might re-veal an unknown mechanism at play that had previously evaded detection. “I’m curious how pollutants such as PM2.5 will behave up there,” said Liu, who attended mission briefings.
The Shijian-10 coal-burning space ship
Hellenic Shipping News: Doom and gloom persist, but signs of recovery for coal industry
The steam-coal market is expected to remain challenging for the next few years, due to prices close to all-time lows, a massively oversupplied Chinese market, uncertain Indian market growth, and diminishing consumption across Europe, the United States and China, according to IHS Inc., the leading global source of critical information and insight. Nevertheless, signs are starting to emerge of a recovery in the market, and that supply and demand will rebalance later this decade, according to IHS Energy experts. Like any other commodity, coal follows the trend of boom and bust, with the boom cycles normally a lot briefer in duration than the latter. Currently mired at the bottom of the bust-cycle, the coal industry finds itself in a challenging position for the same reasons weighing on other commodities, an oversupplied market, which continues to suppress global prices. “The ground has already been laid for the next boom in coal prices, and the longer the wait for price recovery goes on, the greater the likelihood that values will spike,” said David Price, senior director of the Global Steam Coal Service at IHS Energy.
Technology Review: Texas and California Have Too Much Renewable Energy
Solar and wind power are coming online at rates unforeseen only a few years ago. That’s a good thing if your goal is to decarbonize the energy sector. But if you’re a utility or independent power producer and you make your money selling electricity, it can be not such a good thing. In places with abundant wind and solar resources, like Texas and California, the price of electricity is dipping more and more frequently into negative territory. In other words, utilities that operate big fossil-fuel or nuclear plants, which are very costly to switch off and ramp up again, are running into problems when wind and solar farms are generating at their peaks. With too much energy supply to the grid, spot prices for power turn negative and utilities are forced to pay grid operators to take power off their hands. That’s happened on about a dozen days over the past year in sunny Southern California, according to data from Bloomberg, and it’s liable to happen more often in the future. “In Texas, power at one major hub traded below zero for almost 50 hours in November and again in March,” according to the state’s grid operator.
Cleantechnica: Mexico’s first power auction
Mexico has conducted its first power auction, awarding 1,720 megawatts of wind and solar energy. This auction took place following the government’s end of the state electricity monopoly in 2013. The Mexican government’s auction saw a total of seven wind and solar organizations winning electricity contracts and clean energy certificates. The outcome of the auction is expected to assist the government in meeting its long-range goal of producing 35% of its energy from clean sources by 2024. The list of successful bidders was made up of leading international companies, including Enel Green Power, SunPower, Recurrent Energy, Alten Renewable Energy, and Gestamp Wind, PV-Tech has reported: in total, 227 bids were made by 69 participants. The highest bid was made by UK-funded energy generation development platform Zuma Energía at 1.2 billion pesos (US$69/MWh). The 11 successful bundles of wind and solar projects and certificates were sold at an average price of US$41.80/MWh, with prices for solar specifically averaging at US$40.50/MWh.
Just weeks after awarding controversial contracts for five wind farms, Ontario said Tuesday it’s opening bidding for double that amount of wind energy. The government is also inviting bids from companies for solar, hydro and bio-energy projects. Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli said the move will save consumers money by putting more downward pressure on electricity prices.The last round of wind farm development was for 300 megawatts of wind power. This time, Ontario has opened the bids for 600 megawatts of wind energy, along with 250 megawatts of solar, up to 50 megawatts of hydroelectricity and up to 30 megawatts of bioenergy. The size of the procurement stunned wind farm opponents. A report released last week by Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator concluded Ontario has enough electrical generation in place to cover the province’s needs for at least a decade.
Germany plans to stop building new wind farms by 2019, gradually turning away from its $1.1 trillion wind power program, according to a Thursday report in Berliner Zeitung. The government plans to cap the total amount of wind energy at 40 to 45 percent of national capacity, according to the report. By 2019, this policy would cause a massive reduction of 6,000 megawatts of wind power capacity compared to the end of 2015’s capacity. The domestic market for many [wind turbine] manufacturers collapses completely,” Julia Verlinden, a spokesperson for the German Green Party, told Berliner Zeitung. “With their plan, the federal government is killing the wind companies.” Verlinden goes on to blame the political influence of “old, fossil fuel power plants.”
For the first time, the U.K. has too much electricity and may need to limit the amount of renewable energy it produces this summer. National Grid has warned generators that they may have to “reduce their output during some weeks,” in a report released this week. Historically, the national electricity grid was largely balanced because power plants would not generate more electricity than companies were buying. But renewables have been so efficient, that they are now generating more energy than the market demands, every time the wind blows or the sun shines. Storing energy is not a new idea, and it is an option, but building massive banks of batteries is expensive. So National Grid said there is a possibility that it will have to “issue emergency instructions to inflexible generators,” telling them to “power off” their plants. For clarification, by “inflexible generator,” we mean nuclear, combined heat and power, hydro and wind generators. And an “emergency instruction” is essentially a tool National Grid has to force these inflexible generators to reduce their output in order to balance supply and demand—if they do not respond commercially. This is known as a Negative Reserve Active Power Management (NRAPM) and it is designed to encourage wind farms or solar plants to reduce their output and create downward flexibility on the system.
The amount of household solar power capacity installed in the past two months has plummeted by three quarters following the government’s cuts to subsidies, according to new figures. A fall in solar power was expected following a 65% reduction in government incentives paid to householders, but the size of the drop-off will dismay green campaigners. Data published by the energy regulator this week shows there was 21 megawatts (MW) of small solar installed in February and March this year, after a new, lower incentive rate came into effect. By contrast, energy department figures show that for the same period in 2015, 81MW was installed. The cuts were announced just days after energy secretary Amber Rudd helped agree the historic Paris climate deal, and have bankrupted several solar companies. The government says the changes were necessary to protect bill payers, as the solar incentives are levied on household energy bills.
The World Bank has signalled a “fundamental shift” in its funding policy which will see tens of billions of dollars channelled into projects to fight climate change.Officials announced that in future, 28 per cent of all World Bank’s investment would go into projects that, for example, aim to rapidly increase renewable energy capacity across the developing world. This will amount to at least $16bn (£11bn) a year by the end of the decade, notes The Guardian, with up to a further $13bn (£9bn) being “leveraged” from the private sector. In addition, the organisation said that all of its future spending decisions would take account of the impact on the environment, a response in part to criticism that it has funded fossil fuel-based energy projects. “This is a fundamental shift for the World Bank. We are putting climate change into our DNA,” said John Roome, a senior director for climate change.
BioSolar is developing a breakthrough technology to double the storage capacity, lower the cost and extend the life of lithium-ion batteries. A battery contains two major parts, a cathode and an anode, that function together as the positive and negative sides. Today’s state-of-the-art lithium-ion battery is limited by the storage capacity of its cathode, while the anode can store much more. Inspired by nature, we are developing a novel cathode based on inexpensive conductive polymers and organic materials that can fully utilize the storage capacity of conventional anodes. By integrating our high capacity, high power and low-cost cathode with conventional anodes, battery manufacturers can create a super lithium-ion battery that can double the range of a Tesla, power an iPhone for 2 days straight, or store daytime solar energy for nighttime use. Founded with the vision of developing breakthrough energy technologies, BioSolar’s previous successes include the world’s first UL approved bio-based backsheet for use in solar panels.
Climate change projections have vastly underestimated the role that clouds play, meaning future warming could be far worse than is currently projected, according to new research. Researchers said that a doubling of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere compared with pre-industrial times could result in a global temperature increase of up to 5.3C – far warmer than the 4.6C older models predict. The analysis of satellite data, led by Yale University, found that clouds have much more liquid in them, rather than ice, than has been assumed until now. Clouds with ice crystals reflect more solar light than those with liquid in them, stopping it reaching and heating the Earth’s surface. A lack of data and continuing uncertainty over the role of clouds is to blame for the confusion about warming estimates, said Ivy Tan, a graduate student at Yale who worked on the research with academics from Yale and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. “Models have been systematically underestimating the amount of liquid in clouds, meaning that we aren’t fully appreciating the feedback,” she said. “It could mean our higher limit of warming is now even higher, depending on the model, which means serious consequences for us in terms of climate change.
A new study published yesterday shows there hasn’t been an increase in extreme rainfall and droughts during the 20th century, even as humans ramped up burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil) in the late 1800s. It also shows that previous centuries show much more extreme weather, even though carbon dioxide levels were far lower than today’s. Dr Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist, the lead author and a palaeoclimatologist at Stockholm University, explains that climate reconstruction showed a “prominent seesaw pattern of alternating moisture regimes” that has been remained “consistent over the past twelve centuries.” Ljungqvist writes in the journal Nature: “This strongly suggests that the instrumental period is too short to capture the full range of natural hydroclimate variability.” The climate records, which date back to Viking times, indicate the 20th century was “unexceptional for rainfall and droughts despite assumptions that global warming would trigger more wet and dry extremes.” In fact, “several other centuries show stronger and more widespread extremes,” lead author Fredrik Ljungqvist of Stockholm University told Reuters. “We can’t say it’s more extreme now.”
Hinkley Point C could still be postponed, French energy minister Ségolène Royal has said, in an apparent sign of division within the French government over the controversial nuclear project. The £18bn power plant is yet to prove its worth, and developer EDF must provide assurances that it will not build the reactors at the expense of investing in renewable energy, Ms Royal said.
International Business Times: Venezuelan Leader Blames El Niño And Global Warming For Nation’s Energy Crisis
The fierce El Niño event under way in the Pacific Ocean and warming global temperatures have helped create the brutal drought now racking Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro said Wednesday night. The Venezuelan leader blamed the climatological phenomena as he presented a 60-day plan to conserve energy in the blackout-prone nation. Maduro declared all Fridays during the next two months will be holidays in a highly criticized bid to cut electricity use. Venezuela is facing its worst drought in almost half a century, an event that’s severely straining the country’s aging and poorly managed energy grid. The nation depends on hydropower for nearly two-thirds of its electricity, but the reservoirs that fuel its facilities are evaporating. Power outages in recent weeks have forced factories to send workers home early, slowing production, and many residents are now scrambling to secure enough drinking water supplies. In his address, Maduro said global warming was exacerbating the effects of drought spurred by El Niño. “With the warming of temperatures, it’s causing drought to an extreme degree,” Maduro said in his hourslong appearance on the state-run television network Venezolana de Televisión.
The decay of El Niño and the onset of La Niña, the cold phase of tropical Pacific Ocean surface temperatures, are occurring more rapidly than it would appear. The timing of La Niña’s arrival is important to commodities markets as La Niña has vastly different effects on global climate than its warm counterpart, El Niño. For example, in agriculture markets, if La Niña moves in on the early end of the range by June or July, U.S. summer crops could face complications with dry and hot weather. But dry regions of Australia, Southeast Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa could receive ample rainfall prior to the peak of their next crop season. The lingering of extremely warm waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean has led to some flawed assumptions that El Niño is decaying at a slower pace than in previous years, and that the transition to La Niña will happen later than initially expected. But the platform for La Niña’s entrance has been in the assembly phase since late last year, and new data suggests that construction is nearly complete.