This week’s somewhat abbreviated Blowout focuses on CO2 emissions and emissions targets, leading off with this encouraging article:
Data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) indicate that global emissions of carbon dioxide from the energy sector stalled in 2014, marking the first time in 40 years in which there was a halt or reduction in emissions of the greenhouse gas that was not tied to an economic downturn. Global emissions of carbon dioxide stood at 32.3 billion tonnes in 2014, unchanged from the preceding year. The IEA attributes the halt in emissions growth to changing patterns of energy consumption in China and OECD countries. In China, 2014 saw greater generation of electricity from renewable sources, such as hydropower, solar and wind, and less burning of coal. In OECD economies, recent efforts to promote more sustainable growth – including greater energy efficiency and more renewable energy – are producing the desired effect of decoupling economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions. “This gives me even more hope that humankind will be able to work together to combat climate change, the most important threat facing us today,” said IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol, recently named to take over from Maria van der Hoeven as the next IEA Executive Director.
More below the fold, including expanded coal use in India and Japan, solar eclipse to wreak havoc with the German grid, OPEC’s latest pronouncements, 100% renewables planned for Hawaii, Mitsubishi to commercialize solar power from space, more oil jobs predicted in UK, a California solar farm that floats on sewage and how not even the dead are safe from the ravages of climate change.
Climate News Network: Serious doubts over Europe’s GHG reduction target
The 28 countries of the European Union (EU) have set themselves a collective target of cutting emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases (GHGs) by between 80% and 95% by 2050, but a major report just released says there’s little hope of achieving that goal. Every five years, the European Environment Agency (EEA) produces a comprehensive study, and the latest says projected declines in GHG emissions are not nearly enough to reach the long-term target of decarbonising most of Europe’s economy by mid-century. The report says there has been considerable progress in recent years on reducing Europe’s GHG emissions to 19.2% below 1990 levels. while, at the same time, gross domestic product across the EU has increased by 45%. EU per capita emissions fell from 11.8 tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 1990 to 9 tonnes in 2012. The trouble is that this progress is very unlikely to be maintained over the long term unless the entire EU economy is revamped and there are very substantial investments in renewables.
Recently released EU statistics revealed that renewable energy made up 5.1% of the UK’s total gross energy consumption in 2013, an increase of just 4% since 2004, and without a dramatic increase in renewable energy, the figures suggest that the UK is unlikely to meet its 2020 renewable energy target of 15%. Only Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands had smaller proportions of renewable energy than Britain. Sweden was found to be the most renewable-friendly EU member state, with over half of its energy coming from renewable sources. Baroness Jenny Jones, a Green Party politician in the UK and a member of the House of Lords, says the figures are unsurprising given the current government’s energy policy. “The UK’s share of energy from renewables is woeful, but not altogether surprising given the prime minister’s and the mayor of London’s enthusiasm for fracking and a new generation of nuclear,” says Baroness Jones.
BusinessGreen: UK energy system ‘sailing close to the wind’, Peers warn
While the blackouts predicted by some commentators did not transpire, the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee will say the UK “sailed too close to the wind” by letting the gap between generation capacity and demand shrink to its lowest level in years. National Grid was forced to procure extra capacity to raise the margin from 4.1 per cent to 6.1 per cent to guard against shortages, using expensive measures that led to a heavy reliance on fossil fuel generation. In a new report, the peers say taking steps “at short notice, at considerable cost, and in a way which conflicts with the decarbonisation agenda” is not acceptable given the UK economy’s almost total dependence on electricity. “Such is our increasing reliance on electricity, any blackouts have the potential to bring our communications and vital services to a grinding halt,” said committee chair Lord Selborne in a statement.
Earlier this month, committees in the Hawaii House and Senate both unanimously recommended bills that would raise the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) from the current target of 70 percent by 2030 to the ultimate goal of 100 percent by 2040. Hawaii has had an RPS since 2001, and right now the state gets just over 21 percent of its power from renewable sources — a 12 percent increase in just six years. “Even our utility is saying we can hit 65 percent by 2030, so 100 percent is definitely doable,” Sen. Mike Gabbard (D), sponsor of the Senate bill, SB 2181, and chair of Hawaii’s Energy and Environment Committee, told ThinkProgress. “This is huge for our state’s future. Each year, we spend $3 to $5 billion importing fossil fuels to power our economy. Our electricity bills are roughly three times the national average.”
Washington Times: The coming climate court
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) recently circulated an email breathlessly titled, “Governments on Track to Reaching Paris 2015 Universal Climate Agreement — Negotiating Text Officially Published.” This text agreed to for negotiation by the (US) federal government includes a remarkable proposal. Buried deep inside, it proposes an “International Climate Justice Tribunal in order to oversee, control and sanction the fulfilment of and compliance with the obligations of Annex I and Annex II Parties under this agreement and the [1992 UNFCCC climate treaty].” Translated, this means that even if the Obama administration refuses to call the Paris agreement a treaty, as it already telegraphed its position: A new climate court would hold us to its terms — even the terms of a prior, “voluntary” agreement.
Oil Price: OPEC Boasts About Pain In U.S. Shale
OPEC’s Secretary-General Abdallah Salem el-Badri spoke at the Middle East Oil and Gas Conference in Bahrain on March 7, in which he highlighted the growing cracks in the U.S. shale industry. His comments echoed confidence in OPEC’s strategy of undermining its main competitor. Without explicitly saying so, he emphasized that OPEC will successfully force some shale production out of the market as private companies pullback on investment … as el-Badri noted, low prices are indeed putting a strain on the industry. Significantly lower revenues for oil and gas exploration companies have sparked a wave of credit downgrades, which along with new bond offerings, are contributing to an unsettling level of “junk” bonds. Junk bonds in the energy sector have reached $247 billion, or 17.5%, the highest share for any industry. The growing level of debt with poor credit ratings is beginning to concern big banks, which warn that defaults are most likely just around the corner.
Market Watch: U.S. weekly rig count down 67
Baker Hughes on Friday reported that the number of U.S. rigs actively drilling for oil and natural gas as of March 13 fell 67 rigs to 1,125. The rig count is down 684 from the same time last year. The number of oil rigs fell 56 to 866.
UK oil and gas companies expect to create thousands of jobs over the next two years despite the dramatic slide in oil prices. A Bank of Scotland oil and gas report found that 39% of respondents said the price falls had affected investment. However, when the estimates of net job gains and losses were collated, 8,000 roles are set to be created. “Fears that the current oil price slump may cost as many as 35,000 jobs in the UK oil and gas industry, widely reported in the media, may well be greatly overdone,” the report stated.
Japan is continuing to re-embrace coal to make up for its lack of nuclear energy, with plans for another power station released Thursday bringing the number of new coal-fired plants announced this year to seven. Utilities in Japan are eager to take advantage of coal’s relative cheapness to give them a competitive edge at a time when other countries are seeking to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions by moving away from a fuel source seen as dirty. The liberalization of Japan’s power industry by 2020 will pit power companies against each other as rivals for the first time. In addition, with a relaxation of restrictions on coal power and no new emissions targets on the horizon, utilities are increasingly seeing coal as an important part of their business plans. Kansai Electric Power Co. and Marubeni Corp. informed Akita prefecture on Thursday of their plans to build a new, 1.3-gigawatt coal-fired power station in the northern prefecture of Japan, the two companies said. If all seven projects including the plant in Akita materialize, they will increase the nation’s coal-power generation by up to 7.26 gigawatts by around 2025.
India is aiming to produce 700 million tonnes of coal in the next fiscal year, the country’s coal secretary said, in what would be its biggest annual growth in output as it auctions off mines and state giant Coal India boosts production. The country’s coal output has been growing far slower than demand over the past few years because of Coal India’s inability to expand its mines. Delays in getting environmental approvals, a lack of transport facilities and the company’s inherent efficiencies are some of the reasons for the shortfall.
Thinkprogress: California solar farm floats on treated sewage
For one California electricity provider, investing in regular solar arrays that are installed on the ground or a roof isn’t enough — the company, instead, is setting its sights on solar that floats. Sonoma Clean Power in California’s wine country has announced that it will be building the largest floating solar array in the U.S., a project that’s scheduled to be completed in 2016 and will create enough energy to power 3,000 houses. The array will span six wastewater ponds filled with treated sewage. That location was strategic for vineyard-rich Sonoma County, said Cordel Stillman, deputy chief engineer at the county’s Water Agency, which oversees the wastewater ponds. “We know it’s hard to get big solar projects in Sonoma County. You get pushbacks on aesthetics and the taking of agricultural land,” Stillman told the Press Democrat. “We took a look and said ‘Where else can we put solar?’” The solar arrays are another source of revenue for the Sonoma County Water Agency. Pristine Sun, the developer in charge of the project, is leasing the ponds from the agency for $30,000 a year.
Deutsche Welle: Mitsubishi to beam down solar power from outer space
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) announced on Friday that it had wirelessly powered LED lights by transmitting a 10-kilowatt microwave through the air to a receiver 500 meters away. “We believe we demonstrated the possibility of commercializing wireless power transmission through our experiment,” Mitsubishi said in a statement on Friday. The breakthrough marks a significant, if small, step towards one day tapping into the biggest source of clean, sustainable energy in our solar system – the sun, but unhindered by the weather or time of day. The Japanese engineering giant says it plans to do just that by sending solar cell-covered satellites into orbit 36,000 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. Suspended in space, the cosmic power-generation plants will convert the harnessed energy into microwaves and beam it down to so-called rectenna receiving stations on the ground. A rectenna is a special antenna that can convert microwave energy into electricity. In a 2011 report, MHI estimated this would generate the same electricity output as a 400-megawatt thermal plant – or enough to serve more than 150,000 homes during peak hours. The price? The same as publicly supplied power, according to its calculations. Mitsubishi says it aims to commercialize its Space Solar Power System (SSPS) by 2030.
The partial solar eclipse slated to take place throughout Europe on March 20 may delight skywatchers, but it’s presenting a significant headache for the operators of Germany’s electricity grid. The country is a world leader in solar energy, boasting a huge edge over the U.S. in installed solar power generation. When the eclipse occurs between about 9:30 a.m. and 12 p.m., local time, on the 20th, electric utilities in Germany will have to contend with rapid swings in energy production. First, there will be a steep drop-off in generation, followed by a sudden spike. These fluctuations, and how utilities choose to cope with them, provide a preview of what utilities in the U.S. and other nations face, as renewable energy production soars in coming decades, according to an analysis from Opower, a software company that uses data to help utilities improve the customer experience.
Washington Post: Global warming might be real, but the Democrats’ solutions are not
BP recently published its annual Energy Outlook report, which, as the company describes it, outlines a “view of the likely path of global energy markets to 2035…[and] highlights the challenge of delivering energy supplies which are sustainable, secure and affordable.” The bottom line in the report is that taking into account the trajectory of global demand for energy, predicted population growth and our current energy mix, by 2035 we won’t be anywhere near where the global warming alarmists tell us we must be with regard to CO2 emissions. In other words, the gratuitously misguided, punitive efforts that liberals are taking today and that they have planned for the next couple of decades will do nothing to “stop global warming” and prevent the environmental near-apocalypse they are always railing about. Republicans are continually ridiculed for denying the science of climate change, but Democrats are denying the science that proves the actions and costs they are imposing on us are doing nothing to solve the problem they say is so clear and present. You can’t use science to support your idea of what the problem is and then deny science when it says your solutions won’t work.
In 2013, about 87% of the energy that the world consumed came from fossil fuels, a figure that—remarkably—was unchanged from 10 years before. Over this period, the overall volume of fossil-fuel consumption has increased dramatically, but with an encouraging environmental trend: a diminishing amount of carbon-dioxide emissions per unit of energy produced. The biggest contribution to decarbonizing the energy system has been the switch from high-carbon coal to lower-carbon gas in electricity generation. On a global level, renewable energy sources such as wind and solar have contributed hardly at all to the drop in carbon emissions, and their modest growth has merely made up for a decline in the fortunes of zero-carbon nuclear energy. The argument that fossil fuels will soon run out is dead, at least for a while. The collapse of the price of oil over the past six months is the result of abundance: an inevitable consequence of the high oil prices of recent years, which stimulated innovation in hydraulic fracturing, horizontal drilling, seismology and information technology. The U.S.—the country with the oldest and most developed hydrocarbon fields—has found itself once again, surprisingly, at the top of the energy-producing league, rivaling Saudi Arabia in oil and Russia in gas.
Christian Science Monitor: Climate change is destroying Chilean mummies, say scientists
The famous Chinchorro mummies, which have remained preserved in Chile for more than 7,000 years, are now under threat from increased levels of moisture. Humid air is allowing bacteria to grow, causing the mummies’ skin “to go black and become gelatinous,” said Ralph Mitchell, a professor emeritus of applied biology at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who examined the rotting mummies. The rapid deterioration began within the past 10 years, and has affected some of the 120 mummies that are housed at the University of Tarapacá’s archeological museum in the northern port city of Arica, the researchers said.