Building on the recent interest in energy storage and the potential for going off-grid, this week we feature the latest offering from the fertile imaginations of the sustainable living enthusiasts – the Ecocapsule:
Ecocapsule is a small, egg-shaped abode that could be the perfect home for someone who wants to let it all go like Elsa and live off the grid. Its roof is decked with 600W solar cells and a built-in 750W wind turbine that store the energy they harness into a high-power battery. The structure’s shape also allows its inhabitant to collect rainwater by placing containers around it. Since it measures just 14.6 feet long by 7.4 feet wide by 8.4 feet tall, anyone who isn’t into tiny houses (and we do mean tiny houses) might feel more than a bit claustrophobic inside. Its designers, Nice Architects from Slovakia, made good use of every inch of interior space, though, fitting in a folding bed, a small kitchen, a dining area, a shower and flushable toilet, and even some storage space.
Stories below the fold on the Ferrybridge closure, Scotland demanding a veto over UK energy decisions, NOPEC – a rival for OPEC, Saudi Arabia to become a renewables powerhouse, nuclear in South Africa and China, coal in India, the Large Hadron Collider sets a new energy record, job losses in the European renewables industry, conflicting views on melting Antarctic ice, how climate change threatens football and immediately following, an interesting contrast in the way two media outlets report what the CEO of Shell said last week:
Royal Dutch Shell Chief Executive Ben van Beurden on Thursday slammed as a “red herring” calls for investors to divest from energy companies as part of the fight against climate change. Van Beurden singled out the “Keep it in the Ground” campaign led by British newspaper The Guardian that aims at keeping charitable funds from investing in fossil fuels. “The divest campaign, or Keep it in the Ground or the carbon bubble, ignore reality that 80 percent of the investment in the industry has to be done just to stand still to arrest decline. It is a red herring,” van Beurden told shareholders. “It is a very seductive argument and that is why it catches on, but it is a red herring. All those advocates of divesting or keep it in the ground are actually doing society a massive disservice because they create the illusion of there being a single silver bullet that is simply not there.”
Ben van Beurden, the chief executive of Shell, has endorsed warnings that the world’s fossil fuel reserves cannot be burned unless some way is found to capture their carbon emissions. The oil boss has also predicted that the global energy system will become “zero carbon” by the end of the century, with his group obtaining a “very, very large segment” of its earnings from renewable power. The Shell boss said he accepted the general premise contained in independent studies that have concluded that dangerous levels of global warming above 2C will occur unless CO2 is buried or reserves are kept in the ground. “We cannot burn all the hydrocarbon resources we have on the planet in an unmitigated way and not expect to have a CO2 loading in the atmosphere that is often being linked to the 2C scenario,” he said in an exclusive interview with the Guardian. Van Beurden said Shell, along with “a majority of society”, acknowledged that climate change was a real and serious issue. He said it was highly undesirable that the world move beyond 2C.
All but one of the 34 analysts and traders surveyed by Bloomberg said the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will maintain its daily production target of 30 million barrels when it meets in Vienna on June 5. “Dramatic cuts in spending and drilling are finally having an impact, so why on earth would Saudi Arabia change course now their strategy is just starting to bear fruit,” Mike Wittner, head of oil research at Societe Generale SA, said by phone from New York on May 19. U.S. oil producers idled more than half of the country’s drilling rigs since October, according to data from Baker Hughes Inc. The nation’s crude production fell 1.2 percent to 9.3 million barrels a day last week, the biggest drop since July, Energy Information Administration data show.
Oil & Gas Eurasia: NOPEC to challenge OPEC?
Chris Faulkner, the chief executive of Breitling Energy, and dubbed by some as the ‘Frack Master’ has called for the creation of a North American equivalent to OPEC to challenge the cartel’s supposed dominance of the global oil market. Despite leading a relatively small player in the industry, Faulkner plans to encourage the ‘dethronement’ of Opec, part of this would include the creation of a rival organisation referred to as ‘Nopec’. “It makes a lot of sense; Opec has been losing its credibility, its viability and its ability to control the price of oil globally,” he claimed. “It doesn’t have to be adversarial to Opec but can be a sizeable counterbalance and take advantage of the chink in the armour,” Faulkner explained. He described the proposed alternative as “not a cartel” but instead a “coalition”, pooling resources, trade, technology and cooperation between the US, Mexico and Canada, which all have significant shale interests. “Combined and working together, North America could generate upwards of 20 million barrels of oil per day, and that should be enough to permanently dethrone Opec as the sole regulator of world oil prices,” he suggested.
Herald Scotland: Sturgeon demands veto power over UK energy decisions
The First Minister said UK ministers should take key decisions only after “consultation and agreement” with the Scottish Government. She set out a list of specific demands, including an assurance that subsidies for Scotland’s onshore windfarms will not be changed without the blessing of SNP ministers in Edinburgh. She also called on the UK Government to commit to major offshore wind projects, where Scotland has lost out because of the higher costs of maintaining turbines in deeper coastal waters. Ms Sturgeon also urged the UK Government to cut transmission charges for generators in remote parts of Scotland further than already planned. Demanding inter-governmental consultation and agreement on key energy decisions, Ms Sturgeon said: “Scotland is an energy powerhouse but we have very limited powers on energy policy. “That is why today I am calling on the UK to take a much more collegiate approach to policy-making on energy and ensure proper consultation with the Scottish Government on major areas of energy policy.” Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said the First Minister’s latest intervention amounted to an attempt “to unilaterally declare independence for Scotland”.
Power Engineering International: UK loses another coal fired power plant
The 48-year-old Ferrybridge coal-fired power plant is to close, having accrued over £150m in losses. SSE said it had taken the “difficult decision” to close the plant in West Yorkshire by March 2016. The company said costs at the 48-year-old power station have been rising due to its age and it is forecast to lose £100 million over the next five years. Paul Smith, SSE managing director of generation, said: “It’s been known for many years that the UK would have to phase out coal as it moves towards a more sustainable energy mix. We’ve sought to protect jobs and invest in the site to keep it running for as long as we possibly could but ultimately we’ve had to make this regrettable decision today.” SSE said it will redeploy the 172 workers affected by the announcement to other sites where possible.
(T)he ’20-20-20’ targets, have set the legally binding obligations of a 20% reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels, raising the EU share of energy consumption produced from renewable sources to 20% and a 20% improvement in the EU energy efficiency. The latest data from Eurostat have revealed Sweden to be the most renewable-friendly EU member state, with over half of its energy coming from renewable sources. However, the Netherlands and the UK seem to be lagging behind on their legally binding obligations. The UK is 9.9 percentage points behind its national target of 15%, the Netherlands is 9.5 percentage points behind its goal of 14%. The reason behind the considerable backlog seems to be having less to do with natural resources and more to do with the governmental policies regarding renewables. “In the last couple of decades we have had a lot of changing policies regarding renewable energy. Right now there is a lot of uncertainty in the Netherlands regarding the net metering policy; another reason not to invest,“ says Joop van Vlerken, specialist editor of the energy expertise platform Energie+. The UK’s government seems to pose similar barriers in regards to renewable energy, as the UK’s backlog is said to be due to lack of confidence in the UK long-term commitment.
Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has been warned to slam the brakes on the renewables sector or face having to find at least £1.5 bn a year in extra subsidies. A new report reveals that her predecessor Ed Davey, a renewables fanatic, ramped up permissions for renewables projects in his last year in office, meaning that Britain is now on track to massively overshoot its renewables electricity targets. To comply with the EU’s Renewables Directive, the British government set itself the target of generating about a third of the country’s electricity needs from renewables by 2020, equivalent to 110TWh. But research by the Renewable Energy Foundation has revealed that, thanks to Davey’s crusade for renewables, Britain is now on track to overshoot that target by a whopping 34 percent, up from a mere five percent last year when the survey was first undertaken. Unfortunately for Rudd, the overshoot has not been factored into the Treasury’s Levy Control Framework, which set a limit on subsidy costs of £7.6 bn a year, meaning that her department will have to go cap in hand to the Treasury for a further £1.5 bn a year if all the projects which have been given the go-ahead are to be constructed.
Germany’s clean energy drive earned it a reputation as a green leader but a domestic row over coal has highlighted the challenge of balancing economic and environmental demands and threatens its ability to lead by example. But stalled projects … have put Germany’s 2020 goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent compared to 1990 at risk. Aware it was on course to miss the 2020 target, the government approved a climate package last December to put it back on track. This included plans to force coal operators to slash their emissions by at least 22 million tonnes by 2020, equivalent to shutting about eight coal plants. But a coal levy aimed at achieving those cuts, proposed by Sigmar Gabriel, economy minister and leader of Merkel’s junior coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPD), led to protests by coal miners last month and a backlash from the industry. Bowing to those industry concerns, the economy ministry is now proposing softening the CO2 emissions cuts for coal-fired power plants to 16 million tonnes, ac-cording to a ministry document seen by Reuters.
The (International Renewable Energy Agency) reports that the EU lost 50,000 renewable jobs – a drop from 1.25 million to 1.2 million. The solar energy sector was hit the most with about 35 percent of jobs lost, which was a result of “a sharp decrease in overall investment as well as adverse policy conditions,” the report explained. Investment in renewable energy throughout the block grew by less than one percent last year despite favorable developments worldwide mostly led by China and the United States. Analysts comment that growing markets in Asia, Africa or South America simply have more potential to create jobs. According to the United Nations Environment Program, renewable energy investment globally rose by 17 percent to €290 billion marking the first funding increase for three years.
At the Riga summit yesterday (21 May) Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania signed a Joint Declaration backing the idea of building the Eastring gas pipeline, designed to link Central with Southeastern Europe. Eastring is a proposed pipeline, a version of which is 832 kilometres long, and runs across Slovakia, Hungary and Romania, while another version is 1274 kilometres long, and reaches Bulgaria. One of its advantages is that Eastring uses the existing infrastructure of Eustream on Slovak territory, which was completely renovated after the 2009 gas crisis. It is designed to transport gas in both directions, with a capacity of 20 billion cubic metres a year (bcm/y) at the first stage and 40 bcm/y at the final stage. Potential gas sources for forward flows are Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Iraq, Cyprus and Russia, while for the reverse flow, it is gas from Western European hubs. The optimistic target date for building the first stage of the pipeline is 2018.
South Africa Business News: South Africa wants six new nuclear plants
South Africa will start the process to procure a nuclear fleet to generate 9 600 MW of power this year, the energy minister said on Tuesday, as Africa’s most advanced economy battles an energy crunch. To meet its targeted nuclear generation capacity, South Africa plans to build six new nuclear power plants by 2030 at a cost estimated between R400 billion and R1 tril-lion. “We expect to present the outcome of this procurement process to cabinet by year-end,” Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson told Parliament. South Africa has signed nuclear power deals with various countries, including France, China, South Korea and the United States after surprising energy watchers in September when it announced a deal with Russia to build plants worth $10 billion. Joemat-Pettersson also said South Africa, which runs the continent’s only nuclear power station near Cape Town, would also re-establish its nuclear fuel cycle industry. This would include developing domestic uranium enrichment and conversion plants as well as nuclear fuel production sites in a country with vast uranium reserves.
Economic Times India: China’s nuclear power capacity to reach 58 million kw by 2020
China today said it will have 30 million kilowatts of nuclear power capacity by the end of this year and it will be increased to 58 million kilowatts by 2020 with an investment of $ 16.34 billion every year. Currently there are 23 nuclear power units operating in China, with a combined capacity of 21.4 million kilowatts. Twenty-nine units are being built or planned, Xu Yuming, deputy director of the China Nuclear Energy Association said. The government plans to increase China’s total nuclear power capacity to 58 million kilowatts by 2020, a rise of 170 per cent over the current level. It is expected that China’s electricity usage will double by 2030, Xu said.
Cleantechnica: China’s coal use continues precipitous fall
New figures show that China’s use of coal has continued to fall dramatically over the first four months of 2014, according to Greenpeace Energydesk. In fact, following news in October of 2014 that showed coal use had fallen for the first time this century, these most recent figures suggest that the decline in China’s coal use is actually accelerating. According to Energydesk, coal consumption in China fell by almost 8%, and CO2 emissions dropped by approximately 5% over the first four months of 2015, when compared to the first four months of 2014. Impressively, for China, their figures are roughly the same as the reductions seen in the UK — whereas the reduction in coal use is equal to four times UK total consumption, a strong reminder of the need for China to increase energy efficiency.
Wall Street Journal: Gloomy future for US coal gasification project
The future of the most expensive fossil-fuel power plant built in the U.S. is facing new pressures after a Mississippi utility backed out of its commitment to the clean-coal project. South Mississippi Electric Power Association, which furnishes power to smaller utilities in the state, dropped its plan to buy a $600 million, 15% stake in the project spearheaded by Atlanta-based Southern Co. , citing construction delays. Southern, in turn, notified state regulators that it may have to raise electricity rates for Mississippi power customers by 41%, or $37 a month for the typical household, to pay for the project. South Mississippi Electric Power’s move deals a significant blow to the project in Kemper County, Miss., which has been delayed two years and now has an in-service date of 2016. The plant was expected to provide a bright future for the coal industry, under attack for its pollution profile, but instead it has exposed the risks of pursuing novel clean-coal technology.
Burning coal is both a proven way to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and the most dangerous fuel driving global warming. The United Nations has set itself the goal of reconciling these two things, and the results are shaky at best. Despite aggressive investments in solar-powered electricity almost everywhere, erasing energy poverty also means more coal for developing countries, and India is the developing world’s most ardent defender of its use. India thinks of coal primarily as a poverty-fighting tool. It’s the most vocal and influential champion of the fuel these days now that China’s industrial hangover has begun. The Indian government understands the climate problem. Like China, it believes that the West has had a century or two to enjoy fossil fuels, and that developed nations should wind down the fires while India catches up. India has taken a harder line than China on commitments it is willing to make in the UN climate talks.
Ejinsight: Saudis to phase out fossil fuels?
Saudi Arabia may stop producing fossil fuels by the middle of the century and go into solar and wind energy. The stunning revelation by the world’s biggest oil exporter was made by oil minister Ali al-Naimi, whose comments on oil supply routinely move global markets, the Financial Times reported Friday. “In Saudi Arabia, we recognise that eventually, one of these days, we are not going to need fossil fuels. I don’t know when, in 2040, 2050 or thereafter,” al-Nami told a climate conference in Paris. He said Saudi Arabia is planning to become a “global power in solar and wind energy” and could start exporting electricity instead of fossil fuels in coming years.
Standard Daily: Large Hadron Collider sets new energy record
Large Hadron Collider or LHC has set the new energy record of 13 trillion electron volts through proton collision.of 13 trillion electron volts through proton collision. The news about world’s largest particle collider was shared by European Organization of Nuclear Research (CERN). They said “Protons collided in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the record-breaking energy of 13 TeV (tera electron volts) for the first time”. LHC set its previous record of 8 TeV back in 2012. In this test, the protons were sent to collide with each other while having their energies at 13 TeV. This was two times the power of original LHC and was enough for “powering all of New York City (just) by throwing two feathers together.”
Daily News & Analysis India: Antarctica region once thought stable suddenly ‘thawing fast’
Using measurements of the elevation of the Antarctic ice sheet made by a suite of satellites, the team from the University of Bristol, UK found that the Southern Antarctic Peninsula showed no signs of change up to 2009. Around 2009, multiple glaciers along a vast coastal expanse, measuring some 750km in length, suddenly started to shed ice into the ocean at a nearly constant rate of 60 cubic km, or about 55 trillion litres of water, each year. Team leader Bert Wouters said that to date, the glaciers added roughly 300 cubic km of water to the ocean, which is the equivalent of the volume of nearly 350,000 Empire State Buildings combined. By analysing roughly 5 years of the data, the researchers found that the ice surface of some of the glaciers is currently going down by as much as 4m each year.
Researchers from the University of Bristol (UOB) announced Thursday that glaciers in the Antarctic peninsula are starting to thaw much faster than expected, dumping millions of gallons of freshwater into the oceans, which they blame on global warming. But according to an expert in the field of polar observations, those conclusions appear to be “greatly overestimated.” Dr. Andrew Shepherd, an IPCC author who works at the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling, said the UOB study used calculations that appeared to have overlooked shifts in snowfall, noting that the “new estimates of ice loss computed (from the thinning of the ice) are far too high, because the glaciers in this sector just haven’t speeded up that much.” Dr. Shepherd … was a contributing author of the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and he is currently investigating the stability of the Larsen B Ice Shelf in Antarctica.
Los Angeles Times: Cold kills more people than heat
Extreme heat waves like the one that killed more than 70,000 Europeans in 2003 may be the most visible examples of deadly weather, but cold days actually cause more deaths than hot ones, a new study says. After examining more than 74 million deaths that occurred in 13 countries from 1985 to 2012, researchers calculated that 7.3% of them could be attributed to cold weather and 0.4% to hot weather. “(T)he findings should prompt public health officials and other policymakers to rethink their approach to weather events”, the study authors wrote. “Public health plans have implemented policies and interventions designed almost exclusively for heatwave periods. Our results suggest that public-health policies and adaptation measures should be extended and refocused to take account of the whole range of effects associated with temperature.”
Brookings Institute: Now climate change threatens football
Heat waves, changing rain patterns, floods, and drought are deteriorating football pitches, stadiums, and facilities around the world. Continued global warming is and will have direct impacts on all sports and will not be limited to football only. From amateur to professional sports, athletes, spectators, officials, and volunteers are feeling the effects of unpredictable weather patterns and the very real consequences of climate change. Heat directly affects football performance and the welfare of all involved. Drought and changing rainfall patterns affect playing surfaces and increase costs. These range from increased water and energy use to higher insurance premiums needed to cover the increased incidence of risk and injury on harder ground. Extreme rainfall threatens short-term ground washouts, and more extensive damage to playing surfaces which also impacts maintenance and insurance costs.