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Facebook to capture and donate wasted heat from Danish data centre

The installation of a “hyperscale” district heating system at Facebook’s data centre in Odense, Denmark, has been completed, setting the firm up to donate 100,000MWh of energy annually.

The data centre is co-located with a wind farm. Image: Facebook Tech

The data centre is co-located with a wind farm. Image: Facebook Tech

Facebook’s energy specialist Lauren Edelman confirmed the milestone in a blog on Tuesday night (7 July), stating that the district heating system will benefit 6,900 homes across the region.

The technology captures low-temperature heat generated by the thousands of servers at the data centre. Rather than using air-based capture, the system directs warm air across copper coils filled with water. The water is then routed to a heat pump facility operated by local heating company Fjernvarme Fyn, ready for transfer to homes.

Facebook estimates that it will be able to donate 100,000MWh of heat, which would otherwise have been wasted, to local communities through the system. Up to 25W per hour of usable heat will be captured.

Other similar district heating projects, recycling waste heat from corporates, do exist in Denmark – but Facebook claims that its data centre has scaled the technology to a “level not yet reached” nationally or globally.

“Heat pumps are not new – they are a very big part of the Danish heating strategy to phase out coal and natural gas — and neither are coils to recover heat,” Edelman said. “It’s the pairing of these two at hyperscale that is innovative.”

Edelman claims that the sustainability mission of the Odense data centre began before it came online in September 2019.

The facility is co-located with a wind farm that generates more than twice the amount of electricity used by the data centre itself. Facebook helped fund the wind farm through a power purchase agreement (PPA), stating that it chose the Odense location for the “ability to connect to a highly reliable Nordic electric grid with opportunities to add new sources of renewable energy”.

Denmark is notably striving to phase-out coal-generated heat by 2030. Odense claims it can meet this target seven years ahead of schedule.

First sustainability report

The district heating system announcement comes in the same week that Facebook published its first sustainability report, revealing that it is on track to meet its core 2020 environment goals.

These are a commitment to reduce Facebook’s absolute greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 75% by the end of the year, against a 2017 baseline, and to procure 100% renewable energy.

As of 2019, Facebook’s absolute GHG emissions were 59% lower than in 2017 and it met 86% of its electricity consumption with renewable generation. The social media giant was named by Bloomberg NEF in 2019 as the US’s largest corporate renewable energy buyer, after signing an 18-deal package to boost its global clean energy portfolio by 40%.

Green campaigners have long been urging Facebook to publish a sustainability report and to implement measures to stop the spread of climate-related fake news on its platforms.

On the latter, Facebook has created a Climate Conversation Map – a digital tool providing academics, policymakers and NGOs with data and insights about how conversations on climate change are evolving at different times and in different geographies. It is also preparing to change its provisions around dishonest and abusive content in the wake of the Stop Hate For Profit campaign.

Sarah George

News

Wind Power

The Contracts for Difference (CfD) auctions could bring in 12,000 new jobs and over £20 billion of investment, according to RenewableUK. It found that UK-based companies working in the wind industry have announced contracts and investments in new projects worth over £4 billion since lockdown. This has created over 2,000 jobs at a time when economic activity in other sectors is shrinking, RenewableUK said. It went on to say that if the government took steps to ‘maximise’ the economic benefits of renewables and lifted capacity caps for the 2021 CfD auction, it could facilitate 11GW of new onshore and offshore wind. This would then translate into £20 billion of investment and 12,000 new jobs. This comes as a key recommendation issued as part of a new report offering advice to the government on a green COVID-19 recovery.

Current 7th July 2020 read more »

News

WBA: Less than 10% of electric utilities are taking Paris-Agreement-aligned climate action

Analysis of the decarbonisation ambitions and actions of 50 of the world’s largest electric utilities companies has revealed that less than one in ten have fully aligned their business models with the Paris Agreement, despite the fact that the sector must ‘enable’ the global low-carbon transition.

Of the collective electricity generation capacity if the cohort, 60% is attributable to fossil fuel assets. Image: WBA

Of the collective electricity generation capacity if the cohort, 60% is attributable to fossil fuel assets. Image: WBA

The analysis, conducted by the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA), assessed electric utilities from across the globe, with Europe, Eastern Asia and North America accounting for the majority of the cohort.

It found that just four firms – Orsted, Enel, EDP and The AES Corporation – have set climate targets which can be considered “fully” aligned with the Paris Agreement’s well-below 2C trajectory. Moreover, AES Corporation’s latest sustainability reporting revealed that it is currently not on track to meet its targets.

Of particular concern for the WBA is a trend towards continued fossil fuel dependency across the sector. Commitments around portfolio diversification and decarbonisation have emerged at a pace in recent years, the benchmark notes, with 84% of analysed firms investing in large-scale renewable generation projects. Yet 70% of the companies are set to exceed their carbon budgets by 2033 unless they cancel a proportion of their fossil fuel projects currently at the pipeline stage. Of the electricity generated by the cohort in 2018, just 12% came from renewable arrays, while 60% is attributable to fossil fuels.

The WBA attributes this issue to “a lack of ambition in terms of transition planning, milestone creation and accountability”. On the former, while 42 of the 50 firms have a transition plan of some sort, most have made insufficient action on implementation to date. Additionally, the WBA believes that most of the transition plans are not sufficiently ambitious, with many failing to look beyond the short-to-medium-term and just six including time-bound, numerical targets for phasing out fossil fuels.

Further key barriers to transition planning include a lack of dedicated funding (only 21 companies have released details of how they plan to invest to meet their targets); poor high-level engagement (just 18 have executive-level buy-in for decarbonisation plans); and disregard for climate risk analysis and reporting. On the latter, almost half (23) of the companies do not undertake any form of scenario analysis – an activity recommended by the Task Force on Climate-Related Disclosures (TCFD). Just one of the 27 which do – The AES Corporation – report the results in financial terms, making climate risk easily accessible to investors.

“Electric utilities are a make-or-break sector in the transition to low-carbon economies, and this research shows it’s currently off-track,” CDP’s global director of climate change Nikki Bartlett said.

“The good news is the tools, technologies and policies needed [for Paris Agreement alignment] all exist, but they are not being deployed quickly or strategically enough. Unless utilities companies quickly wean their business models off fossil fuels, they will not be able to thrive in the low-carbon economies of tomorrow.”

According to the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) latest progress report to Parliament, the emissions footprint of the UK’s electric utilities sector was 67% lower in 2019 than in 2008. However, the WBA’s benchmark does not cover any UK-headquartered firms.

Temperature check

The news from the WBA comes in the same week that CDP launched a new set of ratings gauging the temperature pathway of investment portfolios, funds and stock indices in order to outline future climate-related risks to investors.

The CDP temperature ratings dataset will offer insight on more than 4,000 global companies, based on the perceived climate risks of their emissions reduction strategies covering all three scopes across the value chain.

This will be welcome news, given that it is not only the electric utilities sector which is lagging on climate risk assessments and disclosures.; a recent survey of more than 500 UK businesses revealed that while three-quarters are concerned about climate-related risks, just one in ten consider measuring and disclosing their climate-related risks a priority. More broadly, a 2020 study from CDSB found that 78% of European corporates are failing to report climate-related risks to the degree expected by their key investors.

edie recently interviewed the WBA’s executive director Gerbrand Haverkamp, who provided insight on supply chain sustainability and climate leadership in the time of Covid-19. You can read that article in full here. 

Sarah George

News

Balancing Renewables

Two “world-leading” machines are to be installed at a power site in Moray in a £20million project to make using renewable energy in the electricity grid easier and cleaner. The “Rotating Stabilizer” equipment will provide stability of supply without producing harmful carbon emissions. It will remove the need for fossil fuel-powered generation to run at the same time to ensure the electricity system remains stable as increasing amounts of energy are supplied from renewable sources, such as wind and solar.

Energy Voice 7th July 2020 read more »

A giant flywheel in north-east Scotland could soon help to prevent blackouts across Britain by mimicking the effect of a power station but without using fossil fuels. The trailblazing project near Keith in Moray, thought to cost about £25m, will not generate electricity or produce carbon emissions – but it could help keep the lights on by stabilising the energy grid’s electrical frequency. The Norwegian energy company Statkraft hopes that from next winter the new flywheel, designed by a division of General Electric, will be able to mimic the spinning turbines of a traditional power station, which have helped to balance the grid’s frequency at about 50 hertz for decades.

Guardian 6th July 2020 read more »

News

MEPs set to navigate shipping into the EU’s carbon market

Members of the European Parliament’s environment committee (ENVI) will vote on Tuesday (7 July) on a package of measures intended to clean up the maritime sector and to include shipping in the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS).

Shipping accounts for about 2% of global greenhouse gases and is considered hard-to-abate

Shipping accounts for about 2% of global greenhouse gases and is considered hard-to-abate

According to a set of compromise amendments seen by EURACTIV, the main political groups – EPP, S&D, Renew and Greens – will all back the vote on a key policy report that urges the Commission and Council to agree to a carbon market extension.

ENVI is the most influential committee on climate policy and the result of the vote is likely to be mirrored by the full plenary sitting before inter-institutional talks start later in the year.

In 2018, ships emitted 3.7% of the EU’s total carbon dioxide emissions – some 138 million tonnes – and, as global trade is projected to increase, those numbers are only expected to grow. 

According to new data released last week, the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) is the bloc’s seventh-largest emitter, just ahead of low-cost airline Ryanair. The other spots on the top ten list are occupied by coal-fired power plants.

Shipping’s carbon footprint is regulated by the EU’s monitoring, reporting and verification regulation (MRV). It is currently in the process of being updated and MEPs want to give the rules extra clout in order to force maritime firms to reduce their emissions.

Lawmakers on the ENVI committee will vote later on Monday and Tuesday on a draft report penned by the German Greens’ Jutta Paulus, who wants to use the MRV review to speed up the sector’s voyage into the ETS.

An amendment to the Commission’s proposed update insists that “the scope of that Regulation should […] be extended to include binding requirements for companies to reduce their GHG emissions per transport work.”

It also adds that the new rules should “extend the EU ETS to cover the maritime transport sector”.

The report also insists that companies should reduce their average emissions by 40% every year by 2030 and that the Commission should impose “effective, proportionate, dissuasive” financial penalties in line with the ETS for any firms that miss their targets.

All ships at berth in EU ports would also have to ensure that they do not emit any carbon dioxide by 2030 while idle, opening the door for more dockside electric charging infrastructure that could power vessels.

However, the EPP and conservative ECR group are not fully on board with the idea of pricing maritime emissions immediately and will insist that the EU executive carry out an in-depth impact assessment first.

The other political groups maintain that an analysis carried out back in 2013 still holds water and that only a limited number of factors would have to be updated in order to get an accurate picture of the sector.

Some member states, including Greece and the Netherlands, will also reportedly push for the Commission to crunch all of the numbers again, which is likely to push back the timeframe significantly, given the human resources needed to complete the assessment.

The Commission is ostensibly in favour of extending the carbon market to shipping – it has been mentioned in its flagship Green Deal climate policy and included in its proposal for a virus recovery fund – as it could help fuel debt repayment efforts over the next few decades.

‘X’ marks the spot

Part of the reason for imposing an efficiency target and carbon pricing is to stimulate investment in cleaner ships and steer the sector towards more sustainable vessels.

The Paulus report suggests setting up an ‘Ocean Fund’ that would help shippers invest in new, clean technology. The common pot – fuelled by sales of ETS pollution permits – would be earmarked for forays into alternative fuels like ammonia and hydrogen, as well as setting up green ports.

Some harbours have started to offer reduced rates for ships that are powered by batteries and the draft report wants the EU executive to look into “demurrage tariffs based on emissions” that would likely punish dirtier vessels.

Funding new tech is likely to fit in nicely with the Commission’s own hydrogen strategy – due to be published on Wednesday (8 July) – which will reportedly aim to restrict deployment of the zero-emission fuel only to transport nodes that really need it.

Hydrogen’s application in shipping has long been mooted, given its superior energy density over electric battery power, and the possibility of converting it into ammonia, which would take up less space in cargo holds.

The EU has already dedicated funding to the idea of ammonia-powered ships. Its Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking recently awarded €10 million to a project that aims to debut a vessel in late 2023. 

Danish shipping giant Maersk has pledged to be carbon-neutral by 2050 and in late June unveiled plans to invest €53 million in a research centre tasked with making that target a reality.

Sam Morgan, EurActiv.com

This article first appeared on EurActiv.com, an edie content partner

News

Offshore Wind – Scotland

The recent announcement that Scotland’s seabed is being reopened for new wind farm projects for the first time in a decade makes it clear that Scotland is perfectly poised to continue leading the way in the renewable energy revolution. The launch of the new round of bidding for ‘ScotWind’ offshore wind leasing should lead to multi-billion pound investments in Scotland’s green energy sector. The ScotWind projects will significantly increase the amount of power generated from offshore renewables and it is hoped that all of the new projects will be operational by 2030. After a number of years of slow progress, Scotland has seen significant movement in offshore wind projects in the last 12 to 18 months, with the Beatrice project becoming fully operational in June 2019. In addition, Moray East and Neart Na Gaoithe started construction last year, and there was very recent news regarding the Seagreen 1 project reaching FID (Final Investment Decision) and the acquisition of a stake in the project by Total.

Scotsman 6th July 2020 read more »

News

Nuclear Policy

A high-stakes game of chance is being played at Hunterston B nuclear power station on the west coast of Scotland. Engineers from the French giant EDF and safety experts from the Office for Nuclear Regulation are trying to work out if and when the plant’s two reactors can be restarted. Forty-four years of hard use have not been kind to the plant’s graphite core — a vast chunk of carbon riddled with cracks that weighs the same as 110 double-decker buses. While the regulator and EDF insist that, with careful supervision, a cracked graphite core is nothing to worry about, it is a symptom of its advancing years. Hunterston, like the rest of EDF’s nuclear power stations around the UK, is on borrowed time. Seven nuclear stations capable of supplying about a sixth of the UK’s power needs will shut during the next decade. Unless ministers leap into action, the country that opened the first industrial-scale nuclear power station in 1956 at Calder Hall, Cumbria, will be left with just one replacement plant, Hinkley Point C on the Somerset coast, which is under construction. The government faces difficult decisions: what next in its race to eliminate carbon emissions by 2050? A boom in renewable power has offered the beguiling prospect that wind and solar, combined with storage such as big batteries and hydrogen, could fill the void. A report from the National Infrastructure Commission has suggested that commercially unproven technologies, such as hydrogen generation, could negate the need for more nuclear power and be “substantially cheaper”. With half an eye on this utopian future, successive governments have tried to persuade European power giants such as Germany’s RWE and Eon, and Japan’s Toshiba and Hitachi, to pump cash into new reactors. However, one by one, those companies have dropped out, leaving just a handful of options remaining. EDF and China General Nuclear (CGN) — both backed by their governments — are building the £22bn Hinkley plant. Without a state support package, EDF will struggle to build the planned Sizewell C in Suffolk. That would leave CGN as the only developer capable of going it alone without UK taxpayer support. Fiona Reilly, a non-executive director at the Nuclear Industry Association, said: “The total system costs need to be considered when looking at the price of electricity. A ‘point in time’ strike price does not provide that.” She said offshore wind turbines will need to be located in deeper waters as shallow sites fill up, meaning costlier floating platforms. Nor are batteries likely to prove the answer. The largest lithium-ion battery on the planet, Elon Musk’s 100MW beast in Australia, can power Adelaide, a city of 1.3 million people — but only for minutes. There are signs that ministers may finally be about to act. The prime minister’s adviser Dominic Cummings is thought to be a fan of small nuclear power stations, and Boris Johnson hinted about a role for nuclear last week. “You won’t get remotely close to big ‘net zero’ by 2050 without big nuclear power,” said a senior industry adviser. “We are at a crossroads. This is the last chance saloon.” Taxpayers are about to find out whether billions of pounds will be pumped into nuclear power. Yet the cost of doing nothing may prove to be even bigger.

Times 5th July 2020 read more »

News

Can Renewables Deliver?

The simple answer is yes. A key thing that has change is that renewables are now economically competitive with conventional energy sources in many locations. For example, Bloomberg New Energy Finance says that utility-scale solar farms and onshore wind farms now offer the cheapest source of electricity for about two-thirds of the world’s population. So Forbes depicts it as full speed ahead as markets back cheap renewables in a post-C19 restart, presumably aided by stimulus packages. The International Renewable Energy Agency’s post C-19 Transforming Energy Scenario sees renewables expanding tosupply 86% of electricity by 2050. Some scenarios from academia put the potential of renewables even higher- at up to 100% of all energy globally by 2050. In this new book, Dave Elliott argues that, with wind and solar power output growing ‘at an annual average of 20.8% and 50.2%, respectively, over the past decade renewables are doing well. Moreover, in some sectors power demand is actually falling. Indeed it’s fallen back to 1994 levels in the UK. And with new nuclear and Carbon Capture and Storage pretty much stalled, backing renewables (and further energy savings) is the best bet.

Polity 3rd July 2020 read more »

News

Heat Pumps vs Hydrogen

British Gas owner Centrica has called for a national heat pump installation drive over the next decade in order to meet the UK’s 2050 net zero target, arguing that a “proven technology [that is] available today” compares favourably with longer term and potentially costly plans to switch the gas network to green hydrogen. The energy giant yesterday set out its top priorities for delivering net zero emissions by 2050, offering the stark assessment that the UK is “not on course to meet our fourth carbon budget commitments to decarbonise homes and transport emissions”. As such it called for a raft of new green policy interventions that could help accelerate decarbonisation efforts and boost the economy as it seeks to recover from the coronavirus crisis. In a briefing note, Centrica called for the UK to set a goal to install one million heat pumps and hybrid electric-gas heat pumps by 2025, backed by a scrappage scheme for oil boilers, which it described as the “most polluting heating systems”. It also called for the Future Homes Standard – which is expected to ensure all new homes are fossil fuel free from 2025 – to be brought forward to next year, and argued that there should be an increase in support for green heating schemes and closer links between energy efficiency schemes and low carbon heating policies.

Business Green 2nd July 2020 read more »

News

China, Batteries & Hydrogen

Tom Tugendhat MP: A leaked draft of the EU’s forthcoming Hydrogen Strategy shows where the next energy competition is coming from. After Germany’s announcement last week of €9 billion investment in hydrogen technology, eyes are turning to the UK. This isn’t just a new technology, it’s a chance for the UK to achieve energy independence, or remain reliant for another generation. As Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, looks for investment ready projects to boost growth in coming months and transform our future, he should be looking north east. Along the North Sea coast UK cities are transforming our energy options and our ability to lead. Our dependence on oil is set to end. The G7 have targeted phasing out all fossil fuel use by 2100. In the UK, coal powered power stations will close by 2024, new gas heating installations will be banned from 2025, and petrol, diesel and even hybrid cars will be banned by 2035. As we decarbonise our economy, the decisions we take about our energy supply today will determine the next phase of our energy security. Nowhere is that risk more pronounced that the transport industry. Just as Churchill set the course towards oil, so today, the push towards battery-powered vehicles risks the UK becoming totally reliant on batteries, those that produce them, and, crucially, those that control the critical rare base metals needed to make them. Despite the world-leading contribution of UK companies, such as JLR, and the cutting-edge research they’re doing in this field, and the welcome prospect of a Gigafactory in Wales, at the heart of each battery electric vehicle are resources, components and technology sourced largely from China. China now controls 73 per cent and rising of the world’s lithium cell manufacturing capability, and just one Chinese company has control over nearly half the global production of lithium itself. We are fast facing a situation where Beijing’s market share over a component that makes up roughly half the price of every vehicle is so dominant we’re dependent on a country which as today’s change in Hong Kong shows, is not interested in free societies or markets. Berlin’s Gigafactory shows Tesla is boosting battery production on the continent but has a long way to go if it will catch up. Projects like H21 led by the Northern Gas Network are exploring how 3.7 million English homes, as well as businesses, can become emission-free by 2034 through conversion from natural gas to 100 per cent hydrogen. Other pilot projects include the British rolling stock company Porterbrook’s Hydroflex train – the UK’s first hydrogen-powered train, developed in partnership with the University of Birmingham. Ballymena-based Wrightbus is building emission-free hydrogen buses, with a proposition to bring thousands of hydrogen buses to our roads over the next five years.

Times 2nd July 2020 read more »

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