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Energy Storage

A low-cost, high-performance battery chemistry developed by University of Colorado Boulder researchers could one day lead to scalable grid-level storage for wind and solar energy, which in turn could help electrical utilities reduce their dependency on fossil fuels.

Engineering & Technology 26th July 2019 read more »

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Renewables – wind

Two Lancaster University students, Nicolas Orellana and Yaseen Noorani, won the James Dyson Award last year for a radical new design called the O-Wind Turbine. It uses a 25cm spinning sphere sitting on a fixed axis and works with the wind blowing in any direction, making it particularly suitable for urban areas. Another even more unconventional potential solution is the Autonomous Tethered Aerostat an airborne wind turbine developed by the Boston-based company Altaeros Energies. This tethered blimp-like device looks like a giant tyre and floats in the air at a height of more than 100 metres. It provides a very different visual alternative to the traditional design, but its main benefit is that can harness the stronger winds found at altitude, also reducing ground noise and speeding up the investment payback period. Another advantage of the helium-filled AWT, which is assembled from the same material used for advanced racing sailing yachts, is that it is more visible to birds than the current horizontal axis turbines, which have been accused of being damaging to wildlife. Other possibilities for the future include vertical axis turbines – originally conceived as a sail design by the ancient Persians – and bladeless inventions using spinning discs.

Herald 25th July 2019 read more »

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Drax halves carbon emissions

Power giant Drax has cut its absolute carbon emissions for the first half of 2019 by 52%, compared to the same period last year.

Drax Power Station, near Selby, North Yorkshire, has converted three of its six units to burn wood pellets

Drax Power Station, near Selby, North Yorkshire, has converted three of its six units to burn wood pellets

The company posted the achievement as part of its half-year financial and environmental results on Wednesday (24 July). According to the results document, Drax’s emissions in the first half of 2019 were 128tCO2/GWh, compared to 265tCO2/GWh in the first half of 2018.

Drax attributes its decarbonisation progress to increasing its hydro, natural gas and biomass generation capacities while shrinking its fossil fuel portfolio.

The past six months have notably seen the firm co-locate its sawmill and new biomass plant in LaSalle, Louisiana, and begin trialling carbon capture and storage (CCS) on one of the four biomass units at its power station in Yorkshire.

The CCS array, which is being used in partnership with C-Capture, first began capturing carbon in February. Drax claims that it is the first of its kind anywhere around the globe and could eventually enable its Yorkshire site – a former coal-fired plant – to become the world’s first “negative emissions” power station.

A further key driver for decarbonisation, Drax claims, is its work in boosting power system flexibility and strengthening its operations in preparation for a low-carbon, decentralised and digitised electricity system. It recorded a 92% increase in value derived from flexibility during the first half of 2019, compared to the first half of 2018, after UK Power Networks launched its ‘flexibility first’ vision.

“Drax wholeheartedly supports the UK’s target of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by half in the past year underscores Drax’s commitment to this goal,” Drax Group’s chief executive Will Gardiner said.

“With the right investment and regulatory framework, we could go further and Drax could become the world’s first carbon-negative power station – something the UK Committee on Climate Change recognises will be crucial.”

The flipside

In spite of its decarbonisation efforts, Drax has faced several bouts of criticism over its environmental credentials in recent months.

Last year, environmental law firm ClientEarth took legal action against Drax’s plans to open a four-turbine gas generation facility at its Selby power plant in Yorkshire, claiming that the project breaches the Government’s planning and climate change policies. Drax denied that its plans would put the UK at risk of missing its Fifth Carbon Budget.

Drax has also been threatened with legal action over its use of biomass, with plaintiffs from six countries having filed a lawsuit with the European General Court in Luxembourg in February. The plaintiffs claimed that forest-grown wood shouldn’t be counted as a source of renewable energy under the EU’s 2018 Renewable Energy Directive (RED) II.

These actions have created an environment whereby hundreds of climate protesters are now poised to launch a string of demonstrations against Drax’s use of biomass and the expansion of its gas generation capacity. From Friday (26 July) to next Wednesday (31 July), members of activist network Reclaim the Power are due to occupy the Selby site.

Sarah George

News

Hinkley/EVs

CANNINGTON resident Roy Pumfrey purchased an electric vehicle, hoping to do his bit to save the planet but worries Somerset residents will be put off making the switch by the lack of charging facilities available in the county. “With the government and local authorities joining in declaring a climate emergency and encouraging us to do everything we can to be sustainable, they should be making it much easier to run an electric vehicle,” Mr Pumfrey says. He has a charging point in his home but says charging point in Somerset are so sparse that it makes travelling difficult.

Bridgwater Mercury 23rd July 2019 read more »

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Food giants capturing opportunities from meat-free products to drive sustainability efforts

Food manufacturers and retailers such as Tesco, Unilever and Nestlé are “seizing the opportunity” of a thriving plant-based market to assist with the low-carbon transition, with a new report noting that the alternative protein market is expected to be valued at $100bn in the next 15 years.

The market is expected to capture 10% of the global meat market and reach $100bn in value within 15 years. Image: Impossible Foods

The market is expected to capture 10% of the global meat market and reach $100bn in value within 15 years. Image: Impossible Foods

TheAppetite for Disruption report by the FAIRR investor network outlines how major companies are now turning to plant-based or alternative proteins in order to meet consumer demands, promote healthy diets and embrace a low-carbon future.

The report, which ranked 25 major retailers and manufacturers, found that 87% of retailers had ramped up their own-brand plant-based products over the last 12 months. The report gave Unilever, Tesco, Nestle, M&S and Conagra the highest “proactive” ranking, noting that the firms had developed a strategy to build a sustainable protein portfolio that recognises that animal-based ingredients are becoming a “material risk”.

The report adds that the alternative protein market, currently valued at $19.5bn, can increase long-term supply chain security, with livestock emissions currently accounting for 14.5% of global emissions. The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) estimates that the livestock sector is the largest user of freshwater resources and accounts for 80% of all agricultural land.

FAIRR’s founder Jeremy Coller, and chief investment officer and Coller Capital, said: “From the factory floor to the supermarket shelf, the mounting environmental and social pressures to move away from a reliance on animal-derived proteins is reshaping the food industry. The growth of alternative proteins, from meatless meats to fishless fillets, offers a promising opportunity for food companies to meet the lucrative demand for protein with fewer impacts on land, water and biodiversity.

“For too long big food has been playing catch up to consumers and start-ups on alternative proteins, when they should be leading this transformation. This report shows that some food multinationals are seizing the moment by setting clear strategic goals to increase their alternative protein exposure, supported by relevant metrics that are tracked and reported.”

Meating expectations

The alternative protein sector caused waves as Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat products begin to be included by major brands such as Burger King.

The report noted that 64% of companies were now including terms like “plant-based” and “vegan” in their annual reporting and quarterly earnings calls. However, only Marks & Spencer, Conagra Brands, General Mills and Groupe Casino had undertaken some type of risk assessment on their protein supply chains to account for climate risks.

More broadly, zero companies have formal, publicly reported metrics in place to track and report on their protein exposure.

The report outlines that more consumer-facing products will come from low-carbon sources rather than meat and dairy. Nestlé, for example, has said that it expects its plant-based sales to reach $1bn in 10 years.

Large consumer goods firms are also prioritising vegan products and recyclable packaging over low-carbon innovation, research by CDP has concluded. CDP found that five of the seven food and drinks firms which originally offered meat or dairy products, including Nestle and PepsiCo, are now “actively innovating” to launch more vegan alternatives as consumer demands shift.

The market is expected to capture 10% of the global meat market and reach $100bn in value within 15 years.

In 2016, FAIRR’s shareholder engagement was supported by 36 investors managing $1.25trn of assets. But following a trend of high-profile market entries and demand from consumers, the case for protein diversification has now attracted 74 investors with combined assets of $5.3trn. These investors are now calling on firms to make protein diversification a material issue.

Matt Mace

News

Brexit

Today the Cabinet Office (not the Ministry of Defence or Foreign Office) published a Review of the National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 Paragraphs 1.20 to 1.23 deal with Security post-Brexit and the European Union.

David Lowry’s Blog 22nd July 2019 read more »

News

Nissan refuses government request on Qashqai emissions

Nissan’s decision to ignore a government request for emissions modifications to thousands of polluting cars has been branded a scandal by environmental campaigners.

From 1 September 2019, all new cars sold in the UK will have to meet “real driving emissions” standards that put stringent limits on the amount of nitrogen oxides that can be emitted

From 1 September 2019, all new cars sold in the UK will have to meet “real driving emissions” standards that put stringent limits on the amount of nitrogen oxides that can be emitted

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) discovered that the Sunderland-made diesel Qashqai model emits 17 times more nitrogen oxides (NOx) than EU limits allow.

It asked Nissan to retrofit the vehicles to reduce their emissions, as some other manufacturers have, but Nissan told the DVSA it was “not possible to do a recalibration for existing customers” because it wants “to focus energy and resources on the new models”.

“We find Nissan’s approach on addressing these extremely high-emitting vehicles unacceptable,” said a DVSA statement, pointing out that Renault, which uses a similar engine to the one used in the Qashqai, would be offering engine modifications to customers.

Similarly, Vauxhall is to make free adjustments to all of the diesel Astras it has sold across the EU, including almost 14,000 sold in the UK.

“Diesel car manufacturers have never been held to account for contributing to the illegal and harmful levels of air pollution in the UK,” said Andrea Lee, part of the clean air team at campaign group ClientEarth.

“Even new diesel cars are still not as clean as manufacturers would have us believe.”

The DVSA created its market surveillance unit in 2016 following the revelations that the Volkswagen Group had deliberately cheated on emissions tests.

From 1 September 2019, all new cars sold in the UK will have to meet “real driving emissions” standards that put stringent limits on the amount of nitrogen oxides that can be emitted. Using the new standard, the DVSA tested nine diesel cars and found that older models of the Qashqai breached the limits.

This “significant exceedance” meant the Qashqai was “not sufficiently well designed to control NOx in real world conditions”, said the DVSA. The agency, which is a branch of the Department for Transport, has prosecution powers which mean it can force manufacturers to issue recall notices. However, it has not done so in this case.

“We remain concerned by the poor real-world emissions control of a number of the vehicles we tested this year,” said the DVSA.

“Their emissions are high and are directly contributing to the air quality problems we face and the resulting health impacts.”

Rosalind Readhead, an independent candidate for London mayor in 2020, said Nissan ought to “immediately remove” the older Qashqais to “protect the health of children and vulnerable adults.”

“This is a consumer scandal that is costing people’s health and cannot be justified,” agreed ClientEarth’s Lee. “Refusing to retrofit over polluting vehicles does not take into account the health of people who are suffering today.”

“All Nissan vehicles fully comply with today’s emissions legislation,” Nissan said in a statement.

Nissan has made more than 3m Qashqais at its Washington plant in the north-east of England over the past 10 years.

Carlton Reid

This article first appeared on the Guardian

edie is part of the Guardian Environment Network 

News

Natural Power advises Blackfinch Investments on subsidy-free solar farm acquisition

Leading renewable energy consultancy and service provider, Natural Power, has acted as technical advisor to Blackfinch Investments for the acquisition of a new subsidy-free solar farm project in North Wales. The site, which is located on the Llyn Peninsula, is in advanced stage of development and already has planning consent, a grid connection offer and the option for lease in place to install a 6MW solar farm. It was acquired from Wiltshire based developer Luminous… Source: RealWire

News

Energy Efficiency

We are seeking views on market barriers to energy efficiency in the UK, and how we can create new markets for energy efficiency, securing its role in the wider energy market, contributing to flexibility and becoming a reliable alternative to increased generation and network reinforcement. We recommend reviewing the Electricity Demand Reduction pilot final evaluation and Deemed Metering reports which are published alongside this Call for Evidence. We are keen to hear from energy companies, network operators, technology suppliers, large businesses, SMEs, financial institutions, Energy Service Companies (ESCOs), Local Enterprise Partnerships, Non-Governmental Organisations, academics and anyone else with an interest in this area.

BEIS 22nd July 2019 read more »

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Climate Emergency

Britain’s first climate assembly has agreed on 17 proposals for action to tackle the climate crisis, including installing solar panels on all available roofs and cutting fossil fuels out of local government developments. The assembly, convened by Camden council in north London, brought together more than 50 residents and a team of climate experts to develop proposals that could be taken up by the council to reduce carbon emissions and increase sustainability. The proposals focused on housing, transport and green space, and included a community energy scheme to remove fossil fuels from home heating, widespread cycle lanes and car-free zones, and programmes to ensure that all new homes in Camden are built carbon-neutral.

Guardian 21st July 2019 read more »

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