Energy in the News: Friday, July 7

Friday, July 07, 2017

Business has much more to do if it wants to be a climate leader

The Globe and Mail, feat. Joe Arvai

If there’s one group that’s basking in the long shadow cast by Donald Trump’s ill-fated decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord, it’s business. In story after story, reporters and pundits are hailing businesses – large and small – as the would-be saviours of much needed progress in the efforts to curb the risks associated with climate change.

Shortly after Mr. Trump announced his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, a host of multinational companies – Apple, Disney, General Electric, Tesla, Mars, among others – moved to cement their positions on the reality of climate change by committing to the Paris accord with or without support for the deal from the White House.

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If we stopped emitting greenhouse gases right now, would we stop climate change?

The Conversation, feat. Richard Rood

Earth’s climate is changing rapidly. We know this from billions of observations, documented in thousands of journal papers and texts and summarized every few years by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The primary cause of that change is the release of carbon dioxide from burning coal, oil and natural gas.

One of the goals of the international Paris Agreement on climate change is to limit the increase of the global surface average air temperature to 2 degrees Celsius, compared to preindustrial times. There is a further commitment to strive to limit the increase to 1.5℃.

Earth has already, essentially, reached the 1℃ threshold. Despite the avoidance of millions of tons of carbon dioxide emissions through use of renewable energy, increased efficiency and conservation efforts, the rate of increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere remains high.

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Study: Solar roof customers benefit the grid

Michigan Radio

Solar roof customers are more than paying their share of maintaining the electric grid, according to a new study commissioned for the Institute for Energy Innovation (IEI).

Michigan's new energy law charges the Michigan Public Service Commission with devising a new rate to compensate people with solar roofs when their extra electricity goes onto the grid.

Right now, these customers get an equal credit from the utility. That credit includes the charge for maintaining the utilities' infrastructure like poles and lines. Utilities say the full credit means these customers are not paying their share of electricity infrastructure.   

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McKinsey: Cheaper batteries present imminent threat of load defection for utilities

Utility Dive

Energy storage prices are falling faster than anyone expected, with battery costs down to less than $230/kWh in 2016 from almost $1,000/kWh in 2010, McKinsey noted.

The cost declines are being driven by a growing market for consumer electronics and demand for electric vehicles. In addition, companies in Asia, Europe, and the United States are building large factories to scale up for expected demand for lithium-ion batteries.

As battery cost declines bring energy storage to new markets, utilities will be faced with “a significant challenge” flat or declining customer demand, the study argues. In particular, it warns that cheaper storage is making partial grid defection possible for solar rooftop customers in jurisdictions where net metering provisions have been rescinded or weakened.

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Mass. adopts target for energy storage technologies

E&E GreenWire

Massachusetts regulators have asked utilities to deploy storage technologies capable of dispatching 200 megawatt-hours of electricity by 2020, adding to the list of states looking to deploy batteries and other technologies to better manage power delivery and consumption.

The storage policy, rolled out Friday by the commonwealth's Department of Energy Resources, has been nearly a year under development and is a core component of the 2016 Energy Diversity Act, a landmark law aimed at transforming Massachusetts' electricity markets toward cleaner fuels and more advanced delivery systems.

"As the Commonwealth continues to make unparalleled investments in renewable energy, energy storage technologies have the potential to play an integral role in effectively deploying these new resources," Gov. Charlie Baker (R) said in a statement announcing the policy.

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Hamburg is ready to fill up with hydrogen. Customers aren’t so sure.

The New York Times

With its sleek architecture, the gas station in this city’s famous warehouse district hints at the future of fueling.

A small laboratory with tubes and tanks, turbocharged with electricity, stands in place of the usual cash registers and snacks. Two stark white pumps are ready to dispense hydrogen, a clean fuel without the climate-harming emissions of gasoline or diesel.

All the place lacks is customers. On a recent spring day, the only people using the pumps were employees, learning to fill the company car.

A Swedish energy company, Vattenfall, built the station at a cost of 6 million euros in 2012, anticipating growing numbers of hydrogen-powered cars, and especially buses, that would guzzle large volumes of the fuel. But hydrogen is still stuck in the prototype stage, struggling with high costs, competition from electric vehicles, and worries, perhaps exaggerated, about the risks.

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Geely's Volvo to go all electric with new models from 2019


All Volvo car models launched after 2019 will be electric or hybrids, the Chinese-owned company said on Wednesday, making it the first major traditional automaker to set a date for phasing out vehicles powered solely by the internal combustion engine.

The Sweden-based company will continue to produce pure combustion-engine Volvos from models launched before that date, but its move signals the eventual end of nearly a century of Volvos powered solely that way.

While electric and hybrid vehicles are still only a small fraction of new cars sales, they are gaining ground at the premium end of the market, where Volvo operates and where Elon Musk's Tesla Motors has been a pure-play battery carmaker from day one. As technology improves and prices fall, many in the industry expect mass-market adoption to follow.

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NASA is going nuclear for Mars

Houston Press

NASA is moving forward with plans to land on Mars by the 2030s, so the agency is also working out how to keep people alive once they actually get there. And thus, for the first time since the 1960s, NASA is zeroing in on nuclear fission.

One idea that is gaining some traction is a set of small nuclear reactors to provide power on the red planet. NASA is preparing to test out the idea. In September, NASA researchers are slated to head out to the Nevada desert, where they will start testing a technology that may lead to astronauts landing on Mars equipped with their own small nuclear reactors someday.

The project, Kilopower, has been in development since 2014, and will see the building of small nuclear fission reactors. The plan is that uranium atoms will be split in these relatively tiny reactors, giving off extreme heat that can then be converted into electricity. The first run will be at the Nevada National Security Site near Las Vegas. Testing is due to start in September and end in January 2018.

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