Twenty UK universities including Newcastle University and the University of Exeter will form a club to buy electricity from number of wind farms across Scotland and Wales.
Known as a “power purchase agreement” or PPA, it is the first time that public sector energy users have come together to buy clean electricity, according to The Guardian.
James Rolfe, the chief operating officer at Anglia Ruskin University, which is part of the deal, said the university has joined others in declaring a climate emergency.
“We aim to source all of our electricity from zero carbon sources by 2025, and this power purchase agreement makes a significant contribution towards this goal whilst delivering financial savings and budget stability,” he said.
The universities will be guaranteed clean energy by the windfarm owner, Norwegian energy giant Statkraft.
The PPA was arranged by the not-for-profit buying organisation, The Energy Consortium, and supply platform Squeaky Clean Energy.
The deal allows the universities to purchase renewable power for the next ten years at a fixed price, thus minimising the exposure to market volatility.
James Rolfe, the chief operating officer at Anglia Ruskin University, which is part of the deal, said the university has joined others in declaring a climate emergency. It plans to be climate neutral by 2030.
“To support this commitment we aim to source all of our electricity from zero carbon sources by 2025, and this power purchase agreement makes a significant contribution towards this goal whilst delivering financial savings and budget stability,” he said.
Richard Murphy, the managing director of The Energy Consortium, said the “groundbreaking” deal would help universities reduce their carbon emissions and save money.
In 2008 Mr Murphy helped arrange one of the first major corporate energy deals in Europe supplying supermarket, Sainsbury’s, with renewable energy.
Europeans can massively expand low-cost solar generation just by tapping the space over their heads.
That’s the conclusion of researchers who used satellite imagery, electricity prices and lending data to assess the untapped energy potential of Europe’s buildings. Rooftop area three times the size Luxembourg is available and could economically supply almost a quarter of the bloc’s power, according to a paper published in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews.
“Policies at country and regional level to exploit this potential can bring benefits for employment in the manufacturing, installation and operational sectors” while mobilizing people toward “achieving the EU’s transition to a low-carbon energy system,” wrote researchers led by Katalin Bodis of the European Commission’s Joint Research Center.
The overwhelming majority of Europeans support shifting to clean energy to halt climate change, but governments have struggled to find solutions. Germany, the bloc’s economic engine, expects to miss pledges it made to cut emissions despite record investments in solar and wind power.
Sluggish investment in upgrading power grids has created bottlenecks between regions that have deployed intermittent renewables and those that still rely on polluting fossil-fuel plants that run all the time.
The new research suggests that looking more closely at rooftop solar resources could help policy makers to plan more effectively, especially as an expected wave of electric vehicles enters the market and raises power demand.
“Rooftop systems can cover such an increased demand and if designed to produce electricity mainly for local consumption, side-effects such as grid congestion and dispatch cost will be avoided,” the researchers wrote.
There are about 7,935 square kilometers (3,064 square miles) of rooftops available in the bloc that could produce some 680,276 gigawatt-hours of electricity a year. The plunging cost of solar power, which has hit cost parity with traditional generation in many parts of the world, means electricity from rooftop panels could be economically priced, according to the report.
“The report could encourage governments to view support for rooftop solar as an easy political win, avoiding any tradeoffs between energy and land use and probably being popular with roof owners,” wrote BloombergNEF solar analyst Jenny Chase.
Until now, building owners have been wary of the high up-front capital costs of solar panels compared with the longer-term power returns measured over 25 years, she said.
Cyprus, Portugal, Malta, Greece and Italy have the highest solar potential, closely followed by France, Spain and Germany, according to the paper. Countries in eastern Europe lag because of barriers to installing solar on rooftops.
Auckland’s electricity and water utility companies have announced a project to build New Zealand’s largest solar array in the heart of Auckland’s North Shore, by floating it on top of the Rosedale wastewater treatment pond near the Northern Motorway.
Electricity and water providers Vector Group and Watercare will collaborate to deploy the array. It will be used to supplement electricity from the grid, as well as cogeneration from biogas, which is already generated on-site from wastewater treatment.
The electricity is used for pumping and aeration for natural bacteria that help break down the waste as part of the treatment process.
Watercare has an ambitious program to reduce its energy use by 8 GWh by 2022 and to achieve energy self-sufficiency at its Mangere and Rosedale wastewater treatment plants by 2025. Solar installations such as this one will help Watercare achieve its targets.
Vector Group CEO Simon Mackenzie and Watercare chief executive Raveen Jaduram said the system, delivered by Vector PowerSmart, would mark a number of firsts for New Zealand.
“It’s the first time floating solar will be seen in New Zealand and the first megawatt-scale solar project to be confirmed,” said Mackenzie. “It can generate enough power over a year to run the equivalent of 200 average New Zealand homes for a year,” he added.
Watercare chief executive Raveen Jaduram said, “The project is a fantastic example of how utilities can work together for the benefit of their communities”.
“As a large user of energy, it’s important that we look at ways of reducing our environmental footprint and becoming more self-sufficient. Innovative solutions like this on top of wastewater ponds are a smart way to reduce operational costs”.
thyssenkrupp has set some ambitious greenhouse gas emission goals as it looks to fall in line with the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
The group aims to cut 30% of its emissions from production and outsourced energy by 2030, and become “climate neutral” by 2050, it said.
thyssenkrupp CEO, Guido Kerkhoff, said: “The threats posed by climate change affect us all. As an industrial company with operations around the globe, we are in a particularly good position to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through sustainable products and processes. We take this responsibility very seriously and have received several awards for this in recent years. Now, we are setting ourselves clear targets for 2030 and 2050 as the next logical step.”
In February, thyssenkrupp was named as a global leader in climate protection for the third year in a row by the non-governmental organisation, CDP, which assesses whether companies have formulated a coherent strategy on how to further improve their own environmental performance as well as that of customers and suppliers. The company, once again, achieved the highest score possible and was placed on CDP’s global ‘A List’, it said.
The targets now announced take in thyssenkrupp’s own production operations, the energy it purchases and its products. In steel production, for example, thyssenkrupp is currently pursuing two approaches to reducing CO2 emissions: The Carbon2Chem project, which is expected to be available on an industrial scale before 2030, and the so-called hydrogen route, which should take full effect by 2050 and make the biggest contribution to directly avoiding CO2. Carbon2Chem converts steel mill emission gases, including the CO2 they contain, into valuable chemicals.
thyssenkrupp’s hydrogen route, meanwhile, involves replacing coal with ‘green’ hydrogen as the reducing agent for blast furnaces so that, in the long term, no CO2 is created in the production of steel. These technologies are being funded by the German federal government and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
The 86 year-old multinational has met its goal to have its production facilities powered entirely by renewable energy, three years ahead of schedule.
The company’s transition was originally expected to be reached by 2022, but it became possible to complete the transition sooner, thanks to the completion of a 258MW offshore wind farm in the Irish Sea.
What’s more – one of the gigantic turbines has been made out of 146,000 authentic Lego pieces, which is a new Guinness World Record.
Overall, the Irish Sea represents the largest offshore wind facility in the world, producing 659 MW, enough to power up to 590 local homes.
In addition, the company owns 31 percent of the Borkum Riggrund 1 wind power plant in Germany and a share in the Burbo Bank power station located in Liverpool Bay.
Like any other city, Atlanta is woven with power lines, trams and buses. The electricity that makes Atlanta run comes mostly from coal, natural gas and nuclear energy. Only 6% to 8% comes from renewable sources.
“Obviously, going from that number to 100% by 2035 is a bold goal,” said Amol Naik, Atlanta’s chief resilience officer.
He says the green energy plan, approved by the Atlanta City Council in March – which aims to get to 100% green in 16 years – is “ambitious and achievable”. But, he admits, there’s no easy path to get there.
“There’s no five-run home run or four-point shot in basketball. This is something that needs to happen in an incremental way over a number of years,” Mr Naik said. “It’s a lot of folks sitting around a table figuring out the best way forward.”
More than 100 cities have recently pledged to run on 100% renewable energy, signing onto the Sierra Club’s “Ready For 100” campaign.
But turning commitment into action is where the even harder work begins, and Atlanta might be the ultimate test case. Former US Vice-President Al Gore has said that if Atlanta can get to 100% green energy, anybody can.
So, how exactly will the folks in Atlanta increase the city’s green energy supply from 8% to 100% by 2035? They’re going to start by trying to use less energy.
“There’s an awful lot of low-hanging fruit left,” said Matt Cox, CEO of the Greenlink Group, who helped craft Atlanta’s new plan.
Mr Cox says you start with the basics: insulating old homes and installing energy-efficient lights and better cooling and heating systems.
“We identified an opportunity to reduce the consumption in the city 25% to 30%, just through the energy-efficiency side alone.”
And Mr Cox says studies found there’s another benefit to investing in efficiency: “They were showing an internal rate of return of over 60%. That’s six-zero percent. That kind of a return on an investment is a tremendous opportunity that you don’t see hardly anywhere.
“You look at the stock market, you’re going to be happy to get 7% or 10% out of that.”
But efficiency is just a start. Atlanta’s plan also relies on putting up a lot more solar panels – on homes, commercial buildings and at utility scale solar farms. It banks on things like improved battery storage for solar energy as well as renewable-energy credits from outside the state to offset coal and gas power still coming from the local grid.
But there are also limits. If Atlanta were to paper itself with solar panels, that might meet only 25% of the city’s energy needs.
Atlanta’s green energy plan touts the creation of 8,000 new jobs in the industry if policymakers fully implement the plan. Backers say the plan could also help low-income families in other ways.
It may seem like green energy has stalled out in the United States with some politicians calling for renewed investment in coal, Federal subsidies for renewable energy dropping by half and conflicts with local residents nixing wind farms. But under the radar, wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and hydro power projects have continued apace, so much so that in the month of April green energy reached a milestone. For the first time renewable energy generated more electricity than coal-powered power plants in the U.S., a trend that is likely to continue off and on the next few years.
Nat Egan at CNN reports that recent analysis by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), a non-profit that supports the transition to clean energy, shows that in April, renewables were on track to surpass the roughly 2,000 to 2,200 thousand megawatt hours per day generated by coal. That’s likely to continue through May as well and should happen sporadically throughout the rest of 2019 and 2020.
“Five years ago this never would have been close to happening,” Dennis Wamsted, IEEFA report author tells Egan “The transition that’s going on in the electric sector in the United States has been phenomenal.”
The analysis, based on data collected by the Federal Energy Information Administration, doesn’t mean green energy is now dominant. Wamsted writes that the spring is usually the best time for renewable energy. Because the demand for energy from furnaces and air conditioners is low, many coal plants go temporarily offline for repairs and maintenance. Spring runoff also gives hydropower an annual boost. It will likely be years before renewables surpass coal on an annual basis.
Wamsted writes that the tipping point where green energy overtakes coal energy permanently may have already taken place in a surprising location: Texas. Wamsted writes that wind and solar in the state topped the production of coal for the entire first quarter of 2019. Almost three hundred renewable energy projects slated for Texas in the near future should boost its numbers in the coming years.
Texas is not alone. Many other states are investing in renewables and Hawaii, California, New Mexico and other states have announced aggressive carbon-free energy plans, which will necessitate lots of new green energy projects. And there’s another big breakthrough that will make renewables even more competitive. Michael Grunwald at Politico reports that the advent of massive, cheap lithium-ion batteries that can store and release wind and solar-produce energy when needed is making green energy even attractive to energy companies. “This will be like the change from analog to digital, or landlines to cell phones,” Susan Kennedy, CEO of Advanced Microgrid Systems, a company that helps optimize power use says.
The recent stats show green energy is slowly but surely grabbing more of a share of electric generation. “Coal’s proponents may dismiss these monthly and quarterly ups and downs in generation share as unimportant, but we believe they are indicative of the fundamental disruption happening across the electric generation sector,” Wamsted writes. “As natural gas achieved earlier, renewable generation is catching up to coal, and faster than forecast.”
Despite the good news on renewables carbon emissions in the United States rose by 3.4 percent last year, reversing a downward trend. The largest contributor was the transportation sector, with airplanes, semi-trucks and cars adding more carbon to the atmosphere than power plants.
The Indian government has forecast that it will exceed the renewable energy targets set in Paris last year by nearly half and three years ahead of schedule.
A draft 10-year energy blueprint predicts that 57% of India’s total electricity capacity will come from non-fossil fuel sources by 2027. The Paris climate accord target was 40% by 2030.
The forecast reflects an increase in private sector investment in Indian renewable energy projects over the past year, according to analysts.
The draft national electricity plan also indicated that no new coal-fired power stations were likely to be required to meet Indian energy needs until at least 2027, raising further doubts over the viability of Indian mining investments overseas, such as the energy company Adani’s Carmichael mine in Queensland, the largest coalmine planned to be built in Australia.
India’s energy minister, Piyush Goyal, has been appealing to wealthier nations to provide capital to invest in renewable energy projects to help the country reach and exceed the targets agreed in Paris in November 2015.
Significant state investment has not been forthcoming, but Tim Buckley, a director at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said India had made up the shortfall with an influx of capital from the domestic and overseas private sectors.
Japan’s Softbank has committed to invest $20bn (£16.2bn) in the Indian solar energy sector, in conjunction with Taiwanese company Foxconn and Indian business group Bharti Enterprises.
Global wind and solar developers took 40 years to install their first trillion watts of power generation capacity, and the next trillion may be finished within the next five years.
That’s the conclusion of research by BloombergNEF, which estimated the industry reached the 1-terrawatt milestone. That’s almost as much generation capacity as the entire U.S. power fleet, although renewables work less often than traditional coal and nuclear plants and therefore yield less electricity over time.
The findings illustrate the scale of the green energy boom, which has drawn $2.3 trillion of investment to deploy wind and solar farms at the scale operating today. BloombergNEF estimates that the falling costs of those technologies mean the next terrawatt of capacity will cost about half as much – $1.23 trillion – and arrive sometime in 2023.