Finland is banning coal by 2030 and aims for carbon-neutral by 2050


Click to enlargeReuters/Vesa Moilanen/Lehtikuva

❝ Finland, which gets about 10% of its energy from coal, said this week that it will stop using the fuel by 2030.

The Finnish ministry of economic affairs and employment let slip the news when it released its climate and energy strategy…Plenty of other countries, including the UK and France, are slowly phasing out coal. But Finland’s commitment is more concrete. Canada too announced last week that it would phase out coal by 2030.

❝ Finland’s long-term goal is to become carbon neutral and — perhaps by 2050 — rely entirely on renewable energy, the strategy document said. In the nearer term, by 2030, as well as cutting out coal, it aims to increase the share of renewable energy in its mix by 50%.

Not that 50% is a big increase. Renewables like wind and hydropower are only a tiny fraction of Finland’s current energy mix, in contrast to its Nordic neighbors: Norway runs on 100% renewable power thanks to its geothermal and hydro resources, while Denmark and Sweden have both built a lot of wind infrastructure in recent years…

❝ The strategy said that new investment should not be made in coal, either to build new plants or refurbish old ones. The document will go to parliament on Nov. 30.

It’s even easier for me to be enthusiastic, now, about nations outside the GOUSA working creatively towards a healthier environment. Americans seem hellbent to stay on the downbound train.

Here’s why Trump can’t save jobs in the coal industry?


Completed in 1974, Monroe Power Plant will be the last one standing in 2030

❝ All year, Donald Trump has been promising to rescue the US coal industry by repealing various Obama-era pollution rules and ending the “war on coal.” And all year, analysts have pointed out that he probably can’t stop the collapse of the coal industry — since coal’s woes go far beyond the Environmental Protection Agency.

But if you want a perfect example of why Trump will struggle to bring back coal, just look at Michigan.

❝ Last weekend, the CEO of Michigan’s largest electric utility reiterated that his company is still planning to retire eight of its nine remaining coal plants by 2030 — whether or not Trump tries to repeal President Obama’s climate policies…

Gerry Anderson’s reasoning was simple. Coal is no longer the economic choice for generating electricity, due to relentless competition from cheaper (and cleaner) natural gas and wind power. In Michigan, a new coal plant costs $133 per megawatt hour. A natural gas plant costs half that. Even wind contracts now cost about $74.52 per megawatt hour, after federal tax credits. “I don’t know anybody in the country who would build another coal plant,” Anderson said.

❝ What’s more, Anderson added, surveys show that most of Michigan’s consumers want to add more renewables “if it can be done at reasonable cost.”

❝ It’s not just Michigan. This dynamic is playing out all over the country, as coal plant after coal plant succumbs to competition from cheap natural gas and wind. Over at Politico, Michael Grunwald estimates that US power plants are now on track to emit 27 percent less carbon dioxide in 2016 than they did in 2005.

What’s remarkable is that this is all happening before Obama’s Clean Power Plan even takes effect. That rule, which is still tied up in court, aimed for a 30 percent cut below 2005 levels by 2030. We’re almost there already. So it’s clear that scrapping the CPP, as Trump has pledged, won’t help coal power make a huge comeback.

Not that reason, efficiency and cost mean much to Republicans and other Trump Chumps. The vicarious thrill of turning back regulations designed to make life healthier for most folks is almost as visceral a pleasure as, say, machine-gunning a basket of kittens.

Canada will be rid of coal power plants by 2030


Vintage Architecture

❝ While US President-elect Trump has promised to bring jobs back to the coal-mining industry despite market forces favoring cheaper natural gas, America’s northern neighbor is pressing to move beyond the fuel that started the Industrial Revolution.

On Monday, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna announced a plan to completely phase out coal-burning power plants by 2030 — unless those plants capture and store their carbon dioxide emissions.

❝ In October, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that all provinces would be required to implement carbon emissions pricing programs by 2018. British Columbia has had a carbon tax since 2008, while Alberta will have a carbon tax starting on January 1. Ontario and Quebec are already operating carbon cap-and-trade schemes. Either sort of program will fulfill the requirement as long as the price per ton of emissions meets the federal standard.

❝ While Canada currently gets about 80 percent of its electricity from “non-emitting sources” (renewables and nuclear), it is aiming to hit 90 percent by 2030…to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels…

Bravo! Hope some of that good sense leaks over the border into the brains of American politicians, American voters.

Alaska Airlines flew a 737 across the country using wood chips

❝ On Monday morning, Washington state-based Alaska Airlines started the week off right. It sent a Boeing 737 jet on the first commercial flight partially fueled by tree limbs and waste wood from forests.

❝ The alternative jet fuel used on the flight from Seattle to Washington D.C. was produced through the efforts of the Washington State University-led Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA) and Gevo Inc., a private renewable technology company…

❝ Like corn, trees also produce sugars through the process of photosynthesis. These sugars can be converted into alcohol and then into kerosene or jet fuel. Wood is more expensive to convert, but it can be made into isobutanol, a particular type of alcohol that gives fuel more suited for aircraft engines.

The wood-based blend also brings some additional advantages. It doesn’t compete with food crops or the land used to grow them. Instead, it uses forest clippings that are typically gathered into a pile and burned. And if the conversion process gains more support, it could create new employment in areas that have lost timber industry jobs.

❝ Renewable jet fuel must compete on cost with petroleum-based fuels before airlines consider it for anything but the occasional stunt, but biofuel technology is fast catching up. And several airlines around the globe have committed to keeping the net carbon emissions from aviation neutral starting in 2020. That’s significant because jet fuel remains a huge source of carbon pollution.

Jobs, jobs, jobs. Remember that song. Our politicians serenade us with it every few years when elections roll around. Most especially re-election, eh? Still seems to me our intelligentsia and outsiders with higher-than-a-6th-grade social pass are doing a better job at trying to fill the gap between quality jobs and minimum wage…than our bought-and-paid-for Congress.

Computer simulation demonstrates global 100 percent renewable electricity system


Click to enlargeKalkbult Scatec Solar

❝ A new model developed by Lappeenranta University of Technology shows how an electricity system mainly based on solar and wind works in all regions of the world. It shows the functioning of an electricity system that fulfils the targets set by the Paris agreement by using only renewable energy sources.

The global Internet of Energy Model visualizes a 100 percent renewable energy system for the electricity sector for 2030. It can do this for the entire world which, in the model, has been structured into 145 regions, which are all visualised, and aggregated to 9 major world regions…

❝ The model is designed to find the most economical solution for a renewable electricity system. The model shows how the supply of electricity can be organised to cover the electricity demand for all hours of the year. This means that best mix of renewable energy generation, storage and transmission components can be found to cover the electricity demand, leading to total electricity cost roughly between 55 and 70 euros per megawatt-hour for all 9 major regions in the world.

But the story does not end here. The researchers have ambitious goals to develop the model further. Future upgrades will go from looking only at the electricity sector to showing the full energy sector, including heat and mobility sectors. The model will also describe how to transition from the current energy system towards a fully sustainable one.

❝ According to the researchers the model debunks myths about what renewables can and cannot achieve. One of the myths is that a fully renewable energy system cannot possibly run stable for all hours of the year, due to the intermittent character of solar and wind energy. Another myth is the idea that without large base load generation capacities, such as coal or nuclear plants, an electricity system cannot work. According to the researchers, both of these are incorrect and the facts can be checked from the model.

The core of this effort – for me – is that over time it demonstrates a pattern of initiative that can result in the desired ends, e.g., diminution of greenhouse gases and a path to a healthier environment.

That university researchers have moved this far speaks well for our future. Even with creepy politics slithering into portions of the equation now and then. 🙂

Plunging battery costs will bring the greatest change in automotive history

❝ Plunging battery costs will drive the auto industry’s biggest change in more than a century, enabling a boom by 2030 in technologies from self-driving electric cars to ride-sharing applications.

The price of lithium-ion battery packs for electric cars has fallen 65 percent since 2010 and is likely to keep declining, according to a report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance and McKinsey & Co. Consumers may appreciate the biggest impact in the form of cheaper costs for taxis, including substantial reductions for ones run by machines.

Driving the trend are cheaper batteries, which are the biggest cost in electric cars, along with rapidly improving computer technology that will make self-driving cars a reality on roads within the next decade. Changes already are starting to feed through in the form of an investment boom in ride-hailing applications such as Uber Technologies…and the mushrooming of software developers that will link electric cars to utilities and payment systems.

Those trends will reduce the cost of running a taxi driven by a human by 3.1 percent to $2.76 a mile driven by 2025, according to the report. Self-driving taxis may be as cheap as 67 cents a mile to operate. The study counted in the total cost of owning the vehicle, driver’s pay and allowances for overhead and returns for investors…

❝ The changes will reshape the auto industry, tilting the need for investment away from developing engines and toward perfecting software that drives cars and links them to the web for managing payment and navigation, McKinsey said. Power companies could benefit from a 3 percent increase in electricity demand in the next 15 years…

❝ Battery and hybrid vehicles on the world’s roads may displace as many as 13 million barrels of oil a day by 2040, BNEF forecast this year in a separate report. The costs of lithium-ion batteries, which typically make up about 40 percent of an electric car’s value, may fall by 16 percent to 20 percent with each cumulative doubling of the vehicles’ manufacture…

The only cornball advice I have to offer is – it’s better to invest in rapidly growing tech too soon rather than too late. But, I welcome the changes coming in safety and environment with open arms.

European Union upgrades building codes to include an electric car charging point for every new home


Pawel Libera/LightRocket

Every new or refurbished house in Europe will need to be equipped with an electric vehicle recharging point, under a draft EU directive expected to come into effect by 2019.

In a further boost to prospects for the electric car market in Europe, the regulations due to be published before the end of the year state that by 2023, 10% of parking spaces in new buildings in the EU zone will also need recharging facilities…

❝ As well as extending the driving range and convenience of electric cars, the mushrooming number of recharge stations would allow vehicles to feed their electricity back into the grid.

That in turn would open the door to a futuristic world in which cars supply energy to Europe’s power network at all times of the day and night, balancing shortfalls from intermittent renewable energies when the sun is not shining and the wind not blowing…

❝ Martin Adams, the head of the EEA’s air pollution unit said: “A higher amount of electric vehicles will need additional power to be generated. The source of this extra energy is of prime importance. It is clearly feasible that we use clean renewable sources but when you think of where the different countries are at, I think some fundamental decisions are needed to develop a more sustainable energy system across Europe.”

❝ The French carmaker Renault said that it accepts that electricity supply problems could emerge as the vehicles’ market share increases exponentially, although it sees a solution.

“We could make a huge investment to green our electricity but I personally think the future will be built around local storage with a second life battery,” Berthier said.

Vehicle batteries that have worn down still contain energy which can be topped up with energy from on-site wind and solar power generators and sold back to the grid at peak times.

Renault is strategically partnering with companies such as Connected Energy in second-life projects, while last month, BMW opened a similar 2MW power station near Hamburg, using 2,600 used electric vehicle batteries.

Bravo! Always worth a cheer and a chuckle when common sense from industrialists defeats some of the churlish deceits raised by defenders of the past.

U.S. coal production down 26% – first half of 2016


Just showing how up-to-date coal-based energy really is

Coal production fell in the first half of 2016 dropped 26% from the same period of 2015 on widespread output curtailments especially in the massive Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana…

This output drop has been foreshadowed by the idling of dozens of coal mines across the U.S. in the first half of this year.

In terms of overall drop in production half year-over-half year, the Powder River Basin was the hardest hit, dropping about a third from 199.2 million tons produced in the first half of 2015 to only 134.2 million tons in the first half of this year. That 65 million ton drop represents more coal than that actually produced in the first half of 2016 in any of the three other major producing regions: Illinois Basin, Central Appalachia and Northern Appalachia.

Look elsewhere for jobs, folks. Learn to do better with your life.

Massive Catholic divestment from fossil fuels


Climate Solidarity Prayer March in ManilaAP/Aaron Favila

❝ If you care deeply about humanity and its role on this planet, climate change represents a significant, existential threat.

The victims of climate change include people who live near the ocean, people who live in forests, people who live in deserts, and people who live in the mountains. Young people. Old people. Poor people and rich people: If they aren’t already feeling the impacts of a changing climate, they will someday.

And human-caused climate change is threatening and destroying many, many species of plants and animals.

❝ It’s with this view that faith groups have become leaders in the climate change movement. Churches were some of the earliest adopters of fossil fuel divestment — the practice of pulling funds from companies for a range of reasons, including mining for coal, selling oil and gas, or financing tar sands development.

A new cadre of Catholic groups joined the movement Tuesday, announcing a coordinated, global divestment push…

Italian, Canadian, Australian, U.S., Brazilian, and international Catholic groups announced a range of measures distancing themselves from fossil fuels. Some goals are relatively modest: For instance, SSM, a U.S. hospital group, will divest from coal companies. But the Brazilian Diocese of Umuarama will become the first diocese and the first Latin American institution to commit to divest from fossil fuels, according to 350.org. The diocese is also reducing its carbon footprint and has joined an anti-fracking coalition in Latin America…

❝ Laudato Si’ is an encyclical, issued by Pope Francis last year, that emphasizes the need to be responsible guardians of the environment, particularly in the face of climate change and carbon pollution.

“Every community may take from the bounty of the earth that which it needs for its own survival, but it also has the duty to protect it and ensure the continuity of its fertility for future generations,” the encyclical, an official, high-level teaching for Catholics, says.

❝ Divestment is commonly seen as a powerful tool to reduce access to financing for fossil fuel companies. It also allows individuals and groups to take ownership of their role in the fossil fuel industrial complex, which, in turn, helps raise awareness.

Done it before. I’ll do it, again. Owning shares in fossil fuel companies is like owning shares in cigarette manufacturers. Trying to profit from firms whose products destroy our lives, our existence, is not ethical in my view of a principled life.

Always nice to see some of the oldest philosophies of good will joining in to a modern struggle.

Tesla rewrote the book on electric car sales last month

We’ve been pointing out the many electric vehicle sales records on the board in 2016. Nearly every month established a new high for the plug-in segment in the U.S., and June was best on the books. Still, Tesla had yet to have that breakout sales showing that rattled an industry built on gasoline. In September, things changed. Tesla not only shattered EV sales records on every level; it also outsold 13 long-established brands, including Porsche, Mitsubishi, and Volvo.

InsideEVs estimates Tesla delivered 4,350 Model S sedans and 3,200 Model X SUVs in September. Both are record totals for Tesla; Model S’s total is the highest ever for plug-in vehicle; and as a brand Tesla more than doubled the best EV sales by any other automaker in America…Overall, Tesla reached 24,500 deliveries worldwide.

The showing puts Tesla on pace to break the annual sales record (30,200) set in 2014 by Nissan Leaf. The industry as a whole was buoyed by the performances of Model S and Model X…

Parochial motorheads who favor EVs may be peering worried into their lite beers; but, globalized gear monkeys know the future is guaranteed. At least through the next few 5-year plans in the world’s largest auto market – China.

The government there has committed to electric transport, cars, truck, trains, for all the good reasons from fighting pollution to climate change. Doing so at a level we aren’t likely to approach in the GOUSA – even with Dems in the White House and controlling the lobbyist country club called Congress.

The cars will be built and available. Even if we’re only stealing a small share of what is destined for Asian shores.