“Disruption” is a term that tends to be used casually when attempting to describe an industry or technological change on the horizon. Although the term may be overused in many contexts, it is hard to formulate a better word to describe the looming disruption that is certain to emanate from the increased adoption of electric vehicles (EVs).
Because EVs have far fewer moving parts than an ICE engine (roughly 20 moving parts in an EV as opposed to over 2,000 in an ICE), the lifetime maintenance costs are cheaper for an EV as compared to an ICE vehicle. Because of this phenomenon alone, fleet-based companies are beginning to transition their fleet vehicles from ICE to EV-based technologies. For example, last year, IKEA announced that they will transition 100% of their home delivery fleet to EVs by 2030.
As transformative as this coming transition will be on the automotive industry, its impact across the energy industry will be hard to overstate. Most directly, the decrease in demand for refined gasoline will have ripple effects across the traditional oil and gas business. Also, even though the “energy trade” of a gallon of gasoline for a kilowatt hour of electricity is not 1 to 1, there will certainly be a much higher demand for electricity (as a fuel source) and for power infrastructure (as a distribution network). Add on the expectation for fully autonomous driving (which is already being beta tested in many jurisdictions), and the disruptive impacts become even larger.
Ironically, many doomsayers predicted the looming death of the traditional electric utility due to the rapid increase of renewable energy, reasoning that the uptick in grid integration of wind and solar generation resources would damage utilities. Now, the automotive industry could end up being the knight in shining armor to save the electric utility business, which will have to build (and charge customers for) increased infrastructure and power generation capacity to meet increased EV demand. Since EVs will be dispersed throughout the grid ecosystem, it is expected that more demand for generation (namely, solar generation by day, and wind generation by night) will be needed as the most cost-effective marginal unit of electric generation. So although rooftop solar and wind generation was once viewed as a potential death knell to the traditional utility, the coming EV revolution could end up making utilities the largest renewable energy developers and proponents due to the same factor that will drive the trend towards EV adoption: money. MORE
Wind farm in Xinjiang, China
The two biggest hitters causing global warming are electrical
generation using fossil fuels and transportation using fossil fuels. If we made all electricity carbon neutral, most of which would come from wind and solar generation, that would be about a third of the problem. If we made all vehicles run off of carbon-neutral electricity (or biofuels where electricity just won’t cut it, an increasingly small niche), that would deal with another third of the problem or so.
This action would have a huge impact on global warming targets. Could we do it in 20 years globally in a crash plan? Let’s start with what it looks like today, or at least in 2016 per the IEA. Globally, we generated about 25,000 TWH of electricity (reminder on units: KWH, MWH, GWH then TWH, each 1000 of the previous unit).
Could we replace 16,250 TWH of electrical generation with wind and solar in 20 years? Well, it’s not actually that hard to generate a TWH of electricity.
A single 2.5 MWH wind turbine running for a year with a mediocre capacity factor of 35% will generate 7,665 MWH. To get a TWH, you’d need 130 of them, a reasonably sized wind farm of 325 MW capacity. For context, the Gansu Wind Farm in China is already at 8,000 MW capacity and is expected to reach 20,000 MW capacity by 2020, 60 times larger.
A solar farm is a bit different and has a typically lower capacity factor. Let’s go with a middling 20%. To get a TWH you’d need a solar farm with a capacity of around 570 MW. For context, a couple of solar farms in India are 1,000 MW and 2,000 MW capacity 2-4 times the capacity. MORE
By rolling upgrade costs into monthly bills, utilities are helping customers save energy and money at the same time
Photo © iStockphoto.com/sturti
Drafty windows, leaky ducts and poor insulation are common, and that means that much of the heating and cooling it takes to keep them comfortable slips outside, leading customers to use much more energy than they should have to — an estimated 10 to 20 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
The simple solution to this problem is an energy efficiency upgrade — patching leaks in ductwork, sealing the frames of windows, laying insulation in attics, replacing old heat pumps. The costs can range from a few hundred dollars to about US$8,000, but these interventions can result in energy savings over time that more than offset the expense. It’s a pragmatic investment that lowers costs in the long run.
But with an innovative financing mechanism, electric utilities like the Roanoke Electric Cooperative are using their borrowing power to finance energy efficiency upgrades in homes at no upfront cost to their customers.
This is possible through what’s called tariffed on-bill financing. Using energy efficiency loans available from the federal government, utilities pay the upfront costs of upgrading a home’s energy efficiency and then amend that home’s newly lowered bill with a tariff charge that pays back the cost of the upgrade month by month.
Key to making it work is that the tariff is calculated so the customer’s bill is always lower than it was before the upgrade. About 80 percent of the monthly savings go toward paying off the cost of the upgrade, and the rest goes to cutting the customer’s costs. In other words, they reimburse the utility for the cost of the upgrades and still pay less for energy each month than they did before the improvements were made. MORE
Ohio voters passed groundbreaking legislation that allows citizens to sue on behalf of the lake when it’s being polluted.
An Ohio resident collects water from Lake Erie in 2014 after a ban due to algae-related toxins.Getty Images
It started in a pub. A handful of people, hunched over beers in Toledo, Ohio, were talking about a water crisis that had plagued the city in 2014. The pollution of Lake Erie had gotten so bad that it had taken a serious toll on their lives. The government, they felt, wasn’t doing enough to protect the lake. And so they wondered: What if the lake could protect itself?
The idea they hatched that night ultimately resulted in a special election, which had the citizens of Toledo voting Tuesday on a very unusual question: Should Lake Erie be granted the legal rights normally reserved for a person?
Rivers and forests have already won legal rights in countries like Ecuador, Colombia, India, and New Zealand.
The measure passed easily, which means citizens will be able to sue on behalf of the lake whenever its right to flourish is being contravened — that is, whenever it’s in danger of major environmental harm. MORE
Yale researchers say 81% of voters they polled support a Green New Deal to create jobs and work toward renewable energy
Climate protesters gather outside the White House. Photograph: Susan Walsh/Associated Press
For years, American democracy has been gripped by a conspiracy to undermine and deny the scientific truth of climate change. Fossil fuel corporations like ExxonMobil and Koch Industries have waged a decades-long campaign to mislead the public about the environmental costs of their business activities and co-opt the rightwing governing party.
Denial is ascendant and bipartisanship is dead, but the conservative party has painted itself into a corner that, in the long term, will be economically, ecologically and politically untenable. Democrats have an unprecedented opportunity to own the issue and lead.
Enter the Green New Deal, the first Democratic policy built for the post-Recession age of climate crisis, polarization and wonky leftism.
This month, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts introduced a resolution outlining the vision, goals and projects of a Green New Deal. The resolution was sponsored by 68 representatives and 11 senators, including all seven Democratic presidential contenders in Congress: Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Jeff Merkley, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
Many, including the editorial boards of the New York Times and Washington Post, criticized the resolution for including flashy non-emissions policies like Medicare for All and a federal jobs guarantee. Writing in the Atlantic, Robinson Meyer caricatured the 14-page document as “a binder of climate policies duct-taped to an Easter basket of socialist goodies”. But the reasoning behind including a broad slate of programs in the proposal is sound: leverage the federal government to spur public and private investments and meet climate targets, create millions of green jobs while modernizing infrastructure and leveling the playing field so that everyone – particularly communities of color, women and working families – can participate in a new economy. MORE
The SNC-Lavalin headquarters is seen in Montreal on Tuesday, February 12, 2019. File photo by The Canadian Press/Paul Chiasson
Two policy moves that could help beleaguered SNC-Lavalin came out of public consultations on federal anti-corruption measures that a newly disclosed memo says were ordered by the Prime Minister’s Office.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s staff directed Public Service and Procurement Canada to consult in 2017 on both its overall integrity regime and the possibility of introducing formal alternatives to prosecuting financial crimes, says the internal briefing note, released under the Access to Information Act.
The document was intended to prepare the department’s deputy minister for an early 2018 meeting on the outcome of the process.
Last year, following the consultations, the government passed legislation to create what is known as a remediation agreement — a means of having a corporation accused of wrongdoing make amends without facing the potentially devastating consequences of a criminal conviction.
As a result of a second thread of that 2017 consultation, the government is also proposing to soften the penalty scheme for companies involved in wrongdoing by changing the process for determining how long an offending firm should be barred from getting federal contracts. MORE
Richard Johnston makes the case Canada has room for two parties — and the New Dems will be one of them.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s byelection win could mark the beginning of the end for the Liberals or Conservatives. Photo by Joshua Berson
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s win with 38-per-cent of the vote in Burnaby South is, of course, a big event for him and his party.
But it may be even more significant for the Liberals and Conservatives, because it could portend the end of one or the other.
In The Canadian Party System, University of British Columbia political science professor Richard Johnston argues that, after almost a century, the Liberals as a centrist party are on their way out, and the Conservatives face endless factional warfare.
Johnston has studied Canadian elections most of his life. Despite long passages of technical analysis, his book is likely to be a bible in every political campaign for many elections to come. Whether it will actually affect the outcomes remains to be seen; he himself says Canada is changing rapidly from what it once was.
Johnston argues, the old identity politics — British/French, Protestant/Catholic, workers/managers — have faded. In their place is a new identity politics of multiculturalism, immigrants, demographics and gender. Perhaps the Liberals can master this new politics, but the New Democrats are ahead of them even in their choice of leader. MORE
The green ribbon that makes up 75 per cent of Canada’s forests is among the largest intact wildernesses on the planet. Environmentalists call it ‘one of the last great conservation opportunities.’ What do we need to do to save the boreal?
As the world’s ecological crisis becomes better understood, the boreal forest is becoming somewhat of a celebrity because of one jaw-dropping stat: the Canadian boreal represents 25 per cent of the planet’s remaining intact forest, leading the world alongside the Amazon.
What’s more, around 80 per cent of Canada’s boreal is still relatively intact — a rare thing in today’s world.
But the boreal is facing threats from logging, mining, fires, pests and the many ways those factors interact with climate change.
“We have to recognize that this is one of the last great conservation opportunities in human evolution on Earth,” says Jeff Wells, science and policy director for the Boreal Songbird Initiative.
The boreal is one of our best hopes for mitigating the effects of climate change and keeping the Earth habitable. Yet it also houses huge deposits of oil and gas and minerals. The decisions being made to protect or exploit it could have repercussions for generations. MORE
Christine Elliott is pictured during the inauguration of the Ford government on June 29, 2018. Photo by Alex Tetreault.
Ontario government officials struggled to explain the benefit of new healthcare legislation the Ford government introduced in the provincial legislature on Tuesday, arriving to brief reporters without the document itself nor any supporting documentation and deferring on questions about cost to implement, savings to be had, and targets to improve patient care.
One official spoke of the need for “integrated care delivery systems”, which are teams of existing providers who provide care to subsets of patients in a variety of environments, whether that is in a hospital, clinic, or at home.
“Evidence in Alberta and Nova Scotia show this sort of amalgamation only leads to longer wait times and more dysfunctional primary care.” –Green MPP Mike Schreiner
The healthcare reforms have become a political flashpoint in Ontario politics, ever since the Opposition New Democrats obtained and leaked a draft version of the bill, arguing that it indicated secret plans to privatize healthcare. A public servant was subsequently fired over the leak, and the Ford government requested that the OPP investigate the matter. MORE
Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Natural Resources Minister John Yakabuski seen at the Conservative government’s swearing-in ceremony on June 29, 2018. Photo by Alex Tétreault
The grand chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) is cautiously welcoming a proposal by Premier Doug Ford’s government to repeal a 2010 law that his nation viewed as a form of colonialism.
Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler made the comments after Premier Doug Ford’s government announced a public consultation to repeal the Far North Act, legislation adopted by the former provincial Liberal government that gave First Nations some control over development in their traditional territories.
The government said on Monday that it was proposing to repeal the law with the aim of “reducing red tape and restrictions on important economic development projects” in the northern part of the province, including the Ring of Fire, all-season roads and electrical transmission projects.
This objective has some critics skeptical about the government’s intentions. This includes one critic who described the review as a plan to get “First Nations out of the way” to facilitate industry and government’s mining aspirations. MORE