Germany Moves Into Hydrogen With Lessons From OPEC and Russia

Ministers are cutting deals in Europe and Africa to ensure supply of the fuel from many sources.

A hydrogen fuel pump stands at a Royal Dutch Shell Plc filling station in Sindelfingen, Germany.

A hydrogen fuel pump stands at a Royal Dutch Shell Plc filling station in Sindelfingen, Germany. Photographer: Alex Kraus/Bloomberg

Germany is taking its first steps to build an economy based on hydrogen instead of fossil fuels, seeking to deliver both green growth and to avoid being trapped by a small cartel of suppliers.

Ministers have been quietly lining up deals with nations including Nigeria that might produce hydrogen from renewable energy in the near future. The ambition is to reduce Germany’s pollution from oil and natural gas — and to cut reliance on the countries that produce the fuels.

Chancellor Angela Merkel government is looking to meet goals under the Paris Agreement on climate change. That will require a fuel like hydrogen, which can both provide heat for heavy industry and store excess electricity generated by renewables when it’s most sunny and windy. Ministers are concerned that importing more hydrogen may leave Germany dependent on places with the capacity to produce the most, like Russia and OPEC nations that already supply much of the nation’s energy.

“Unhindered competition will be the mainspring of this global economy,” said Wolf-Dieter Lukas, state secretary in the Education & Research Ministries, one of the wings of government working on the strategy. “Unlike in the oil economy, I don’t expect cartel formation.”

Four separate ministries in Berlin have been working on a blueprint to substitute the lightest element for oil, natural gas and coal. The program is due to be announced later this month by Economy Minister Peter Altmaier.

Altmaier in the middle of last year set the goal of making Germany No. 1 in hydrogen. The world’s most abundant element is an attractive climate solution because it creates only water vapor when burned — and can supply the temperatures of 1,000-degrees Celsius or more needed by industries from cement to steelmaking and oil refining.

Fossil Dependency

Germany depends on fossil fuels for its primary energy and most is imported 80% of Germany’s primary energy sources — 3,600 TW-h in 2019 — are imported

“Hydrogen isn’t the perfect solution, but it seems to the best available so far, especially for the industry to decarbonize production.” said Fabian Huneke, senior expert at Energy Brainpool. “You can’t really design an energy system with more than 70% of renewables in the energy mix, without hydrogen.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is about to sign off on a hydrogen strategy for the next decade and beyond. That plan is informed by lessons learned in decades of importing oil and gas, where price and supply are distorted by a cartel, said a top aide. Oil accounts for more than a third of Germany’s primary energy use. And gas, a growing fuel in power generation, mostly comes from Russia.

Green Hydrogen Future

German primary energy needs will fall by 2050 but still rely on imports

Primary energy usage to drop 25% from today but most hydrogen will be imported Forecast of Max-Planck-Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion 2019

The hydrogen plan sets out ways to boost supply of hydrogen and what industries will become big consumers, Lukas said. An early first draft of the plan shows that Germany is willing to subsidize the technology initially to spur production capacity in the coming decades — but only up to a point.

To keep import costs down, Germany wants to get hydrogen from many more countries. Last month, it signed a deal with Nigeria to jointly research hydrogen supply chains across 15 nations in West Africa.

That deal and others the government is hoping to draw up would answer two of the main concerns about hydrogen: how to make the gas without boosting emissions and where to obtain the quantities needed.

At the moment, more than two-thirds of the 70 million tons of hydrogen produced a year comes from natural gas. And that process is responsible for about 830 million tons of carbon pollution a year, more than the combined emissions of Britain and Indonesia, according the International Energy Agency.

Hydrogen Hoist

African nations could become an abundant source of hydrogen because wind and solar farms can be built there in great numbers, powering electrolizers that split hydrogen atoms out of water.

Germany is racing to forge hydrogen production deals with partner states abroad that fulfill several basic conditions. Those include political stability, a sunny climate and a proximity to the sea for desalinating water for electrolysis, according to Lukas.

The many uses of hydrogen

Future leaders in the hydrogen economy like Germany, Japan and South Korea will sign up emerging market states in bilateral production deals that exceed the number of countries in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, he said. That in theory would mean enough competition to keep down prices.

Germany may import as much as 45 million tons of green hydrogen annually by mid-century, up from zero today, according to Lukas’ ministry.

Like the Rainbow

As more and more states sign up to hydrogen production deals, “prices will continue to drop,” he said. This will make hydrogen “more and more popular and create a chance to move away from our dependency on the oil economy and its cartel agreements.”

Lukas’ ministry compiled an “Atlas of Potentials,” for partnerships, targeting initially 15 nations in the ECOWAS bloc — the Economic Community of West African States, according to its website. It signed a cooperation deal with Nigeria last month.

The German government also plans to air its strategy to scores of emerging market energy ministers at the annual Berlin Energy Days congress later in March. Australia and Saudi Arabia are also potential partners. SOURCE

What is plan for clean energy when Pickering nuclear plant closes?

The Pickering Nuclear Generating Station is set to close in 2025.

In the flurry of debate around the Pickering nuclear plant, the one thing that almost no one has talked about is what to do when it finally closes.

Pickering has been providing climate friendly electricity to Ontario — particularly to the Greater Toronto Area — for almost half a century but will retire by 2025. When it does, the default response will be to increase electricity generation from natural gas, which alone would more than double climate change emissions from electricity.

Ontario is justifiably proud of its low-emission power, with 95 per cent coming from clean sources, a fact celebrated in the government’s environment plan. It would be a shame to backslide now and increase emissions.

Since Pickering’s closure was decided, no plan has been developed to replace it with non-emitting solutions. Many municipalities in the GTA have ambitious emissions-reduction targets. The GTA needs to consider how it will keep its electricity system clean.

According to Pollution Probe’s new report, “Replacing Pickering: The Next Step in the GTA’s Clean Energy Transition,” funded by The Atmospheric Fund and released Wednesday, filling the post-Pickering gap by 2025 with clean electricity solutions is an ambitious but achievable goal.

Pollution Probe brought together utilities, government, industry and civil society to discuss options for 2025. There is agreement that increasing energy efficiency and developing small scale clean electricity solutions could fill the gap.

Reducing demand will be key. Ontario has improved energy efficiency over the years, helping reduce consumer bills and the need for new electricity, and this should continue. But we need to target energy efficiency where it can provide the greatest value, like specific areas of the grid where reducing demand could avoid the need for new utility infrastructure, or during times of high demand (e.g., midsummer) when the alternative would be to burn more natural gas.

We cannot, of course, conserve our way out of needing more power. Renewable energy has had bad press in Ontario due to high costs, but the market has shifted. Renewables, developed in a way that provides value to the grid, are now often the lowest-cost option.

How to Enlist Corporate Leaders in the Climate Fight

Energy companies helped cause the climate crisis. Now, they need to become part of the solution

A photo of a field, with several wind turbines in the distance, against a blue sky with white clouds.

abishome/iStock

IN TRADITIONAL TV westerns, it’s easy to tell the goodies from the baddies: good guys wear white hats and bad guys wear black hats. Just as TV wipes away moral ambiguity in order to present an oversimplified, easy-to-digest moral landscape, so too is the corporate universe often presented in stark terms. The white hats, like Elon Musk’s Tesla and Solar City, work on the side of angels to bring clean, everlasting light to the masses. The black hats, ExxonMobil as lead villain with the Koch brothers in a supporting role, manipulate public opinion, bribe politicians, and work to maintain fossil fuel’s stranglehold on energy systems.

There’s some truth to these caricatures. Musk is indeed motivated to solve the climate crisis. ExxonMobil and Koch Industries, among others, have funded (and still fund) climate-skeptical, antiscience think tanks and political action groups. Many of their fossil fuel peers work to block clean-tech competition and lobby against environmental regulations, including any sort of carbon price. And the well-documented predatory attitude of some in the financial sector post–bank bailouts in 2008 and 2009 remains a particular source of bile for many. But reality is far more complicated than these examples might imply.

Certainly, there are good and bad corporate actors, just as there are honest and dishonest accountants. But the vast majority of companies and investors, like that of all human categories, play somewhere in the middle. Certainly, all are motivated, to a greater or lesser extent, by self-interest, and many are prone to willfully ignoring what appears most inconvenient to that self-interest. But, broadly speaking, corporate leaders are equally considerate of human decency, have real concern for the future, and respect traditional norms of truth-telling and rational debate when it comes to important risks. And they generally provide consumers with the goods and services they want. If they didn’t, they’d go out of business.

Is Facebook a white hat or a black hat? Walmart? Facebook’s notoriously incautious approach to individual privacy and willful blindness to its own role as agent (and beneficiary) of nefarious political actors was enough to convince me to delete my profile in protest. Yet Facebook provides huge demand for clean energy as it looks to power all its data centres with low-carbon sources. Those efforts are real, evidenced by the company meeting a short-term target of 50 percent clean energy by 2018. New data centres come online matched with a power purchase agreement (PPA) to offset that energy load with renewables from the grid. Walmart, on the other hand, has ravaged local economies and communities by leveraging its buying power to strong-arm thousands of retail outlets out of business. And, of course, its treatment of employees is not top tier. But Walmart doesn’t just lower the cost of underwear, socks, and televisions. It’s fast becoming a clean-tech star itself, both within its own operations and by leveraging its purchasing power to force suppliers into making better choices about their own energy use—just as it uses that same leverage to squeeze profits.

It’s tempting to divide the corporate world into white hats and black hats, but aside from the obvious and outlying cases—big tobacco’s outright lies to the US Congress about health effects, Exxon’s repression of public debate on climate risk, or Shell’s trampling of human rights in Nigeria—it’s not that simple. Most corporations operate as grey hats, neither evil nor good, merely pursuing profit within the law and generally abiding by the normal bounds of human decency.

A more interesting question is: How might we turn those many grey hats white? The vast majority of corporate leaders don’t view themselves or their organizations as moral agents in the transition to a low-carbon economy but rather as mere actors in a larger economic scene. What sort of nudge might better align that neutrality with a good outcome in our shared climate fight?

UNDERSTANDING THE attitudes adopted by various actors in the traditional energy sector is instructive as we seek to enlist corporate leaders in the climate fight. Aside from the malfeasance demonstrated by black hats like ExxonMobil, we might divide the sector’s role in climate action into three categories: forced actors, who view emission constraints as legal burdens they must abide; willing actors, who dabble in clean energy independent of their legal obligations; and leading actors, who enthusiastically push the normal limits of corporate constraints to become active forces for positive change across both technology and policy.

Forced actors form the vast majority of energy giants. Most now acknowledge climate risk and view the transition to a low-carbon economy as a constraint placed on their normal mode of business. Investments in clean energy are driven by a sense of regulatory compliance rather than strategic advantage. Clean tech is applied within existing operations to reduce the pollutants associated with the production of their primary product—fossil fuels—in order to comply with regulatory pressure. Rather than finding or developing alternative sources of energy, they work to green their products under the assumption that demand for them will not falter.

Cenovus is a typical forced actor. A stellar performer in Canada’s heavy-oil patch, its two Alberta plants are squeaky clean, with little to no above-ground toxins. By melting bitumen below ground instead of mining the stuff in an open pit, they produce no tailings ponds. But it takes a massive amount of natural gas to convert that bitumen to usable oil. First, the company burns enormous quantities of the stuff to melt the bitumen. Then, it strips hydrogen from yet more natural gas to add to the heavy oil to make it resemble conventional oil. Its focus is to reduce that energy intensity—the amount of natural gas required per barrel of oil. Cenovus is as well-meaning a heavy-oil company as you’ll find, taking a lead role in defining best practices within its industry and supporting Alberta’s carbon-pricing policies. It’s hardly the devil, but it’s also incapable of championing a low-carbon future; the asset it’s sitting on precludes it taking on that role.

Willing actors go further than established best practices. They contribute to our understanding of climate risk and engage in research and dialogue about what sorts of energy systems are needed to keep global temperatures down. Many embrace the transition away from coal and heavy oil to natural gas as a primary response to emission constraints but also make investments in nonfossil energy production, like wind, solar, or biofuels. This can sometimes be a bit of a show, but it’s more often a genuine effort to explore ways to diversify their business. If they push the bounds of technology, it’s generally to support the development of carbon capture and storage.

TransAlta is a typical willing actor. Once fully committed to coal, it began dabbling in wind after being prodded by its sustainability officer, Bob Page. In 2002, the company bought Vision Quest, its first wind farm, from Canadian wind pioneer Fred Gallagher for just under $40 million. At the time, the business community saw the deal as largely immaterial, although a couple of analysts at UBS Warburg wrote, “There is mildly positive strategic significance.” How right they were! Seeing decent returns, TransAlta stuck with it, deploying hundreds of millions annually into expanding that “immaterial” side of its business.

Eventually, the company spun off its renewables division into a separate publicly traded company. Beginning in late 2014, while investors watched in horror as the value of TransAlta’s coal assets crashed, their spirits (and equity) were lifted by the 70 percent ownership TransAlta had retained in that spinoff—the value of which kept rising. At one point, that share of ownership accounted for the entire value of the enterprise! What Andrew Kuske and Ronald Barone began as an experiment came to form the basis of substantial, long-term value. It will be instructive to see how much that dynamic informs their peers going forward, as heavy oil goes the way of coal.

Leading actors believe they can change global energy demand by building alternatives to fossil fuels. Innovation in real alternatives is not some external variable for them. It’s an internal drive, a way to define their corporate ambitions and motivate their engineering and finance teams. Innovation is a potential source of long-term strategic advantage against their slower-moving, more passive peers.

Compare North America’s willing actor TransAlta to Ørsted, a Danish peer. Back in 2010, more than 70 percent of Ørsted’s power plants burned fossil fuels. In 2013, it announced that it would divest from these and move into renewables. The company proved to be serious and moved aggressively into offshore wind, acquiring and developing assets around the world. Today, that 70 percent share comes from renewables. And Ørsted isn’t done. By 2020, less than one-tenth of its fleet will be carbon emitting.

Second only to Ørsted is Equinor (formerly Statoil). The Norwegian oil-and-gas giant changed its name to reflect the decision to become a new kind of energy company. I first encountered Statoil in the mid-2000s, when I attended a clean-tech conference in Stavanger, Norway. At the time, I was weary of North American corporate executives endlessly debating the existence of climate disruption, never mind its relevance to their industry. Yet, in Stavanger, I witnessed the CEO of one of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies excitedly explain the engineering challenge of developing massive, floating offshore wind turbines. At the end of his talk, I asked timorously: “You’re an oil-and-gas company. Why are you taking on the engineering risk of offshore wind?” I was dumbfounded by his answer, delivered in a gentle Norwegian lilt: “Because it is the right thing to do. And because we are able to do it!”

And they did. Equinor developed Hywind, a floating platform capable of supporting massive wind turbines twice the height of the Statue of Liberty. Instead of deploying existing wind technology, it committed capital and expertise to improving it. The world’s first offshore floating wind farm, off the coast of Scotland, produces more wind more of the time than conventional wind farms because over deep water is where the best winds are found.

The key point is not that Equinor built a wind farm. Lots of companies do that. It’s the company’s commitment to changing the economics of wind, to using its own muscle to make wind more competitive against oil and gas in a country where electric vehicles pose a profound threat to oil demand. When asked why it has chosen to play a role at the cutting edge of renewables, its answer is disarmingly simple: “No other company combines our decades of offshore experience with our project execution capabilities.”

In other words, because it’s an existing energy giant, it’s in the best position to be a new kind of energy giant. MORE

Tax writeoffs coming for off-road electric cars, Trudeau tells miners

Trudeau was in Toronto speaking at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada conference

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada’s annual convention in Toronto on Monday, March 2, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

OTTAWA — Canada is making off-road electric vehicles and automotive equipment eligible for immediate tax writeoffs in a bid to encourage Canadian companies to buy them, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said March 2.

Trudeau was in Toronto speaking at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada conference, where he lauded the mining sector’s efforts to protect the environment. He also offered up some help.

“As people in this room know, electric vehicles are not just for city streets,” he said. “They’re for cleaner mining operations, which protects the health of workers and the environment.”

He gave a shout-out to Goldcorp’s Borden mine in Chapleau, Ont., as Canada’s first all-electric underground mining project, and to MacLean Engineering, a Collingwood, Ont., company that is producing electric mining vehicles.

“This is only the beginning,” said Trudeau. “Our government wants to support this sector in accelerating the use of clean mining trucks here at home.”

Last year’s federal budget created the zero-emission business tax writeoff for zero-emission vehicles including electric cars, hybrid-electric cars and hydrogen-fuel cell cars. Businesses can write off 100% of the purchase price, up to $55,000, in the year the car goes into service.

The writeoff is not available if the cars in question also benefit from the parallel rebate program, which sees the cost of many electric cars reduced for consumers by as much as $5,000.

The business program will now extend to off-road vehicles as well such as mining equipment and farm equipment. With the types of vehicles available expanding each year, the program specifies that the 100%writeoff will be available for vehicles that will be used before 2024. MORE

Analysis: Coronavirus has temporarily reduced China’s CO2 emissions by a quarter

As China battles one of the most serious virus epidemics of the century, the impacts on the country’s energy demand and emissions are only beginning to be felt.

A hospital in Shanghai, China, closed due to the coronavirus outbreak. Credit: Janusz Kolondra / Alamy Stock Photo

Electricity demand and industrial output remain far below their usual levels across a range of indicators, many of which are at their lowest two-week average in several years. These include:

  • Coal consumption at power plants was down 36%
  • Operating rates for main steel products were down by more than 15%, while crude steel production was almost unchanged
  • Coal throughput at the largest coal port fell 29%
  • Coking plant utilization fell 23%
  • Satellite-based NO2 levels were 37% lower
  • Utilization of oil refining capacity was lowered by 34%
  • At their peak, flight cancellations were reducing global passenger aviation volumes by 10%, but the sector appears to be recovering, with global capacity down 5% on year in February as a whole.

All told, the measures to contain coronavirus have resulted in reductions of 15% to 40% in output across key industrial sectors. This is likely to have wiped out a quarter or more of the country’s CO2 emissions over the past four weeks, the period when activity would normally have resumed after the Chinese new-year holiday. (See methodology below.)

Over the same period in 2019, China released around 800m tonnes of CO2 (MtCO2), meaning the virus could have cut global emissions by 200MtCO2 to date. The key question is whether the impacts are sustained, or if they will be offset – or even reversed – by the government response to the crisis.

Initial analysis from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) suggests the repercussions of the outbreak could shave up to half a percent off global oil demand in January-September this year.

However, the Chinese government’s coming stimulus measures in response to the disruption could outweigh these shorter-term impacts on energy and emissions, as it did after the global financial crisis and the 2015 domestic economic downturn.

A country in shutdown

Every winter, during Chinese new year, the country closes down for a week, with shops and construction sites closing and most industries winding down operations. The holiday has a significant short-term impact on energy demand, industrial output and emissions.

The blue lines on the chart below show how coal-fired power generation typically drops by an average of 50% in the 10 days following the eve of Chinese new year, marked as zero on the x-axis.

This year, shown in red, the usual fall in energy use has been prolonged by 10 days so far, with no sign of rebound. This is because the annual holiday was extended to give the government more time to get the epidemic under control – and demand has remained subdued, even after the official resumption of work on 10 February.

 Daily coal consumption around the Chinese new-year period at six generating companies reporting daily data, in 10,000 tonnes per day. X-axis shows days before and after Chinese new year eve, which falls on various dates in the second half of January or in February. Source: Analysis of data from WIND Information. Chart by Carbon Brief using Highcharts.

In the four-week period commencing 3 February this year, average coal consumption at power plants reporting daily data fell to a four-year low, with no sign of recovery in the most recent data, covering Sunday 1 March.

The short-term effect has been equally dramatic across a range of other industrial indicators, shown as 28-day averages in the figure below. The top left chart shows coal throughput at the main coal port, Qinhuangdao, which fell to the lowest level in four years in the four weeks to 1 March.

Similarly, refinery operating rates in Shandong province, the country’s main centre for oil refining, fell to the lowest level since autumn 2015 (below left), indicating a sharply reduced oil demand outlook. Furthermore, as expected, underlying demand for oil products, steel and other metals has fallen much more than output, resulting in record-high stockpiles, which will put pressure on production going forward.

Operating rates of industrial capacity in China (%). Steel product (steel bar and wire rod) operating rates show the effect of the Chinese new year holiday each year. Source:  Analysis of industry surveys reported by WIND Information. Chart by Carbon Brief using Highcharts.

Strikingly, all indicators of industrial capacity utilisation – coal power plants, blast furnaces, coking, steel products, refineries – deteriorated further in the week commencing 10 February, when business was officially expected to resume.

The rebound in industrial operation and domestic fossil fuel consumption has proven to be slow, with the first signs of the resumption of activity evident in the national aggregate data only in the past week, but still with a long way to go. This is not for lack of trying though, as some cities have reportedly even resorted to mandating factories to use more electricity, whether or not they have the personnel to resume production, in an effort to doctor a resurgence in power demand. While anecdotal, this is testimony to the massive pressure on local officials to jumpstart the economy.

Taken together, the reductions in coal and crude oil use indicate a reduction in CO2 emissions of 25% or more, compared with the same two-week period following the Chinese new year holiday in 2019. This amounts to approximately 100MtCO2 – or 6% of global emissions over the same period.

MORE

 

Circuit breakers shut down stock markets as oil panic hits

Oil prices fall as much as 30 per cent; Wall Street stock futures trading halted

Stock markets were shut down on Monday as panic selling settled in. (Richard Drew/The Associated Press)

North American stock markets were halted shortly after opening on Monday morning as circuit breakers designed to slow down panic selling kicked in within minutes of opening.

The NYSE, Nasdaq and TSX all hit what’s known as a level 1 trading halt within minutes of opening on Monday morning. Such a halt automatically suspends all trading on the market for 15 minutes after a decline of more than seven per cent.

A level 2 halt is automatically imposed after a decline of 13 per cent, for another 15 minutes. If the decline hits 20 per cent, a level 3 halt comes in to shut down trading for the rest of the day.

The TSX lost more than 1,400 points, or eight per cent, within minutes of opening, so the Canadian index’s circuit breaker was also triggered.

The panic started on Sunday evening after Saudi Arabia kicked off an all-out price war in the oil market, announcing it would be removing any production caps. That move sent the price of crude crumbling more than 25 per cent, and came on top of existing fears over the coronavirus currently spreading around the world.

Bond yields in the U.S. and Canada fell to their lowest levels on record as investors ran toward the perceived safety of government debt. SOURCE

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‘Barriers’ in Canada’s legal system complicating fight to end domestic violence

Part of the problem is conflicting definitions of domestic violence

‘Susan,’ whose real CBC News is protecting, lives in fear of her ex-husband, who assaulted her, strangled her and threatened to kill her. Divorcing him left her so financially devastated that she had to file for bankruptcy. (CBC)

Intimate partner violence makes up nearly one-third of all police-reported violent crime in this country, according to Statistics Canada, and many victims say that the legal system is complicating efforts to change this.

“Susan” knows this all too well. In fact, she lives in so much fear of her ex-husband that CBC News is not revealing her identity or location.

While they were married, Susan’s husband assaulted her, strangled her and threatened to kill her. Although he was eventually found guilty of one charge of assault, he managed to drag out their divorce, and in the end, Susan walked away so financially devastated that she had to file for bankruptcy.

She said her journey through the Canadian legal system was so traumatic she regrets even reporting the abuse.

“If I could go back, I don’t think I would have done this,” Susan said. “I would have tried to blame myself and not say the truth about what happened. I don’t think I would go through it again.”

Legal experts say stories like this show how Canada’s laws governing intimate partner violence are making life more difficult for victims.

Part of the reason for that is there are sometimes conflicting definitions of domestic violence, and the jurisdiction for trying to rein in the problem is divided in and can differ from province to province.

“It’s those kinds of conflicts that I think show that governments in Canada don’t have an overarching strategy to deal with family violence,” said Jennifer Koshan, a University of Calgary law professor. “It means that we may be creating barriers to victims.”

‘I was pretty terrified’

Susan said communication failures, staffing issues and a lack of clarity within the legal system put her at risk at a time when she was extremely vulnerable.

For example, she said a police officer gave her his number after she had been assaulted, but when she called, he didn’t answer and his voicemail wasn’t set up.

It also took months for her ex’s probation officer to check in with her. Perhaps most crucially, she didn’t learn until it was too late that her ex had successfully petitioned the court to lift her restraining order against him.

“I received a call from my victims support worker, who asked me if I was somewhere safe,” Susan said. “She seemed very stressed, almost panicked, and I asked her what was going on.”

Jennifer Koshan, a University of Calgary law professor, said the country’s legal system may be ‘creating barriers’ for victims of domestic abuse. (CBC)

 

The worker told her that earlier that day, her husband appeared before a judge and successfully applied to have his probation and restraining order lifted. The worker told her it would expire in four days.

“I was pretty terrified,” Susan said.

Koshan and a team of law professors from across the country are mapping out all the laws and policies that govern domestic and intimate partner violence, and have discovered inconsistencies not just between provinces and territories but within the same jurisdiction.

Different jurisdictions

Most intimate partner violence offences are handled through the Criminal Code, but it’s not cut-and-dried.

“This may surprise some people, but we don’t have a specific offence in our criminal code related to intimate partner violence,” said Koshan.

Complicating this is the fact that domestic violence can consist of a variety of behaviours, from emotional abuse to withholding money, and some of these cross jurisdictional boundaries.

“In Alberta, for instance, emotional abuse and financial abuse are not included in the Protection Against Family Violence Act, which allows victims to get protection orders,” said Koshan.

Both forms of abuse are, however, included under the province’s Residential Tenancy Act and the Employment Standards Act so that victims can leave their tenancies early if they suffer emotional abuse.

In order to prove domestic violence, a tenant has to get a protection order, but in Alberta, victims can’t get protection orders for emotional abuse.

Koshan said all levels of government have to come together to close the gaps in the legal system.

She said not only are the laws a patchwork from coast to coast, so are the services that go along with them. Some jurisdictions have specialized domestic violence police forces and some have specialized domestic violence courts.

In addition to making sure all courts are in sync, she said the government needs to monitor those laws to see how well they are working in practice.

No specific federal act

Last year, Canada beefed up the Criminal Code to better deal with intimate partner violence. Bill C-75 made it clear that strangulation was an elevated form of assault and allowed judges to consider a higher maximum penalty for offenders who had past convictions of IPV.

Koshan said those changes didn’t go far enough, and thinks Canada should follow the lead of some U.K. countries.

In 2015, England and Wales added a specific intimate partner offense to their criminal codes to help police identify patterns of psychological abuse and coercive control.

According to Statistics Canada, almost four-fifths (79 per cent) of victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) in 2018 were women.

Although Canada launched a national strategy to combat gender-based violence in 2017, it doesn’t have a have a specific federal act, like the U.S., that addresses violence against women.

Shelley Johnson Cline with the St. Paul Intervention Project in Minnesota said the 1994 Violence Against Women Act forced the U.S. to recognize intimate partner violence as a national issue. (CBC)

 

In 1994, U.S. president Bill Clinton signed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) into law. It criminalized some aspects of domestic violence across state lines, and unleashed renewable funding for training for law enforcement research for programs. It also mandated that protection orders issued in one state had to be enforced nationwide.

Shelley Johnson Cline with the St. Paul Intervention Project in Minnesota, a domestic violence advocacy and shelter organization, said the U.S. act was a game-changer.

“It allowed the resources for us to try something different,” said Johnson Cline, whose organization receives VAWA funding. “It’s about collaboration. It’s about pairing together the justice system, the grassroots [to] better women’s programs and to center around the victim and the victim’s safety. And [the act] gives you the resources to do that … to try something different.”

According to numbers from the White House, in the first 15 years of the act’s existence, annual domestic violence rates dropped by 64 per cent.

Johnson Cline said VAWA forced the country to recognize intimate partner violence as a national issue.

“I know in the United States it’s happening to one out of every four females,” Johnson Cline said. “That is an epidemic to me.”

‘Everything is on the table’

Like many people fleeing domestic violence, Susan moved to another community.

She supports the idea of a national act in Canada that addresses intimate partner violence.

“Maybe if it was all consolidated into one larger initiative … there could be some type of political will to really tackle this,” she said. “If you ask anyone who’s worked in the field or who’s been an advocate for people navigating the system, you know their consensus is that there have been no improvements over the last 30 years.”

She also warns that any legal change won’t mean anything if the resources aren’t there to make sure they are enforced.

Maryam Monsef, the federal minister for Women and Gender Equality, said she isn’t opposed to the idea of a national act.

Maryam Monsef, the federal minister for Women and Gender Equality, said the government will be seeking ‘feedback from Canadians’ on how to deal with domestic violence. (CBC)

 

“This is all part of the conversation right now. Everything is on the table right now,” Monsef said. “Gender-based violence, intimate partner violence is preventable. It’s costing us way too much and we can do better — we can be better.”

Monsef said she is committed to working with her counterparts across Canada and said the government will be seeking “feedback from Canadians” on the way forward.

“When it comes to gender-based violence, be it online violence, human trafficking, intimate partner violence or missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, we are on the same page and we have to move forward together.” SOURCE

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Canada’s EV charging networks are growing at pace, but more is needed

Petro-Canada's national EV charging network. Photo credit Petro-Canada

Petro-Canada’s national EV charging network. Image credit: Petro-Canada

Petro-Canada and Tesla completed their national charging networks last year and a raft of charging infrastructure has been announced for completion this year and next. Here’s our round up of what’s live, what’s been announced and what may be still to come

Last June, a report from BC Hydro found that 70 per cent of British Columbians surveyed said concern over the range limitations of electric vehicles was the main reason why they wouldn’t consider purchasing one.

But is “range anxiety” still a legitimate barrier to EV ownership? The answer, thanks to Canada’s numerous rapidly expanding EV fast charging networks, increasingly seems to be no.

For prospective EV owners with long distance drives in mind, the expansion of DC fast charge networks is of the utmost importance. Fast chargers are capable of delivering full range charges in less than an hour, and sometimes in a matter of minutes. As such, a fast charger’s installation at a location effectively ensures the surrounding region is easily EV accessible.

Level 2 chargers, which typically take a few hours to fully charge an EV, are also crucial as they allow drivers to charge while at destinations, such as places of work, shopping malls, business districts and tourist attractions.

Electric vehicle sales continue to grow rapidly, nearing three per cent of total Canadian vehicle sales in 2019. As that growth continues, continued investment in and roll out of charging infrastructure will be necessary.

According to Natural Resources Canada, there are currently 11,553 EV chargers open to the public at 4,993 stations across Canada. Over 1,850 of those chargers are DC fast chargers.

A number of those chargers belong to one of several expansive charging networks announced in the past few months. Here’s a review of who’s making long distance EV travel easier than ever for Canadians.

National networks

Petro-Canada

Petro-Canada Trans-Canada EV Fast Charging Network
Petro-Canada Trans-Canada EV Fast Charging Network. Image: Petro-Canada
  • Completed 2019
  • 40 fast charging stations

Canada’s first non-proprietary, cohesive nationwide EV fast charging network came courtesy of Petro-Canada, whose Electric Highway was completed in December of 2019. The network currently boasts 40 fast charging stations between Halifax and Victoria, British Columbia. The majority of the charging stations are located along the Trans-Canada highway, allowing for relatively simple access for those crossing any large stretch of the nation. Drivers pay per minute of charge; Ontario stations currently charge a rate of $0.33 per minute.

Tesla network

  • 898 superchargers, 1,400 Level 2 chargers
  • 584 locations

In late December, Tesla also activated a series of new proprietary charging stations along the Trans-Canada Highway, several of which contained Tesla’s new ultra-fast V3 250kW chargers. Nine of these chargers are currently hosted at Canadian Tire locations, with that number set to eventually increase.

Tesla’s Canadian charging network was first established in a limited capacity between Toronto and Montreal in 2014. It now stretches from Vancouver to Halifax without any major gaps, and is absent only from the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island.

Although only Tesla drivers can take advantage of this network, they represent a rather large fraction of Canadian EV drivers – in the first nine months of 2019, 54 per cent of all battery electric vehicles (and 34 per cent of EVs) sold in Canada were Teslas.

Canadian Tire

Canadian Tire Corporation's EV Charging Map as of January 2020. Source: Canadian Tire
Canadian Tire’s EV Charging Network. Image: Canadian Tire Corporation
  • 2020-2021
  • 240 fast chargers, 55 level 2 chargers
  • 90 locations

Canadian Tire announced in January its plan to open a network of 240 fast chargers and 55 Level 2 chargers at 90 Canadian Tire retail locations across the country by the end of 2020. The network was developed in collaboration with FLO, Tesla and Electrify Canada, who will jointly supply the chargers. Although charging speeds vary by location as well as by car make, Electrify Canada’s fast chargers are currently capable of charging at 350kW, or speeds of up to 30 kilometers per minute.

Chargers are already operational at 21 Canadian Tire locations nationwide. Andrew Davies, senior vice-president, automotive, Canadian Tire Retail, has hinted that this year’s expansion is merely the beginning, saying at the network’s launch that “this is the first step in our plan past 2020”.

Both Canadian Tire and Petro-Canada’s networks received partial funding from the federal government through Natural Resource Canada’s Electric Vehicle and Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Deployment Initiative. Canadian Tire’s network received a $2.7 million investment, while Petro-Canada’s electric Highway was granted $4.6 million.

Through the NRCan program, the federal government is investing $96.4 million in electric vehicle and hydrogen charging stations across the country. A separate NRCan initiative, the Zero Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Program, is investing $130 million in the construction of chargers on streets, at workplaces and in multi-unit residential buildings between 2019 and 2024.

Electrify Canada

  • 2019-2020
  • 32 fast charger locations
Electrify Canada live and planned locations 2020
Electrify Canada live and planned locations 2020. Source: Electrify Canada

Also still in progress is the Electrify Canada network. Electrify Canada, a subsidiary of Volkswagen Group, last fall announced a commitment to install a network of 32 fast charging stations across the nation by the end of 2020. Three of these stations are currently open, including two at Canadian Tire retail locations in southern Ontario and the flagship location at Toronto Premium Outlets shopping centre in Halton Hills.

This first phase of construction will include locations only in Ontario, Québec, British Columbia, and Alberta. Following 2020, according to CEO Rob Barossa, Electrify Canada will “continue to expand mainly on routes [highways] and other locations that we see fit.” Electrify Canada is the Canadian counterpart to Electrify America, which has installed over 1,500 fast chargers across the United States since 2016.

Volkswagen also announced recently that those who purchase its e-Golf electric vehicle will receive two years of free 30-minute charging sessions from Electrify Canada stations.

Provincial progress

In addition to the cross-country networks, there are several provincially-backed and local charging networks connecting Canadian EV drivers in a number of different regions.

Electric Circuit

  • Launched 2012
  • 294 fast chargers, 2,104 Level 2 chargers
  • 1,445 locations

Quebec’s Electric Circuit, owned and operated by Hydro-Québec, currently consists of more than 2,300 charging stations. Last year, plans were announced to add at least 1,600 new fast charging stations over the next 10 years in addition to the 296 which are already operational.

B.C. Hydro EV

  • 2013-2020
  • Over 100 fast chargers
  • Over 85 locations

The provincial utility of British Columbia, the province with Canada’s highest rate of EV adoption, operates a major fast charging network. The B.C. Hydro EV network currently consists of over 70 locations with over 80 total fast chargers, mostly along major highways and in urban centres. B.C. Hydro has plans to expand their network to include over 85 locations with over 100 chargers across the province in 2020.

Accelerate Kootenays

  • Completed 2019
  • 13 fast chargers, 40 Level 2 chargers (part of the above BC Hydro network)

Peaks to Prairies

  • Completed 2019
  • 19 fast chargers, two Level 2 chargers
Peaks to Prairies Network Map. Image: ACTO
Peaks to Prairies Network Map. Image: ATCO

In Western Canada, the Peaks to Prairies program in southern Alberta and Accelerate Kootenays program in B.C. have funded the installation of 32 high-speed charging stations in areas that despite being heavily travelled, were previously underserved by pre-existing charging networks. The two programs are not networks, but rather funding initiatives which received financing by local governments, private investments, and the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. The Accelerate Kootenays stations operate in part on the BC Hydro EV network and in part on the FLO network; Peaks to Prairies operates fully on the FLO charging network.

Map of Ivy Charging Network locations in Ontario
Map of the Ivy Charging Network locations in Ontario. Image: Ivy Charging Network

Ivy Charging Network

  • Coming 2020
  • 160 fast chargers

Last month saw the official launch of the Ivy Charging Network, a joint venture between Ontario Power Generation and Hydro One which will see 160 fast chargers installed throughout Ontario by the end of 2021. One hundred of those chargers will be opened at 43 stations, mostly located in rural Ontario, by September of this year. The following year will see 30 more sites with a total of 60 fast chargers installed in urban areas including Toronto, Ottawa and Windsor.

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro

Newfoundland and Labrador Trans-Canada Highway EV Fast-Charger route
Route 1 is the easternmost stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway. Map: Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism
  • Coming 2020
  • 14 fast chargers

Newfoundland and Labrador has also announced plans to build 14 high speed chargers along highways in the province by the end of this year.

A more even distribution of EV charging infrastructure between urban and rural areas has been shown to increase consumer confidence in electric vehicles, and in turn, bolster rates of adoption.

Looking forward

Despite the current surge of growth in Canadian fast charging networks, there still remains much work to be done.

“Infrastructure is the biggest thing,” Peter Hatges, national sector leader, automotive at KPMG Canada, recently told BNN Bloomberg.

“That’s probably the number one thing the government can put its attention to, over incentives.”

Hatges recently authored Canada’s Automotive Future, a KPMG report examining the coming impact of electric and autonomous transport on Canada’s auto industry. The report described availability of charging infrastructure as the most significant challenge standing in the way of widespread adoption of EVs.

Indeed, as the amount of EVs on Canadian roads climbs, so too will the demand for robust and expansive charging networks. Canada has set a target of 2040 for having all new light-duty vehicle sales be zero-emission vehicles. As such, those looking to continue to build charging infrastructure networks in the next decade will have their work cut out for them.

Public sector funding will continue to be crucial to respond to this coming demand, including the aforementioned Natural Resources Canada incentive programs. In his mandate letter to Natural Resources Minister Marc Garneau last December, Prime Minister Trudeau also called for the building of 5,000 new electric vehicle chargers across Canada.

It will take years of continued leadership and financial commitment, however, to reach a future where fast charging infrastructure will support a fully electrified Canada.

Natural Resources Canada’s Electric Charging and Alternative Fuelling Stations Locator

Interactive online resource: ZERO-EMISSION TECHNOLOGY INVENTORY

The Zero-Emission Technology Inventory (ZETI) tool is an interactive online resource to establish a current and shared knowledge base for worldwide commercially available offerings of zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (MHDVs). The tool aims to provide fleets and governments with comprehensive information including regions where zero-emission brands are available for purchase, and the timeline over which additional models are expected to become available.

ZETI is a work in progress and will be continuously updated. Because ZETI is based on the best available data and might not accurately reflect the most recent model offerings, we would greatly appreciate your assistance in making this tool more comprehensive, accurate and robust. If you have feedback, please email us at info@globaldrivetozero.org. MORE

Delhi’s inventive answer to the electric car

The rise of the electric three-wheeler could help to reduce India’s emissions and improve air quality, but how can this niche vehicle compete on Delhi’s busy streets?

The sleek Dwarka metro station towers against the industrial landscape of Delhi, a busy stop on the city’s modern train network, which moves millions of people every day. Just outside, the road is bustling with rickshaws, ready to drive passengers to their next stop for as little as 20 rupees (21p). Moving on three wheels is a popular way of navigating the Indian capital and other major cities, where huge traffic jams mean you can get stuck at any point of the journey if you are traveling by car.

For long distances, you can hop on an “auto” rickshaw powered by a conventional engine; for a short trip there are pedal and electric rickshaws. And while e-rickshaws are still a relatively rare sight, the humble three-wheeler is ushering in India‘s electric revolution.

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In regions such as Europe and China, cars dominate the electric vehicle market. In contrast, “Indian electrification is not a car story at all. It’s an e-rickshaw and a two-wheeler story,” says Akshima Ghate, a lead researcher at the non-profit Rocky Mountain Institute based in Delhi. This perhaps isn’t surprising as car ownership in India is low, at around 20 cars per 1,000 people, compared with more than 800 per 1,000 in the United States.

Rickshaws are a popular vehicle to take passengers on the final leg of their journey (Credit: Lou Del Bello)

Transitioning to electric mobility is a particularly appealing prospect in India because it addresses several problems at the same time – air pollution first and foremost. Every year, new scientific evidence puts the contribution of air pollution to early mortality into sharper focus; the State of Global Air report estimates that in 2017 alone, air pollution contributed to 1.2 million premature deaths in India. The life of a child born today in India will be an average of two years and six months shorter than it would have been without toxic air, due to the increased risk of conditions such as cancer, lung and heart disease, according to the State of Global Air. Children in buggies and prams also receive a higher dose of air pollution than adults due to their low elevation above the ground.

And there are other motivations besides health for a transition away from conventional engines. “From a policy perspective,” Ghate says, “there are energy security concerns. We cannot afford to continue staying reliant [on] oil imports, it’s too risky for a big economy in a big country like India.”

Until recently, she explains, electric vehicles and the charging infrastructure needed to support their circulation were a luxury that only rich countries could afford. Now, “the falling cost of technology is making them a feasible option”, she says. Currently, however, the bulk of the energy that powers India’s grid still comes from fossil fuels, so “clean” electric vehicles are still associated with those emissions.

Even so, electric vehicles are typically more carbon-efficient than those with an internal combustion engine over their lifetime. In the case of electric cars this figure has been found to depend on factors such as how much an area’s grid uses renewable energy or fossil fuels, as well as how much use the vehicle gets (due to the additional aluminium, copper and lithium required to manufacture an electric vehicle).

Car ownership in India is low compared with nations such as the US, with smaller vehicles making up a higher proportion (Credit: Lou Del Bello)

But, in Delhi, there has been little hesitation in the uptake of electric rickshaws – already there are thought to be more than 1.5 million on the streets in India. At Dwarka station, drivers are busy getting enough passengers on board to start the ride. An electric rickshaw can carry up to four people. These small rickshaws cover what is known as the “last mile” – the short distance connecting mass-transport stops to travellers’ end destinations, be that another station, a nearby office or home.

“E-rickshaws have emerged as a source of employment for many poor urban households,” says Shri Prakash, a transport and urban governance expert with the Energy and Resources Institute in Delhi. “They are light, low powered and reach a normal speed of 10-15kmph (6-9mph). With a shorter trip length than autos, that are able to carry passengers up to 15km at higher speeds, e-rickshaws serve a unique and well-established market niche.”

With today’s clear sky, you can almost forget that Delhi still is one of the most polluted cities in the world, albeit one that on most days just keeps moving despite the smog. Passengers and drivers alike ditch pollution masks, which feel stuffy and don’t protect you anyway, as many put it. Electric mobility may help solve this crisis, but on the ground it’s mostly a business opportunity.

A small group of drivers enjoying a break from the traffic explain that an increasing number of start-ups are encouraging the uptake of e-rickshaws by renting vehicles for as low as 15 rupees (16p) per day. One company paid their drivers a generous daily rate of 800 rupees (£8.49) – which is about double the average for urban workers – for a limited period of time to encourage them to join the scheme.

There are more than 1.5 million electric rickshaws in India already, but they are still far outnumbered by conventional auto-rickshaws (Credit: Getty Images)