EU bets on innovation to secure energy transition

Aluminium production, often referred to as ‘solidified electricity’, is one industry that could benefit from breakthrough tech funding. [Photo: Shutterstock]

Breakthrough climate-change-busting technologies are set to benefit from €10 billion in EU funding over the next decade, as the European Commission confirmed its punt on a major new innovation fund.

Last November, the EU executive unveiled its plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions drastically by 2050 and national leaders are expected to decide what direction to go in this year.

If the member states select the Commission’s full-fat scenario, which would mean Europe absorbing all of the emissions it produces, the continent’s energy-intensive industries will have to make sweeping changes in order to adapt.

Enter the new Innovation Fund, which was given the green light by the Berlaymont last week.

By selling millions of carbon allowances from the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme, the Commission plans to put together a war-chest of €10 billion that can be used to develop, test and eventually market low-carbon technologies. MORE

Want to lose weight and save the Earth? Try the Planetary Health Diet

Nearly 40 scientists from around the world devised the diet in an effort to improve human health and combat climate change

These plates all represent options for the Planetary Health Diet.
These plates all represent options for the Planetary Health Diet.EAT-LANCET COMMISSION ON FOOD, PLANET, HEALTH.

Move over Atkins and keto diets: an international commission of scientists is calling 2019 the year of the Planetary Health Diet.

The diet—which prioritizes plants and limits the intake of highly processed foods and foods from animal sources—is the cornerstone of the “Great Food Transformation”, a movement that researchers and experts say is crucial to improve human health and avoid potentially disastrous damage to the planet.

The EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health gathered 37 scientists from 16 countries to define what makes up a healthy and sustainable diet–a diet that will reduce people’s risk of conditions like diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease while at the same time save the planet.

Providing nearly 10 billion people with healthy and sustainable diets by the year 2050 is one of the most urgent challenges of our times, according to the commission. (EAT is a Stockholm-based non-profit that’s working toward a science-based food-system transformation; the Lancet is a collection of medical journals.) MORE

Women hold the key to curbing climate change

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Katharine Wilkinson is a vice president at Project Drawdown, a clearinghouse for information about the world’s most effective means to stop global warming. She is the senior writer of “Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming.” She holds a doctorate in geography & environment from the University of Oxford, where she was a Rhodes Scholar.

(CNN)In 1911, over one million people took to the streets of Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland for equal rights and suffrage. It was the first International Women’s Day — a day the world continues to celebrate more than a century later. Those inaugural participants had little reason to include heat-trapping emissions or global warming in their concerns, although American scientist Eunice Newton Foote had defined the greenhouse effect decades prior, in 1856. (A first for which more credit is due.)

Ice core research shows that Earth’s atmosphere had just over 300 parts per million of carbon dioxide in 1911. In 2019, we hover around 410 parts per million. Those numbers can seem abstract, but they are deeply consequential.
At 410 parts per million and rising today, we face a rapidly warming world, with emissions at an all-time high. These are planetary conditions unknown to any human beings before us — and uncharted territory for our survival. Since 1911, we have entered a new geologic age, The Anthropocene, so called because human activity is now the dominant influence shaping the planet. Our warming world is the defining backdrop for International Women’s Day in 2019.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day — #BalanceforBetter — calls for improved gender parity to improve the world. That aspiration is entangled with climate change in two elemental ways. First, while the negative effects of climate change touch everyone, research shows they hit women and girls hardest. Simultaneously, and surprisingly, advancing key areas of gender equity can help curb the emissions causing the problem. These dual dynamics forge an inextricable link between climate change and the possibility of a more gender-balanced society. MORE

These women are changing the landscape of Antarctic research

Polar science used to be dominated by men. An expedition to Thwaites Glacier is helping change that.

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Prof David Vaughan: “I believe this is the biggest field campaign ever run in Antarctica”

Up on the helicopter deck Meghan Spoth and Victoria Fitzgerald practice setting up camp. Just over Spoth’s shoulder a mile-wide tabular iceberg slides past, revealing the piercing cobalt at the berg’s cold center. Spoth pulls at the brim of her condor-embroidered ballcap and tosses a roll of duct tape to Fitzgerald.

The two young researchers, who hail from the University of Maine and Alabama respectively, have come to the Amundsen Sea, a rarely explored corner of the Antarctic continent, to better understand the rate at which the Thwaites Glacier disintegrated in the past so that modelers might make more accurate estimates of how fast sea levels will rise in the coming century.

The women lash their tarp tent to the deck. Sharp blasts of air rattle the plastic lean-to. They slide underneath to practice maneuvering in total darkness, a prerequisite for the kind of luminescence dating methods they plan to employ. This is a simulation of the work that Spoth and Fitzgerald will carry out in the coming days on the Lindsey and Schafer Islands, archipelagos so remote that human foot-fall has never before rung from many of these glacially scoured mounds. The team, headed up by Brenda Hall of the University of Maine, will be looking for paleontological records—things like seal skin and penguin bones—to help them better understand just how quickly the ice withdrew during the last deglaciation. MORE

Why Geothermal power plants need to be modular, scaleable and standardized

…At Climeon, we believe that by changing the technology behind the geothermal power plant, it is possible to reduce the risks and timelines of projects, thereby creating revenues earlier. With lower risks the geothermal market will become more acceptable and bankable – and that will increase its market penetration.

We have already seen positive results in Iceland with this model. In a saturated market, the potential offered by our technology has re-awakened the opportunity for new geothermal developments within the country.

By utilizing standardized 150 kW units that works efficiently in the approx. 80 – 130°C temperature range, Climeon is able to cover a large portion of the addressable geothermal market with a standard product. The units can be delivered as and when they are needed. This means that a well can be tested, and then, based on the results, the relevant number of units can be deployed within a couple of months.

Unlike traditional geothermal projects this means that revenues can be realized from the first wells. Also, by generating power early, and proving the viability of the resource, the plant can be refinanced at an earlier stage, at a lower rate, freeing up more capital for further development. MORE

Breakthrough Energy Ventures collaborates with Climeon to accelerate deployment of geothermal heat power

Image result for Breakthrough Energy Ventures collaborates with Climeon to accelerate deployment of geothermal heat power
Source: distribution.cision

Breakthrough Energy Ventures, an investor-led venture fund backed by some of the world’s top business executives, has invested in Baseload Capital, the private investment company which Climeon owns part of, to speed up the global deployment of low temperature geothermal heat power.

– Working together with Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Baseload Capital we can now take leaps, rather than steps, toward our vision of becoming the number one climate solver, says Thomas Öström, CEO of Climeon.

Breakthrough Energy Ventures is an investor-led fund created to accelerate the transition to clean energy. The team funds cutting-edge companies with the potential to eliminate a half gigaton of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per year and invests across five grand challenges: electricity, transportation, agriculture, manufacturing and buildings. These are the broad areas of activity that contribute most to GHG emissions. The Fund’s investment team has identified low temperature geothermal heat power as one of the most significant opportunities available to address GHG emissions in the production of electricity.

– Geothermal energy from low temperatures has the potential to transform the energy landscape. We believe that the combination of Baseload’s implementation expertise and Climeon’s Heat Power technology has the ability to unlock the large potential of low temperature geothermal resources and result in the deployment of significant quantities of renewable electricity, says Carmichael Roberts, Breakthrough Energy Ventures. MORE

The Good News About a Green New Deal

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Sunrise Movement protesters urging Democrats to back a Green New Deal in late 2018. Sunrise Movement

Last month’s rollout of the Green New Deal, a fourteen-page legislative resolution, sponsored by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey, that called for “net-zero greenhouse gas emissions” through a ten-year “national mobilization,” has sparked a good deal of controversy. The resolution was larded with goals not directly tied to the environment, such as guaranteeing everyone a job, affordable housing, and high-quality health care, and even some energy researchers who are enthusiastic proponents of transitioning rapidly to a zero-emissions economy questioned the timetable of a single decade for converting power production entirely to renewable sources.

“I don’t think anybody who is deep inside the substance is talking about that,” Jonathan Koomey, a special adviser to the chief scientist at the Rocky Mountain Institute, told me. Robert Pollin, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who has helped design a number of Green New Deals for individual states, including New York and Washington, said, “I think it is wonderful that the issue is being addressed, but I don’t think this movement has yet accepted that you have to do these things carefully and rigorously.”

Despite these reservations, Koomey and Pollin, as well as a number of other researchers I spoke with, said the drafters of the Green New Deal were perfectly right to urge large-scale action across many parts of the economy, and they emphasized the technological opportunities that now exist to meet many of the environmental goals that underpin the proposed legislation, if not the exact timetable it lays down. In a report released in October, which the Democratic resolution cites and endorses, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that if the world is to contain the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius, carbon emissions must be reduced by about fifty per cent before 2030, and completely phased out before 2050. For a U.S. economy that currently relies on fossil fuels for about four-fifths of its energy, achieving zero emissions, or something close to it, by the middle of the century would be a historic transformation. And, according to all the researchers I spoke with, rapidly advancing technology and the falling costs of clean energy make this more achievable than ever.

“Right now, we have about ninety per cent or ninety-five per cent of the technology we need,” Mark Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford, told me.  MORE

America can afford a Green New Deal — here’s how

Green New Deal path
Shutterstock Rachael Warriner

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D.-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass) are calling for a “Green New Deal” (PDF) that would involve massive government spending to shift the U.S. economy away from its reliance on carbon.

As the author of the United Nations Environment Program’s Global Green New Deal — a plan to lift the world economy out of the 2008-2009 Great Recession — I disagree. I believe there are two straightforward ways to cover the cost and help accelerate the green revolution, while lowering the overall price tag.

As for paying for it, the first thing to bear in mind is that in my view a Green New Deal should be covered by current rather than future revenue.

So the United States would have to find new revenue sources to finance additional government support for clean energy research and development, greening infrastructure, smart transmission grids, public transport and other programs under any Green New Deal. Two of the main ways to do that would be by raising new revenues or finding savings elsewhere in the budget. MORE

What would the Green New Deal look like for states? Illinois has a bill.

Illinois is considering a clean energy bill that leans into some of the more controversial aspects of the Green New Deal.

Wind turbines tower over crops near Dwight, Illinois. The state is weighing a bill to get to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. Scott Olson/Getty Images

…a new clean energy bill in Illinois may serve as a remarkable test case of one of the Green New Deal’s core principles, at a time when more and more states are adopting ambitious decarbonization targets.

Illinois’s general assembly is weighing a bill that sets an aggressive target of decarbonizing the state’s energy by 2030 and running the state completely on renewable energy by 2050. That includes deploying more than 40 million solar panels and 2,500 wind turbines alongside $20 billion in new infrastructure over the next decade. The bill also calls for cutting emissions from transportation and for vastly expanding the clean energy workforce.

But it also leans into many of the social justice ideas outlined in the Green New Deal resolution.

“In the wake of federal reversals on climate action, the State of Illinois should pursue immediate action on policies that will ensure a just and responsible phase out of fossil fuels from the power sector to reduce harmful emissions from Illinois power plants, support power plant communities and workers, and allow the clean energy economy to continue growing in every corner of Illinois,” according to the text of the Clean Energy Jobs Act (SB 2132/ HB 3624).

Broadly, the bill aligns with the Green New Deal. But the Green New Deal resolution is just that — a resolution — whereas in Illinois, the rubber might actually meet the road. MORE

Robyn Allan: An open letter to Rachel Notley and Jason Kenney

Left, file photo of Alberta Premier Rachel Notley by Alex Tétreault. Centre, photo of Alberta oilsands by Andrew S. Wright. Right, photo of United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney by Alex Tétreault

Dear Rachel Notley and Jason Kenney,

Whichever one of you is entrusted with the opportunity to lead Alberta into the future after the provincial election, here is what you need to know to navigate the most challenging issue in your province’s history — the era of stranded assets in the oilsands.

The Alberta oilsands sector is a mature sector, not a growth sector. It has entered the phase in its lifecycle where corporate boardroom discussions have transitioned from the inevitability of rapid oilsands expansion to how best to sustain current production. In this phase of the oilsands lifecycle, Trans Mountain’s expansion is obsolete.

No amount of market intervention or increased oil industry subsidization can alter the course these captains of industry are on. However, that will not stop them from angling for taxpayer handouts by pretending another wave of oilsands investment is just beyond the horizon. The more taxpayer money they can convince all levels of government to transfer to their corporate treasuries, the easier their transition off fossil fuels becomes.

The idle promise of further oilsands investment is the likely motivation behind the Trudeau government quietly negotiating such a sweet toll rate deal for Trans Mountain’s shippers last fall. Despite Finance Minister Morneau’s promise to Canadians that it would not happen, Trans Mountain has agreed to provide oil producers who use the existing line with a $2 billion toll subsidy over three years mounting to a $3.4 billion toll subsidy over five years. . MORE