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.

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China moves to phase out single-use plastics

Plastic bags to be banned in all major cities by end of 2020, says state planner

A Chinese labourer sorting out plastic bottles on the outskirt of Beijing. Photograph: Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images

China is stepping up restrictions on the production, sale and use of single-use plastic products, according to the state planner, as it seeks to tackle one of the country’s biggest environmental problems.

Vast amounts of untreated plastic waste are buried in landfills or dumped in rivers. The United Nations has identified single-use plastics as one of the world’s biggest environmental challenges.

The national development and reform commission and the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, which issued the policy, said plastic bags would be banned in all of China’s major cities by the end of 2020 and banned in all cities and towns in 2022. Markets selling fresh produce will be exempt from the ban until 2025.

Other items such as plastic utensils from takeaway food outlets and plastic courier packages will also be phased out.

By end of this year, the restaurant industry will be banned from using single-use straws. By 2025, towns and cities across China must reduce the consumption of single-use plastic items in the restaurant industry by 30%.

Some regions and sectors will also face restrictions on the production and sale of plastic products, although it is not yet clear which geographical areas.

China also banned the import of all plastic waste, and the use of medical plastic waste in the production of plastic.

The production and sale of plastic bags less than 0.025mm thick will be banned, as will plastic film less than 0.01mm thick for agricultural use.

China is already boosting recycling rates and is building dozens of “comprehensive resource utilisation” bases to ensure more products are reused as part of its war on waste. SOURCE

 

Greenhouse gas 12,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide generated mainly in China and India is being released into the atmosphere at record levels, a new study claims

  • One tonne of HFC-23 emissions is equal to 12,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide
  • It is a by-product of cooling systems in developing nations like China and India
  • A 2017 report from those countries suggested it had been almost eliminated
  • The atmospheric readings from this study contradict those 2017 findings 

A greenhouse gas 12,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide and generated mainly in China and India is being released at record levels, a new study claims

A greenhouse gas 12,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide and generated mainly in China and India is being released at record levels, a new study claims

Scientists were expecting to see global emissions drop by almost 90 percent between 2015 and 2017 as a result of the India and China claims.

It is a particularly potent gas, with one tonne of its emissions equal to the release of more than 12,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, study authors say.

Over the last two decades, scientists have been keeping a close eye on the atmospheric concentration of a hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) gas due to its potency.

‘When we saw the reports of enormous emissions reductions from India and China, we were excited to take a close look at the data’, said Dr Matt Rigby, co-author.

‘This potent greenhouse gas has been growing rapidly in the atmosphere for decades now, and these reports suggested that the rise should have almost completely stopped in the space of two or three years.

‘This would have been a big win for climate.’

The fact that this reduction has not materialised, and that, instead, global emissions have actually risen, is a puzzle, he said.

In 2016 an amendment to the Montreal Protocol aimed to reduce the climate impact of HFCs whose emissions have grown due to them being used as replacement for ozone depleting substances.

Dr Kieran Stanley, the lead author of the study, said to be complaint with the ammendment countries who ratified the agreement had to destroy HFC-23 as far as possible before it enters the atmosphere.

‘Although China and India are not yet bound by the Amendment, their reported abatement would have put them on course to be consistent with it. However, it looks like there is still work to do’, Dr Stanley said.

‘Our study finds that it is very likely that China has not been as successful in reducing HFC-23 emissions as reported.

‘However, without additional measurements, we can’t be sure whether India has been able to implement its abatement programme.’

In 2016 an amendment to the Montreal Protocol aimed to reduce the climate impact of HFCs whose emissions have grown due to them being used as replacement for ozone depleting substances

Had the emissions reductions been as large as reported, the researchers estimate that the equivalent of a whole year of Spain’s CO2 emissions could have been avoided between 2015 and 2017.

‘The magnitude of the CO2-equivalent emissions shows just how potent this greenhouse gas is’, said Dr Rigby.

‘We now hope to work with other international groups to better quantify India and China’s individual emissions using regional, rather than global, data and models.’

Previous studies found that HFC-23 emissions declined between 2005 and 2010 as developed countries paid to remove it from developing countries factories.

The payment involved purchasing credits from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Clean Development Mechanism.

“In that case, the atmospheric data showed that emissions reductions matched the reports very well,’ said Dr Stanley.

However, the scheme was controversial as it was thought to create a perverse incentive for manufacturers to increase the amount of waste gas they generated in order to sell more credits.

The research has been published in the journal Nature Communications.

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WHAT IS HFC-23?

China lays foundation for Asia’s most powerful wind turbine

Incredible growth over the past 2 decades, from the Vestas’ 660 KW turbines first proposed for the wind farms in PEC at the turn of the century ( state of the art at that time ) to 10 MW turbines as this one in China will become.

Installation completed to support 10MW prototype that will be region’s highest-rated machine yet in service

The foundation will support the 10MW DEC turbine.Photo: CCCC Third Harbor

China is poised to install its first 10MW offshore wind turbine – and the most powerful seen in Asia to date – after its foundation was completed off Fujian Province.

Contractor CCCC Third Harbor Engineering earlier this week reported completion of “the foundation of the largest turbine, a 10MW unit” at the Xinghua Bay Phase 2 project, referring to the nation’s first double-digit prototype launched four months ago by Dongfang Electric (DEC) and China Three Gorges (CTG), Recharge understands.

Completion of the 18-metre-diameter foundation provides “solid ground for the turbine’s installation work in the next stage”, the contractor added.

The installation and performance of the first prototype could have a decisive impact on DEC’s future position in the Chinese offshore wind sector. The firm previously had only a limited presence in the market, with a single 5MW machine introduced in 2017 and just two major orders so far.

Both those deals are courtesy of CTG — 60MW for Xinghua Bay Phase 2 project and 100MW for the Zhangpu Liuao Zone D wind farm.

It has now emerged that the Xingha Bay order includes the single 10MW prototype, with the remainder 5MW machines.

Once in place, DEC’s 10W turbine will be the most powerful installed at sea in the Asia Pacific region, with Ming Yang Smart Energy’s (MYSE’s) 7.25MW machine currently the largest.

Shanghai Electric erected an 8MW prototype early this month, but that installation is onshore at the firm’s Shantou-based industrial park in Guangdong province.

Goldwind and MYSE last year also unveiled larger machines — 8MW and an “8-10MW platform” turbine respectively. Construction of Goldwind’s is ongoing at Xinghua Bay Phase 2, not far from DEC’s turbines, with MYSE expected to put up its prototype at a wind farm off Yangjiang. MORE

 

What’s ‘Fair’ When It Comes to Carbon Emissions?

The average American and Australian generates nearly 3½ times the global average of carbon dioxide pollution.

The Global Carbon Project estimates nearly 37 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions will be added to the atmosphere this year, driven by increased use of oil and natural gas.Credit…Etienne Laurent/EPA, via Shutterstock

The Trump administration recently began the formal process of withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, citing “the unfair economic burden imposed on American workers, businesses and taxpayers” by the United States’ pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, expressed similar sentiments: “Australia won’t write a blank check with its economy” to fight climate change, “which requires action from around the globe.”

What does “fair” mean in the case of greenhouse gas emissions? As citizens of the United States and Australia, two countries heavily invested in fossil fuels, we took a look.

We’re part of the Global Carbon Project, a group of scientists who monitor the global carbon cycle. For 2019, we and our colleagues estimate in our latest report that global carbon dioxide emissions will rise 0.6 percent, driven by increased use of oil and natural gas. In all, almost 37 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions will be added to the atmosphere this year, five metric tons for every person on the planet.

The issue of fairness has been a recurring one in the global climate debate. As delegates from the 197 nations that signed the Paris agreement gather in Madrid this week, one of the issues is whether developed nations like ours will provide greater financial help to developing nations to encourage sustainable growth.

The United States and Australia together emit one-sixth of the world’s fossil fuel emissions despite having less than a twentieth of the population. An average Australian or American generates 3.5 times the global average, almost 17 tons of carbon dioxide pollution per person every year. That’s more than twice the amount of someone in Europe and China, and sky-high compared to the one and two tons by each person in Africa and India. Is that fair?

Carbon dioxide lasts for centuries in the atmosphere. The United States is responsible for one- quarter of all fossil fuel-generated carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today, twice China’s cumulative contribution, and far more than any other country. Is that fair?

The International Energy Agency forecasts global oil consumption will grow by seven million barrels a day through 2024. Nearly half of the growth is expected to go to meet the demands of consumers in China and India. That doesn’t sound fair, but an average American or Americans and Australians own almost one vehicle per person compared with only one for every 40 people in India and six people in China.

Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

But those countries are catching up. Car ownership quadrupled in China over the past decade to 240 million. Consumers there bought a million electric cars in 2018, far more than any other country, but they also bought 22 million gasoline-powered cars.

Vehicle ownership in India is expected to grow eightfold over the next 20 years to 235 million, but ownership will still be only one-fifth of the rate in the United States and Australia. If car ownership in India and China were equivalent to that in our two countries, those nations each would have almost a billion more vehicles. That might be fair in a comparative sense, but disastrous for the planet.

If oil consumption is to drop globally, we need to drive fewer miles in more fuel-efficient cars, most of them powered by renewable electricity. Instead, the Trump administration is proposing to roll back vehicle fuel efficiency standards, a dangerous idea that will cost consumers money, kill thousands of Americans from pollution, and increase trade deficits and oil imports. Australia doesn’t set mandatory fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles at all. In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, those policies don’t seem fair for the rest of the world.

Air travel is also growing. The airline industry has experienced a “spectacular expansion” of one billion additional passengers in the last five years. Increased fuel efficiency can’t offset this rapid rise, so carbon dioxide emissions from air travel are growing at more than 5 percent annually. An American is 17 times more likely to fly today than a person in India and five times more likely than someone in China. That hardly seems fair. But air travel is also changing, too. The rising middle class in India, China and elsewhere will inevitably fly more, pushing up carbon dioxide emissions even higher.

There is some good news. Renewables are growing quickly in Australia, generating 19 percent of the country’s electricity in 2018. Coal use in the United States plummeted by half in the last 15 years, replaced by natural gas, renewables and energy efficiency. This remarkable turnabout in the United States has cut carbon dioxide emissions, created hundreds of thousands of jobs and prevented thousands of deaths from air pollution.

But barring a global economic downturn no one seeks, carbon dioxide emissions could be even higher in five years than they are today. If so, growth in global oil and natural gas use will have outpaced stable or slightly declining emissions from coal use. MORE

 

The developing world has hit the brakes on clean energy

Wind turbines in China.

Clean-energy investments in the developing world plummeted last year while coal use reached a record high.

Those are very bad signs for the climate. Most of the world’s economic expansion in the coming decades will be in nations like China, India, and other emerging markets. So powering that growth with fossil fuels, rather than renewables, threatens to lock in soaring levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

The numbers: Investments in solar, wind, and similar projects fell to $133 billion in 2018, down from $169 billion the prior year, according to BloombergNEF’s annual survey of more than 100 emerging markets.

China’s role: China, the world’s largest carbon emitter, accounted for most of the decline. The nation put $86 billion into clean-energy projects last year, down from $122 billion in 2017, as it cut renewables subsidy programs to get soaring costs under control.

Elsewhere: Clean-energy investments fell by $2.4 billion in India and $2.7 billion in Brazil, the report found. One bit of good news is that investments did rise outside of those three nations, ticking up by $4 billion, with Vietnam, South Africa, Mexico, and Morocco putting in the most resources, BloombergNEF found.

Fossil fuels: The other good news is that the capacity of new coal plants did decline to its lowest level in a decade last year, at just under 40 gigawatts. Indeed, overall, more clean-energy capacity than fossil-fuel capacity was added in 2018.

But the bet on every additional coal plant that gets built is that it will still be operating and pumping out climate emissions decades from now, making it increasingly difficult to achieve the cuts necessary to avoid dangerous levels of global warming.

The really bad news: It now appears that China has kicked off a new coal building boom.

Last week, nonprofit Global Energy Monitor reported that the nation expanded its coal fleet by nearly 43 gigawatts between January 2018 and June 2019, far outpacing a roughly 8-gigawatt decline across the rest of the world in that period. And it has nearly 150 gigawatts under construction or likely to be revived—roughly equal to all the European Union’s coal plants.

“An increase in China’s coal power capacity is not compatible with the Paris climate agreement to hold warming well below 2 °C,” the report concluded. SOURCE

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Greenhouse gases accelerated to new peak in 2018, UN says

Wind Farm Coming? Here’s What To Expect & How To Help Your Community

Image result for windfarm ontario

Wind farms remain the most environmentally benign form of electrical generation we have ever managed to create, with solar farms a close second. They have the lowest greenhouse gas emissions per MWh, full life cycle. They mix boundary layers of air over fields, drawing moisture and warmth at night down to growing plants, reducing the likelihood of frost and increasing yields. They shade livestock. They take up about 1% of agricultural land in the areas that they spread across, usually the less arable corners, and perhaps 2% when placed on ridgelines. Their few downsides, such as the low bird and bat mortality figures, pale in comparison to the toll of fossil fuels both directly and through global warming.

But that doesn’t mean that they are universally accepted by communities where they are being established. It’s important to provide care and feeding to those communities, to provide them the immunization that they often require from those irrationally or ideologically opposed to wind energy and to assist them in healing breaches that occur. Wind farms bring change, and change is often difficult.

A few years ago I toiled as a volunteer in the trenches of global wind energy social acceptance. I ran a blog used by wind energy advocates globally, Barnard on Wind. I was Senior Fellow – Wind for the Washington-based Energy and Policy Institute think tank, authoring a still-referenced report on global court cases related to wind energy and health (tl;dr: judges almost universally agreed that there are no health impacts). I assisted local groups in Ontario, the United States, Australia and elsewhere to counter disinformation and to find ways to communicate the benefits of wind energy to their communities. I worked to counter the virulence of anti-wind documentaries made in the USA and Canada. I remain connected to the American Wind Energy AssociationGlobal Wind Energy Council, and the Canadian Wind Energy Association by ties of social networks and respect.

This has given me a global perspective on the challenges communities face as wind farms enter their areas. There are real, if slight impacts, but it’s the psychology of your neighbors that is critical to understand. For the purposes of this assessment, let’s break the process into phases: pre-construction, construction, and operation.


Pre-construction

In the run up to a wind farm being constructed in a region, there may be some divisiveness and acrimony in the community. Some of it will be for more rational reasons, some for less. Some people will need to be brought on board, some will be opposed.

First, representatives of the company building the wind farm will be going door to door to the properties that their modeling shows are suitable for a wind turbine. They’ll be offering leases for the use of about a quarter acre of land per turbine for from $6,000 to $18,000 per year in the USA, with an average of around $8,000. Just as rural dwellers want cell towers and microwave repeaters on their properties for the revenue, they want wind turbines. And often the people who have the best land for wind generation are the people who had marginal agricultural land. A few wind turbines on a property can invert long-standing have/have-not status ratios in a neighborhood. That can lead to some acrimony, and it can lead to the former ‘haves’ who don’t get a wind turbine for their property leading the fight against all wind turbines.

Depending on the community and the company, they may negotiate a community investment as well. That might be a new town hall, a new baseball diamond, or an annual stipend into community coffers. The community should negotiate for that kind of investment. Wind farms have a capital cost of about $2 million per MW of capacity, and annual revenue streams in the tens or hundreds of millions for reasonably sized ones so there’s a lot of money to be negotiated for. Don’t be afraid to work hard to get it for your community in general. As always with negotiations, you don’t get what you don’t ask for.

People who live in rural areas where wind farms can exist tend to be more conservative than urban dwellers, and a wind farm is a visible addition to an area. Some people will be opposed solely on the basis that something is changing, much of which can be explained by the same NIMBYism that sees urban neighborhoods oppose condo buildings which will ‘change the character’ of their street.

But the conservatism plays out another way. It’s become fairly common for conservative parties to use renewable energy and global warming as wedges with their base. As a result, there’s been a partisan shift away from acceptance of the reality of global warming and our causing it, and with it a disdain for wind and solar as forms of generation. This is diminishing somewhat as time marches on, global warming becomes even more evident and wind farms spread around the world, but it’s still there.

Then there’s the completely flaky stuff people will believe. There are a few anti-wind organizations and individuals who have spread complete nonsense around the world. Your more credulous neighbors who have a bias against wind farms will find it very easy to get a lot of material full of fear, uncertainty and doubt. As a supporter, you’ll end up seeing lists of mind-bogglingly silly things that are attributed to wind turbines, and some people will believe it. Some will watch one of the three or four anti-wind turbine propaganda documentaries that are out there, or start following one of the two or three common online gathering grounds for anti-wind types. Some will get hysterical. A lot of time will be spent pushing back on the nonsense, slowly and painfully. And a lot of respect will be lost for some members of your community.

Making sure that you have a list of the common anti-wind talking points that are spread with clear and simple debunkings of them helps. The site Wind Power Rocks took the content of the Barnard on Wind blog a few years ago and created a cleaner, simpler and more effective set of material to help with that. Cutting and pasting the rebuttals into social media when the disinformation pops up is a good way to neutrally communicate reality without being confrontational. Similarly, AWEA has an excellent blog, Into the Wind, so checking in there for information is a good idea.

Social media is place where a lot of fear, uncertainty, and doubt will be spread, and there are people who spend all day every day spreading it. Making sure you’ve set up a positive community social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram will really help. Unfortunately, as Tigercomm found through a study of US wind farm operators, the companies have mostly ceded this ground to opponents for the past several years, at least in the USA. Spend some time with the company to divide up some responsibilities so that you both can be contributing to social license for wind farm.

Another type of vaccination your community may need is to keep traveling anti-wind propagandists out, or to counter their messages if those in your community who are opposed invite them in. When I was assessing court cases related to the non-issues of wind energy and health, it became apparent that court cases followed anti-wind propagandists such as Sarah Laurie, Carmen Krogh, and Nina Pierpont into areas that they visited. Baseless health fears followed these people, and in some cases led to legal challenges which virtually all failed, at great expense to the community and the legal system.

If those opposed in your community invite someone to speak about wind energy and its impacts, investigate them thoroughly. If they are associated with groups such as Wind Concerns Ontario, The Society for Wind Vigilance, the Waubra Foundation, Stop These Things, or Save the Eagles International, they will be spreading baseless lies that can make it much more difficult for a community to remain intact. As always with this type of fake news, there are two primary strategies. First, make sure that the reality is out there before the propagandists show up. Communicate early and often. Second, ensure that there is at least equal representation at any event to make sure that someone can counter the propagandists. Third, ongoing follow-up with reality-based statements to the disinformation that they spread will be required.

Finally, consider getting professional help. Time and again I’ve seen professional anti-wind PR campaigns from part-time residents of rural areas who have retirement or vacation properties there. They made their money in resource extraction, tobacco, or something with equal challenges, and are used to hiring professional PR flacks for campaigns. A tiny island south of Australia, King Island (great cheese, many lovely people), was considered for a large wind farm and the people who wanted golf courses instead hired the same PR company that was used by very conservative politicians to try to sell coal exports. A wealthy Australian created an entire anti-wind organization just to prevent wind turbines from being barely visible at the end of the valley from his occasional country home. The people opposed to wind are often amoral. They have theirs and are very willing to fight to keep others from getting some too. Suggested North American companies include TigercommRenewCommDavies Public Affairs. (Full disclosure: I am acquainted with the principals of all three companies and have professional relationships with one.)

It’s work, but it’s worth it for your community, your neighbors and your friends. It will pay dividends over the coming years.


Construction

One of the many advantages of wind generation, and one it shares with solar farms, is that it doesn’t take long to build. The entire construction period for an average wind farm will be under two years, and in many cases some turbines will be generating electricity long before the farm itself is finished. Some wind farms are built in stages, but each stage doesn’t take that long and there are usually gaps of a year or two between those stages as we’ve seen with the 4,000 MW wind farm on the St. Laurent River in Quebec or the 20,000 MW Gansu Wind Farm in China reaching completion in 2020.

During construction itself, there will be some short-term impacts. Some new roads will be cut, possibly to get to ridgeline turbine locations. It’s possible some trees will be removed, which will be unfortunate. Ensuring replacement reforestation is a good idea. There might be some temporary turbidity in streams and rivers as the relatively small areas cleared for roads and pads erode a bit until they stabilize.

There will be some big trucks moving through your community with concrete and rebar for the bases. There will be other big trucks moving in the masts, blades, and nacelles. Large crane trucks will show up to assemble turbines. Other trucks will bring the substantial electrical equipment necessary to bridge from turbines to transmission grid. In some cases this will damage local roads and in some cases the equipment might pass across someone’s field or lawn. Repairs will be made, and of course the wind farm firm should be on the hook for these based on prior negotiation with the community so that there is no conflict in rapid resolution and payment.

During construction, there will be jobs for some members of the community. Some will be skilled labor, others will include unskilled labor. There will be multiple, spread-out construction sites for the individual turbines, so there will be lots of work for night security guards for the duration. There will be an uptick in use of local accommodations and local dining and drinking establishments. A fair amount of money will flow into the community during construction.

There will be complaints about the roads, the trees, the noise, any turbidity and the like, but that’s low grade usually, especially if you’ve discussed this with the wind farm company up front and ensured that they will take care of it rapidly and at their expense.

Nonsense opinions and disinformation will continue to fly, and a small subset of your community are likely to work themselves up into a full froth. You’ll get sick of hearing from them. But you’ll need to stay positive and continue to provide factual, neutral information to counter them both in person and on social media.


Operation

After the turbines are in and the wind farm is in operation, a lot of the hue and cry will die down. Almost everyone will discover that the turbines aren’t particularly noisy or visible most of the time, that they are widely spread out, that they are far from homes, and that almost every concern was overstated.

Property values won’t decline. Properties with wind turbine leases often will appreciate in value faster than the average, and that may again cause some resentment about the fiscal benefits. All the credible studies using standard mechanisms for assessing property values statistically find this.

A couple of people with bedrooms closer to a wind turbine might complain. Typically the wind farm company will work with them to find a suitable compromise, which has included companies paying for a row of trees, water features which make a little noise, and soundproofing blinds for bedrooms. Shrewd neighbors of yours will find a way to take advantage of this and get free upgrades to their homes. Companies budget for this. And of course this round of upgrades comes with local economic benefits as mostly it’s local people doing the work and getting the money.

If someone gets sick, it will be because they are making themselves sick. They’ll blame pre-existing conditions on the wind farm. They’ll worry themselves into high blood pressure, and then blame the wind farms for the high-blood pressure. They’ll realize that they have tinnitus, and blame that on the wind farm. Some will have read too much of the nonsense and they’ll make themselves mildly sick through the power of suggestion, something called the nocebo effect, which is the opposite of the placebo effect.

But no one will be being made sick by wind turbines placidly turning in the breeze, just by their own minds. How do I know this? Well, I spent years on the subject, reading all of the peer-reviewed health literature, talking with acousticians and public health professionals and writing about it in material such as the court cases study I published. My writing on the subject has ended up in the journal Noise and Health and in books such as Wind Turbine Syndrome: A Communicated Disease by my colleagues and friends Simon Chapman AO Ph.D. FASSA HonFFPH (UK), Emeritus Professor Public Health, School of Public Health, Sydney University and Fiona Crichton, LLB, MSC Hons, Ph.D. Candidate,University of Auckland. Very bright people have been trying to figure out since the mid-2000s why people are blaming wind farms for health issues that they just aren’t causing, and it’s pretty clear that it’s health scares spread by anti-wind groups creating psychosomatic illnesses.

And the money will be flowing into your community. A 115 MW wind farm with 50 turbines means that leases will be bringing $300,000 to $900,000 into the pockets of people in the community that wasn’t there before. A bunch of that money will trickle into the rest of the community. Any community benefits you negotiated for will still be paying dividends.

The wind turbines in operation mostly just sit there, but they need a minimum amount of security, even if it’s just a weekly security inspection by someone to make sure kids haven’t tried to jimmy the locks on the turbine bases.

There will be operational inspection teams through moderately regularly, often with drones these days to inspect the blades and masts. They’ll need to eat and stay somewhere, so more money into the community.

Every year there will be roughly a week of maintenance on the turbines, and that will mean more skilled maintenance people in eating and drinking at the local water holes and staying in the local accommodations.

Some bright sort will probably figure out that a wind farm actually attracts some tourists, and start a sideline bed-and-breakfast aimed at wind farm tours or the like. Once again, the studies show zero negative impact on tourism, so agritourism opportunities just tick up a notch.


The vast majority of opposition to wind farms occurs before they are built. The majority of NIMBYs give up at a certain point. The majority of people who were worried stop worrying once the turbines are just a feature of the neighborhood. There might be a tiny percentage who remain freaked out.

And some mending of fences will need to occur in the community. Wind farms are often somewhat divisive and harsh words are spoken. Some reconciliation and grudge burying will occur. Some will fester, but if it wasn’t the wind farm, it likely would have been something else. Some people just like holding grudges.

After a few years, no one will remember the region without the wind farm. It will be like the old barn on your neighbor’s property or the duck pond, just a part of the scenery. But all the money will keep flowing into your community regardless. And you’ll be part of the solution to our global warming problem.

G20 countries triple coal power subsidies despite climate crisis

Major economies pledged a decade ago to phase out all aid for fossil fuels


A protest against the Drax power station in North Yorkshire. Photograph: Guy Bell/Rex

G20 countries have almost tripled the subsidies they give to coal-fired power plants in recent years, despite the urgent need to cut the carbon emissions driving the climate crisis.

The bloc of major economies pledged a decade ago to phase out all fossil fuel subsidies.

The figures, published in a report by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and others, show that Japan is one of the biggest financial supporters of coal, despite the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, having said in September: “Climate change can be life-threatening to all generations … We must take more robust actions and reduce the use of fossil fuels.” The annual G20 meeting begins in Japan on Friday.

China and India give the biggest subsidies to coal, with Japan third, followed by South Africa, South Korea, Indonesia and the US. While the UK frequently runs its own electricity grid without any coal power at all, a parliamentary report in June criticised the billions of pounds used to help to build fossil fuel power plants overseas.

Global emissions must fall by half in the next decade to avoid significantly worsening drought, floods, extreme heatwave and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. But emissions are still increasing, with coal-fired power the biggest single contributor to the rise in 2018.

“It has now been 10 years since the G20 committed to phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, yet astonishingly some governments are actually increasing the amount they give to coal power plants,” said Ipek Gençsü, research fellow at ODI and lead author of the report.

“Momentum is growing around the world for governments to take urgent action to tackle the climate crisis and ending subsidies to coal would bring benefits to all [including reduced air pollution] and help set a level playing field for clean energy,” she said.

Leading International Electric Vehicle Policies: Success Stories of Norway and China

The global electric vehicle (EV) market continues to power up, with potential global sales of 11 million in 2025. China is the leading EV market with a global market share of 48%, followed by Europe with 26%. In Europe, Norway has been the frontrunner in both EV incentive policies and purchases.

The two case studies described in this blog illustrate examples of policy stickiness and policy ambition. A sticky policy is one that improves a complex social problem by kickstarting a transformation and gaining wide public support over time. Norway’s “sticky” policy kickstarted the EV revolution with strong incentives, and attracted public support over time. When the initial niche support expanded to include more Norwegian regions and social groups, the policy “stuck” because future governments could not easily roll it back.

China’s EV policy is part of the government’s ambition to combat air pollution and meet its climate change goals, as outlined in its 13th Five-year Plan for 2016-2020 and its nationally determined contribution. With a new dual-credit system to regulate automotive manufacturers, generous subsidies, and infrastructure support, China’s policy demonstrates high ambition to promote all-electric battery electric vehicles (BEVs) over traditional vehicles, including over plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). MORE

As the world’s largest auto market sputters, electric vehicles show no signs of slowing

A visitor looks at the interior of an electric-powered car by the Changan automobile maker at the IEEV New Energy Vehicles Exhibition in Beijing, China October 18, 2018. Picture taken October 18, 2018.Car sales in China in November fell nearly 14% (link in Chinese) from a year earlier, the fifth straight monthly decline, according to data released Tuesday (Dec. 11) by the government affiliated China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM). In total, around 25 million cars were sold in China in the first 11 months of the year, a 1.7% decline compared to the same period in 2017. CAAM predicts that auto sales would drop 3% for 2018 compared to a year earlier.

There’s one bright spot, however—sales of new-energy vehicles (NEVs), a category including battery-powered, plug-in hybrids, and fuel-cell electric cars, kept growing despite the overall sluggish auto market. Some 1.03 million NEVs were sold in China in the first 11 months of the year, up 68% from the same period in 2017, according to CAAM data. MORE