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Renewable Energy

It’s Official: Solar Energy Cheaper Than Fossil Fuels

enewable energy has reached an important milestone. The World Economic Forum (WEF) has determined that in many parts of the world, solar energy is now the same price or even cheaper than fossil fuels for the first time.

In a handbook released this month, the WEF observed how the price of renewable technologies, particularly solar, has declined to unprecedented lows.

While the average global LCOE [levelized cost of electricity] for coal and natural gas is around $100 per megawatt-hour, the price for solar has plummeted from $600 a decade ago to $300 only five years later, and now close to or below $100 for utility-scale photovoltaic. For wind, the LCOE is around $50.

According to the WEF, more than 30 countries have already reached grid parity—even without subsidies. (“Grid parity” is the point when an alternative energy source, say solar, can generate power at a LCOE that’s equal or even less than the price of traditional grid power.)

“It is relevant to note that the mentioned evolution, market share gain and continued potential for renewable energy do not hinge on a subsidy advantage,” the report added. “In fact, according to [International Energy Agency], fossil-fuel consumption has received $493 billion in subsidies in 2014, more than four times the value of subsidies to renewable energy.”


The WEF highlighted how the unsubsidized LCOE for utility-scale solar photovoltaic—which was not competitive even five years ago—has declined at a 20 percent compounded annual rate, “making it not only viable but also more attractive than coal in a wide range of countries.”

Countries that have already reached grid parity include Chile, Mexico, Brazil and Australia with many more countries also on the same track. The WEF projects that two thirds of the world will reach grid parity in the next couple of years, and by 2020, solar photovoltaic energy is projected to have a lower LCOE than coal or natural gas-fired generation throughout the world.

“Renewable energy has reached a tipping point,” Michael Drexler, who leads infrastructure and development investing at the WEF, told Quartz. “It is not only a commercially viable option, but an outright compelling investment opportunity with long-term, stable, inflation-protected returns.”

The report follows a recent analysis from the IEA which revealed that total clean power capacity increased by 153 gigawatts, overtaking coal for the first time. To illustrate, about 500,000 solar panels installed were installed around the world every day.

OPINION: Landfill Could be Best Option for Waste Plastics

Axion Polymers’ Keith Freegard explains why as global temperatures head for potentially catastrophic levels, landfilling rather than burning waste plastics might be better for the environment…

Large numbers of energy from waste (EfW) plants exist right across Europe and many of the UK’s municipal solid waste (MSW) and mixed recyclables ‘processing’ facilities are simply exporting a high proportion of mixed material refuse derived fuel (RDF) bales to utilise spare European capacity.

Globally, further waste to energy plants are being planned and built, while landfill is frowned upon as the accepted ‘worst option’ for disposal. Revisiting the decision-making metrics that have led to this ‘accepted waste hierarchy’ might point to a stark choice between the two waste disposal options.

There are valid arguments for the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ of both waste disposal methods. But what if the true environmental cost of CO2 emissions was also factored into deciding the ‘best option’?

When the full carbon-cost of the disposal method is expressed in ‘pound notes’ – reflecting the impact that large-scale CO2 release has upon the Earth – then this metric could really change decisions about what is ‘good’ waste material to burn as a fuel and what is ‘bad’.

Energy Generation
The non-homogeneous nature of the waste fuels requires robust moving-grate burners to move the combustible materials through the unit. Water-filled side boilers must be used for heat transfer to capture the heat-energy produced.

Even the most modern burner designs are relatively inefficient at energy recovery, generating lower amounts of electrical power per tonne of fuel burned when compared to high-efficiency, combined cycle gas turbine systems (CCGT).

Both power generating units are ultimately doing the same task: converting carbon-rich fuels into electricity (and ideally combined with heat production), while sending atmospheric-polluting carbon emissions up the exhaust stack as a major environmental cost associated with the beneficial electrical power supplied into the local grid.

So what are the solutions? High-efficiency gas turbines are a much more efficient way to generate each kilowatt of power, plus some heat, from fossil fuel sources if measured in terms of the mass of CO2 released per unit of power output.

Waste Fuelled
However, large scale waste-burners consume huge tonnages of waste materials that would otherwise have been landfilled. Siting an EfW plant close to large urban areas can also deliver useful heating into local industry and households.

If the major components in the infeed waste fuel mix to a modern EfW unit are renewable carbon, such as wood, papers, cardboard or organic matters, then the ‘short-life’ carbon atoms released back into the atmosphere via the exhaust stack are ecologically balanced with their earlier carbon-capture in a tree, plant or living organism. So this fraction of the waste ‘fuel’ shows a carbon-neutral effect.

As for the plastic content in residual household or commercial waste, the carbon-rich molecules that create the long-chain polymers (e.g. ethane, propane, styrene, etc.) are derived from crude oil refineries and are then polymerised to make plastics.

Burning these is essentially the same as driving a petrol car or taking a flight – power created at the ‘expense’ of long-life carbon release.

But what if the waste plastic could be separated from the ‘organic or renewable carbon’ wastes and the ‘inert’ carbon-rich, stabilised plastic stored either in the ground or in a covered storage system?

That would represent a long-term carbon-sink and remove those fossil-based materials from the EfW infeed mix. Clearly it would be better to recycle these materials if a technically and economically viable process was available to do that.

The Carbon Balance
Using a CO2 metric alone suggests that it makes more sense to bury large amounts of plastic in a long-term ‘carbon sink’ in the ground and efficiently combust natural gas to satisfy our immediate power needs.

However, until world leaders are prepared to transform the taxation on fossil fuel use in a way that truly reflects the high cost of ‘free carbon release’, then this numeric analysis remains an esoteric academic study.

The Paris Agreement commits countries to taking action to hold temperature rises to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels – and to try to stabilise emissions at a level which would see a temperature rise of no more than 1.5C.

Following the agreement’s signing by the largest CO2 producers and as the COP22 meeting in Marrakesh draws to a close, some world-leading countries may start to introduce the taxation of fossil-fuel carbon release as a means to get the world’s atmosphere back under control and remain within the stated, and agreed, 1.5C global warming limit.

However the major contributors to global carbon emissions, USA and China, appear to remain heavily dependent upon coal-fired power plants and oil-based fuel systems in their economic activity.

Bigger Picture
Eminent scientists worldwide have calculated that a very large proportion of the known (and often privately-owned) reserves of oil, gas and coal already available for extraction and combustion will have to stay in the ground as part of tackling climate change and staying within agreed limits.

The huge shift in corporate and national energy-habits required to leave fossil fuels in the ground will only happen with a Carbon Tax; particularly on the creation of electrical power and directly linked to the tonnes of CO2 released into the atmosphere per unit of fossil carbon consumed.

If that happens, it might be the time to return to that ‘mine’ of carefully stowed thousands of tonnes of good plastic and look at the economics of turning it into new polymer.

With a huge carbon tax slapped on burning it, then the economics would probably work. So these plastics may not have to stay in the ground for too long.

Looking at the bigger picture, we should all be concerned about the wholesale damage of completely uncontrolled burning of fossil fuel. That’s what we’re doing when we’re burning plastic that’s encapsulated amongst the mixed MSW we put in our black bin bags.

Time for a ‘Sky-fill’ Tax?
The short-term political and economic viewpoint is that ‘we’re getting some electrical power from it so it must be a good thing to do’. But this I think reflects the market failure created by very high landfill taxes that are not balanced by an equivalent taxation method to discourage ‘sky-fill’.

It’s a complex and challenging issue that reaches out over the next 20 years; a critical period in our history.

Until we get a carbon tax that puts some seriously big costs on throwing carbon into the atmosphere, I don’t see there being any real change. After all, the Earth doesn’t have a bank account – it’s us humans who operate under that monetary metric.

$40m Contract for B&W Vølund to Supply “World’s Largest” Waste to Energy Plant in China

Babcock & Wilcox Vølund A/S has been awarded a contract worth close to $40 million to design the boiler for the huge 168 MW waste to energy plant being planned for Shenzhen, China.

Babcock & Wilcox Vølund A/S has been awarded a contract worth close to $40 million to design the boiler for the huge 168 MW waste to energy plant being planned for Shenzhen, China.

The company, the Danish subsidiary of Babcock & Wilcox Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE:BW), was awarded the contract by Shenzhen Energy Environmental Engineering Co. Ltd. in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, China.

When complete, the plant will provide a long-term waste management solution for the 5600 tonnes of the region’s waste per day while generating an estimated 168 MW energy.

It is claimed that this will make it the largest waste to energy plant in the world, although other plants built in multiple phases may have more processing capacity.

B&W Vølund will supply equipment, including a DynaGrate®combustion grate system, hydraulics, burners and other boiler components for the 168 megawatt plant. It will also provide construction advisors for the combined heat and power project.

“The demand for reliable and clean renewable energy is growing in China and throughout much of Asia,” said Paul Scavuzzo, senior vice president, B&W Renewable.

The circular Shenzhen plant will be built with sustainability in mind and will incorporate rooftop solar panels, a visitor education center and an observation platform into its architectural design. It also represents the first time B&W Vølund has deployed its DynaGrate® technology in China.

The plant is scheduled to begin commercial operation in mid-2019.

A Europe powered only with renewable energy

This vision was launched in 1992 from within the world-leading power equipment company ABB.

Europe can be powered by wind (mainly offshore) and by solar power (mainly as concentrating solar power) in North Africa and southern Europe. That was the futuristic vision of Gunnar Asplund in 1992, as shown in the map.

“It was not popular within ABB,” says Asplund in 2016.

Swedish Asea merged in 1988 with Swiss Brown Boveri to create ABB. At the time, ABB tried to market nuclear reactors of Swedish origin (eventually without success) and increased its nuclear power activities by the acquisition of US Combustion Engineering. ABB also developed PFBC coal and lignite plants at the time, but had no real stake in wind and solar.

By the year 2000, ABB would divest all power plant construction. But that was eight years ahead.

The idea of a gigantic grid and big centralised solar plants and big offshore wind power plants was also controversial in the NGO community. “Small is beautiful” had a strong resonance. ABB reached out to garner support from Swedish NGOs, but with no real success.

Asplund’s idea was that most of the cost for electricity is for generation, and that transport of the power even for very long distances, need not add more than 25 per cent. Power should be produced where conditions are the best: most wind power offshore or at the coast, solar where the sun shines most, and all connected by many, long power lines.

Storage was to be supplied by existing hydropower in Norway, Sweden, Iceland and continental Europe.

It took some nerve to claim by 1992 that wind and solar power could be the future, even in a 100-year perspective. All the wind power in the world produced less than 5 TWh in 1992, solar only 0.5 TWh, adding up to the equivalent of a single nuclear reactor. Offshore wind was nowhere in 1992 and was of no significance until the 2010s. Nuclear power produced 2,100 TWh, and was still on the increase. So was fossil power almost everywhere in the world.

The 1992 vision is still controversial, but nobody doubts that wind and solar have a bright future.

The belief in renewables went hand-in-glove with the emergent technology that Asplund led at ABB Ludvika: HVDC light, the slimmer version of the high-voltage direct current cable.

To the casual observer, the map of cables all over Europe looked as if the purpose was to maximise sales of high-voltage cables.

This was indeed not so far-fetched.

“The vision served to motivate our development work,” says Asplund frankly.

HVDC Light was first tested in the late 1990s and has since been a success story for ABB, sometimes exactly the way Asplund envisioned.

The technology is indeed impressive. Asplund has a sample in his office, about 12 cm in diameter. Such a cable can conduct 1000 megawatts, the output of a nuclear reactor. HVDC is well suited not only for connecting point A to point B, but also for creating a grid, like a spider’s web.

HVDC is used for bringing offshore wind power in the North Sea to the UK and connecting Norway to the Netherlands, Germany and the UK so intermittent power can be balanced by Scandinavian hydro. ABB has also built a 2,000 kilometre 800 kV transmission line in China so hydro in one part of the country can supply power to other parts, and balance wind and solar power, where China leads the world.

So the 1992 concept works, and 100 per cent renewables is possible.

“By 2092 I hope it has looked like that for a long time,” says Asplund.

Being an impatient person, he has moved on to another futuristic field: CO2-free transport.

There are not enough biofuels in most countries. There is a rich resource of renewable electricity, but electric cars are heavy, expensive and take a long time to charge.

His solution: electric highways, where electric cars can run on direct-feed power from the road, and recharge batteries at the same time.

His company Elways (“el” means electricity in Swedish) works with the practical aspects of designing rails and connectors, and has been granted 17 patents and filed for several more. The company has received substantial support from the Swedish Energy Agency.

The cost for the car-owner, for connectors, may be a couple of hundred euros.

“It would be extremely expensive to have all roads in Sweden rebuilt for direct feed. To have it for the big roads, not so expensive,” he says.

This second future looks a lot like the first one: an all-electric all-European spider-web.

Fredrik Lundberg

The scenario from 1992., with 700 GW from solar, 300 GW from wind and 200 GW from hydro.

The scenario from 1992., with 700 GW from solar, 300 GW from wind and 200 GW from hydro.

Vision 1992, actual results 2015

Share of renewables. In 2015, the 28 nations that are now the EU member states (EU-28) produced 29 per cent of their electricity from renewables. This is far from 100 per cent, but a big improvement on the 15 per cent in 1992. Renewable electricity in 1992 was almost exclusively hydro. Hydro production has not changed much and totalled 337 TWh in 2015. The “other” renewables (than hydro) have grown from 21 TWh in 1992 to 601 TWh in 2015. Most of this increase took place after 2008.

Which renewables? Wind and solar have developed roughly as in the scenario. Biomass, not in the scenario, is of some importance, and produced more electricity than solar in Europe in 2015. Biomass, and the so far insignificant tidal and geothermal power are not intermittent and do not need long power lines. Wave power, which was not in the scenario, but would fit well in a super grid, has still not taken off.

Wind. Wind power has, so far, mainly been on land. It is all a part of a centralised grid. Turbines are much larger, more efficient and more reliable than in 1992. The offshore wind parks are even larger, and are connected pretty much according to the 1992 map.

But wind power has mainly grown outside the utilities. Small community ownership of wind parks has however been of importance for acceptance of wind power, at least in Germany.

Solar. In the 1990s and the 2000s the main potential of solar power was often thought to lie in concentrating thermal power (CSP) based on systems of lenses or mirrors.

Heat can be stored, so output can match demand and also supply power at night. CSP promised higher efficiency than photovoltaics, at least in environments with few clouds, such as in deserts. But CSP requires large-scale installations and huge investments in one steep step. This essentially did not happen. There are a few big CSP plants in Spain and Morocco, but so far it has been a sideshow to photovoltaics (PV).

Most of the PV capacity is decentralised: rooftop or small ground-level solar farms. Some of the output is used locally so as to reduce the electricity consumption. The distance between producer and user is, in this sense, not long.

The large-scale installation (utility scale) of PV is growing even faster than rooftop solar and is now the top segment in many countries. Even so, the scale is modest compared to nuclear, coal and offshore wind.

Then again: practically all PV is grid-connected, so the millions of panels add up to big effects on national and European grids and markets. Unlike the 1992 map, much solar is in central Europe (Germany and the UK) rather than in the sunnier south.

Cables from Africa. This has not happened, but the idea lived on in the gigantic DESERTEC project, which was essentially abandoned after the disarray following the Arab Spring, the disintegration of Syria and Libya and the rise of the so-called Islamic State. One power line (though AC, not HVDC) between Europe and Africa has been in operation since 1997, between Morocco and Spain, later extended with a second cable, and a third is underway. So far the cables have been mainly used for Spanish exports of power.

Cables from Iceland. Iceland has huge hydro and geothermal resources, which could be used to balance other renewables. The cables are still not there, but a UK-Iceland government task force was set up in October 2015.

Other cables. Lithuania-Sweden went into operation in 2016, and the UK-Norway link is under construction. There are fairly recent interconnections between Norway-Netherlands-UK, Finland-Estonia, UK-France (several), Italy-Greece, and Estonia-Finland-Sweden.

Perovskite combination rivals silicon solar cell efficiency

The hybrid photovoltaic cell has a claimed efficiency of 21.7 percent, already better than the 10 to 20 percent of standard polycrystalline silicon solar cells currently in use(Credit: Onur Ergen/UC Berkeley)

The hybrid photovoltaic cell has a claimed efficiency of 21.7 percent, already better than the 10 to 20 percent of standard polycrystalline silicon solar cells currently in use(Credit: Onur Ergen/UC Berkeley)

Scientists working at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley), and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) have created a hybrid photovoltaic cell from multiple layers of different perovskite materials that has a claimed a peak efficiency of 26 percent. It’s said that the cell can easily be sprayed onto flexible surfaces to make bendable, high-efficiency solar panels.

A hybrid organic-inorganic conglomerate, perovskite is used in solar cells to capture light in a similar way to common silicon-based solar cells by converting incoming photon energy into electrical current. Unlike rigid silicon semiconductor materials that require a great deal of expensive processing and manipulation to turn them into solar cells, however, perovskite photovoltaic devices are said to be cheaper and easier to make, in addition to being much more flexible.

The new UC berkeley/LBNL device is also very efficient thanks to a sandwich of two types of perovskite separated by a single-atom thick layer of hexagonal boron nitride (sometimes referred to as “White graphene”) with each perovskite slice designed as a graded bandgap layer (put simply, of low resistance and high gain) able to absorb different wavelengths of light. This combination effectively creates a photovoltaic cell able to collect and convert energy across most of the light spectrum.

“This is realizing a graded bandgap solar cell in a relatively easy-to-control and easy-to-manipulate system,” said Alex Zettl, a UC Berkeley professor of physics. “The nice thing about this is that it combines two very valuable features – the graded bandgap, a known approach, with perovskite, a relatively new but known material with surprisingly high efficiencies – to get the best of both worlds.”


In detail, the perovskite materials are made of methyl and ammonia organic molecules, with one containing tin and iodine and designed to absorb infrared light in the 1 electron volt (eV) range, and the other consisting of lead and iodine doped with bromine that absorbs amber photons of energy at 2 eV. A single-atom layer of boron nitride then provides an intermediate junction to operate in tandem and create electricity from across the light band.

This entire layered combination is then stabilized mechanically by placing it on top of a lightweight graphene aerogel to enhance the formation of fine-grained perovskite crystals as well as serve as a moisture barrier to stop the water-soluble perovskites falling to pieces. Lastly, the whole conglomeration has a gold electrode attached to the underside, along with a gallium nitride layer added to the uppermost part that gathers up the electrons generated when the cell is exposed to light. And all this with an active layer just 400 nanometers thick.

“Our architecture is a bit like building a quality automobile roadway,” said Zettl. “The graphene aerogel acts like the firm, crushed rock bottom layer or foundation, the two perovskite layers are like finer gravel and sand layers deposited on top of that, with the hexagonal boron nitride layer acting like a thin-sheet membrane between the gravel and sand that keeps the sand from diffusing into or mixing too much with the finer gravel. The gallium nitride layer serves as the top asphalt layer.”

With a standard operating efficiency of around 21.7 percent, the new wide spectrum hybrid perovskite cell is already better than the 10 to 20 percent efficiency of standard polycrystalline silicon solar cells currently in use in a host of commercial equipment and household solar systems. Even the best silicon solar cells made today are lucky to get over 25 percent efficiency, and are complex and expensive to produce.

“We have set the record now for different parameters of perovskite solar cells, including the efficiency,” said Zettl. “The efficiency is higher than any other perovskite cell – 21.7 percent – which is a phenomenal number, considering we are at the beginning of optimizing this.”

“Our theoretical efficiency calculations should be much, much higher and easier to reach than for single-bandgap solar cells because we can maximize coverage of the solar spectrum,” added Onur Ergen, a UC Berkeley physics graduate student.

The possibility exists to add further layers of hexagonal boron nitride-separated perovskite to help increase efficiencies even further, but the researchers believe that the thin new material may be efficient enough, and certainly sufficient for producing acceptable efficiencies for commercial production.

“People have had this idea of easy-to-make, roll-to-roll photovoltaics, where you pull plastic off a roll, spray on the solar material, and roll it back up,” said Zettl. “With this new material, we are in the regime of roll-to-roll mass production; it’s really almost like spray painting.”

The results were recently published in the journal Nature Materials.

China: We’ll deliver 18% cut in carbon emissions by 2020

China has issued a new climate plan targeting an 18% cut in carbon emissions by 2020 compared with 2015 levels as the Paris Agreement of nearly 200 countries took effect.

China has issued a new climate plan targeting an 18% cut in carbon emissions by 2020 compared with 2015 levels as the Paris Agreement of nearly 200 countries took effect.

Under the new State Council plan, coal consumption must be capped at about 4.2 billion tons in 2020 while non-fossil fuel energy generation capacity like hydropower and nuclear power are expanded to 15% share of China’s total capacity.

China has taken a leading role in climate change talks and its collaboration with the United States has been touted by Washington and Beijing as a bright spot in an otherwise strained relationship.

China will guarantee that emissions peak no later than 2030 under the Paris pact. There are also plans to officially launch a national carbon trading market next year.

In recent years China has become a world leader in renewable energy investment and installation of new wind and solar power capacity, but efforts by the government to break away from coal consumption have been frustrating at times.

Even after Beijing declared a “war on pollution”, hundreds of new coal power plants were approved for construction in 2015 by regional authorities keen to buoy their economies.

Central economic planners earlier this year declared a halt on new approvals for coal plants and energy chiefs went a step further last month when they declared a building freeze on scores of partially-built plants across more than a dozen provinces, garnering praise from environmental groups like Greenpeace.

Large-scale use of solar power not feasible in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is facing serious air pollution, which can cause irreversible damage to our society. To cope with the problem, some may suggest the adoption of larger-scale usage of solar power. However, I don’t think that it is feasible to widely use solar power in Hong Kong.

Firstly, from the economic perspective, I think it is very difficult to instal a lot of solar panels in our city. The cost of solar power is very high, even higher than that for conventional fossil fuels (for example, coal and natural gas). That is because we have to buy not just one, but a large number of solar panels. Also, we have to rent a big flat for enough area to place the solar panels, and it will be very expensive to do so.

Moreover, we have to purchase new generating units, as we cannot possibly use the old units for solar energy. Despite its unbelievably high cost, the efficiency of converting solar energy into electricity is very low.

Secondly, considering Hong Kong’s geographical structure, I think it is difficult to use solar power widely here. Solar panels require large open areas for instalments, while Hong Kong is fairly mountainous. So it would be difficult to find open and flat spaces to place solar panels in a place this hilly.

Moreover, Hong Kong’s high population density and scarce land already makes it difficult to find enough space for living. If Hong Kong had enough space, it should be used to build public housing, which is a much more serious problem. We cannot possibly try to solve one problem if it gives rise to a worse one.

If citizens oppose the promotion of solar energy, it will surely not be feasible, and it is very unlikely that they, especially the underprivileged, will support such an idea when using solar power would mean higher electricity bills for them.

All in all, I do not think it is practical to have wide use of solar power in Hong Kong. We should be looking at other forms of renewable energy that would have a much greater chance of success.

Eiman Arif, Tuen Mun

Paris changes everything

The Paris Agreement constitutes a global turning point away from fossil fuels and toward 100% renewable energy.

For the first time in history all countries have agreed to take drastic action to protect the planet from climate change, to jointly pursue efforts to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C and eventually reduce emissions to zero. Following this historic outcome, the next step is to translate these Paris commitments into deep emission reductions in all countries. There is no doubt that implementing the Paris Agreement will require a complete overhaul of the EU’s current climate and energy policies.

Since the Paris Summit we have already witnessed the transition to a 100% renewable energy economy speeding up. It is in the EU’s own interest to be a frontrunner in the race towards the zero-emission economy.

Increasing action before 2020 is a prerequisite to achieving the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement. Cumulative emissions determine the level of global warming, so in order to be consistent with the long-term goal of 1.5°C adopted in Paris, it is paramount to consider the cumulative emissions budget – the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. The IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report provides numbers for different global carbon budgets allowing for different levels of warming. With current emissions of 38Gt of CO2 per year, the entire carbon budget that would allow a 66 per cent chance of staying below 1.5°C would be completely exhausted in five years. A budget allowing only a 50 per cent chance would be gone in nine years (figure 1).

Figure 1. How many years of current emissions would use up the IPCC’s carbon budgets for different levels of warming? Source:  Carbon countdown graph by Carbon Brief Data IPCC AR5 Synthesis Report table 2.2.

Figure 1. How many years of current emissions would use up the IPCC’s carbon budgets for different levels of warming? Source: Carbon countdown graph by Carbon Brief Data IPCC AR5 Synthesis Report table 2.2.

For any fair likelihood of keeping temperature rise to 1.5°C, global mitigation efforts need to be stepped up between now and 2020, and extended to all sectors, including international shipping and aviation.

Increasing mitigation action before 2020 is vital for achieving the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement, and will be one of the key issues if the UN climate conference COP22 in Marrakech in November 2016 is to succeed. Keeping in mind that the EU has already achieved its -20% by 2020 target several years in advance, and is progressing towards 30 per cent domestic reductions by 2020, the EU can make a significant contribution to this discussion by, among other things, cancelling the surplus of pollution permits under the Emissions Trading Scheme and the Effort Sharing Decision.

We urge the EU to seek solutions that can help drive global emissions to a deep decline as of 2017, both in the context of the Global Climate Action Agenda as well as strengthening the national pre-2020 commitments on mitigation and finance.

2025 and 2030 targets must be revised in 2018 at COP24. The post-2020 commitments (INDCs) put forward by countries are inadequate for keeping warming to 1.5°C (or even 2°C). Last May the UNFCCC Secretariat published a report assessing the aggregate effect of countries’ post-2020 targets. The report’s graph below concludes that while most of the carbon budget was already consumed by 2011, countries’ unrevised INDCs will entirely consume the remaining 50 per cent chance of achieving a 1.5°C compliant carbon budget by 2025.

All COP22 countries need to commit to prepare their respective assessments on how to raise the level of post-2020 targets to bridge the adequacy gap by COP24 in 2018. To facilitate this process we urge countries to put forward updated and improved post-2020 INDCs as soon as possible and latest by 2018, and to finalise their long-term strategies as soon as possible, and latest by 2018 (figure 2).

Figure 2. Cumulative CO2 emissions consistent with the goal of keeping global average temperature rise below 1.5°C, with >50% probability by 2100. INDCs = intended nationally determined contributions. Source: IPCC Fifth Assessment Report scenario database and own aggregation.

Figure 2. Cumulative CO2 emissions consistent with the goal of keeping global average temperature rise below 1.5°C, with >50% probability by 2100. INDCs = intended nationally determined contributions. Source: IPCC Fifth Assessment Report scenario database and own aggregation.

The EU’s ongoing legislative work on ETS and non-ETS emissions should be used to align the EU’s 2030 targets with science and the commitments made in Paris, and make them economy-wide, covering EU-related emissions from international aviation and shipping.

International shipping and aviation currently account for around 5 per cent of global CO2 emissions, and these emissions are anticipated to have vast growth rates (50–250% by 2050 for shipping, and 270% for aviation). As these sectors’ emissions are not counted under national inventories, the 2018 stocktake must ensure that these sectors too are in line with the Paris Agreement and the 1.5°C compatible carbon budget.

Long-term strategies for zero greenhouse gas and 100 per cent renewable energy. The Paris Agreement includes a long-term goal to pursue efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5°C requires a reassessment of the EU’s climate and energy policies, and an increase in action by all. The goal to reduce the EU’s domestic emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 is not consistent with the Paris Agreement and has to change to be consistent with the long-term goals governments decided in Paris.

The Paris Agreement also contains a commitment to reduce net global emissions to zero during the second half of the century. Achieving this requires most sectors in the EU to achieve zero emissions earlier, within the next couple of decades. Most urgently, the EU should adopt timelines for fully phasing out the use of coal, gas and oil.

In order to facilitate the process of aligning all policies with the long-term targets of the Paris Agreement, all countries should swiftly proceed in the development of their respective 1.5°C compliant mid-century strategy. Having a long-term strategic vision will help to guide their short- and medium-term decisions and will have a positive impact on a long-term framework for innovation and business development. The updated EU 2050 roadmap should be finalised latest by 2018, and take fully into account the recent striking developments in renewable energy. A COP decision in Marrakech setting the deadline of finalised mid-century roadmaps by 2018 would ensure that all countries begin preparations swiftly.

Shifting of financial flows. The Paris Agreement also includes a requirement for making all financial flows consistent with low greenhouse gas emissions and climate resilient development. In the first instance this requires the EU to tackle those financial flows that are obstructing emission reductions, and which hinder progress towards the EU’s broader economic and social objectives. They include fossil fuel subsidies, public finance for high-carbon infrastructure through European development banks, and policy frameworks that facilitate financial support of fossil fuels.

The climate finance roadmap to raise 100 billion US dollars by 2020 should be launched in advance of Marrakech COP22. The roadmap must not be an accounting exercise for already existing financial flows, but rather guarantee stronger transparency, as well as adequate and reliable support for tackling the causes and impacts of climate change. It should also explicitly spell out to what level the EU and other donor countries will increase annual adaptation finance by 2020.

The current review of the EU ETS provides a key opportunity to showcase the EU leadership on climate finance, committing to direct a portion of the revenues from auctioning directly to the Green Climate Fund. Setting up an EU ETS International Climate Action Reserve would give a clear signal to developing countries that the EU is committed to continue to provide additional finance for climate needs in predictable and transparent ways. The Financial Transaction Tax should be implemented as soon as possible.

Resilience, adaptation and loss and damage. Even with the existing and future measures to mitigate climate change, the adaptation needs of all countries will continue to grow, undermining the rights of the poorest and most vulnerable communities in particular. The EU should lead efforts to strengthen human rights in all climate action, as mandated in the Paris Agreement.

Ratification of the Paris Agreement and its early entry into force. A rapid entry into force of the Paris Agreement would demonstrate that there is a strong international support for ambitious climate action and would serve as a strong signal to the private sector. All COP22 countries should set 2018 as a deadline for full entry into force of the Paris Agreement, including finalising all the outstanding work on rules and modalities for countries to be able to implement the Agreement.

Ulriikka Aarnio
Climate Action Network Europe

World first for Shetlands in tidal power breakthrough

Nova Innovation deploys first fully operational array of tidal power turbines in the Bluemull Sound

A power company in Shetland has claimed a breakthrough in the race to develop viable offshore tidal stations after successfully feeding electricity to local homes.

Nova Innovation said it had deployed the world’s first fully operational array of tidal power turbines in the Bluemull Sound between the islands of Unst and Yell in the north of Shetland, where the North Sea meets the Atlantic.

It switched on the second of five 100kW turbines due to be installed in the sound this month, sending electricity on a commercial basis into Shetland’s local grid.

Existing tidal schemes use single power plants or installations rather than a chain of separate turbines. A French company, OpenHydro, says it too is very close to linking two tidal machines, off Brittany, to build a more powerful 1MW array.

After a series of commercial failures in Scotland’s nascent marine power industry, including the collapse of two wave power firms, Pelarmis and Aquamarine, Nova Innovation’s announcement was applauded by environmental groups.

Lang Banks, director of WWF Scotland, said: “News that power has been exported to grid for the first time by a pair of tidal devices marks yet another major milestone on Scotland’s journey to becoming a fully renewable nation.

“With some of the most powerful tides in Europe, Scotland is well placed to lead in developing this promising technology, which will help to cut climate emissions and create green jobs right across the country.”

The islands, which are not connected yet to the UK grid, get most of their electricity from a diesel-fuelled power station which is supplied by tankers, despite having some of the world’s strongest and most reliable wind, wave and tidal resources.

Shetland has also been the site of one of the UK’s most bitter disputes over renewable power. Thousands of islanders campaigned against an ambitious scheme backed by the local council to build the 370MW Viking windfarm, involving 103 turbines erected on the main island.

That scheme finally won legal approval in 2015 but construction has yet to begin; it is waiting for a UK government announcement on new energy supply deals and the installation of a national grid connection to mainland Scotland.

Nova Innovation said the two turbines installed so far were operating at 40% of their installed capacity. The company hopes its turbines, which were cofunded by the Belgian renewables company ELSA, will be sold worldwide now they have been commercially proven.

“We are absolutely delighted to be the first company in the world to deploy a fully operational tidal array,” said Simon Forrest, the firm’s managing director.

$40m Waste to Energy Research Collaboration in Singapore

Singapore’s National Environment Agency has joined forces in a Collaboration Agreement with the NTU Singapore to develop a S$40 million waste to energy research facility.

Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA) has joined forces in a Collaboration Agreement with the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) to develop a S$40 million ($30 million) waste to energy research facility.

According to the NEA the facility will be the first of its kind in Singapore and is planned to enable the translation of emerging waste to energy technologies, such as the use of syngas in demonstration and test-bedding projects.

Possible projects to be conducted at the facility include turning waste and biomass into synthetic gas, cleaning and upgrading syngas to run an gas engine or turbine for higher energy recovery efficiencies, the utilisation of slag in engineering applications, novel flue gas treatment module for lower emissions, low-grade heat recovery and using a gas separation membrane to extract oxygen from air.

History of Collaboration
The collaboration agreement was signed by Ronnie Tay, CEO of NEA, and Professor Ng Wun Jern, executive director of NTU’s Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute (NEWRI).

“NTU has an established track record of industry collaboration and for translating research into impactful commercial applications,” commented Prof Freddy Boey.

“It will provide local institutions and industries access to the world-class research facilities and expertise at NTU, helping them to innovate and develop clean solutions that are globally competitive,” the professor continued.

Expected to be commissioned by late 2018, it is hoped that the facility will be an open platform to support research and its translation, as well as personnel training to build technical competencies in waste to energy.

Ronnie Tay added: “We hope that this facility will provide stakeholders such as research institutes, academia and industry with a platform to collaborate in and create more effective and sustainable waste management solutions through research, development, demonstration and test-bedding.”