Author Archives: olivianelson076

The USA Might Not Ever Withdraw From the Paris Deal

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When Donald Trump announced to the world that he would be taking the United States out of the Paris Deal, the assumption was that he would actually do that. But, it seems that things haven’t been going entirely to plan based on what was seen at the Bonn summit. The negotiators in charge of sealing an agreement did not seem to be making the dramatic withdrawal he promised.

 

The Paris Climate Agreement (Paris Deal) was signed in 2015 and laid down goals that signatories should implement into their own national policies with regards to tackling climate change. For a number of reasons, these policies did not appeal to the President of the United States and so he decided to withdrawn his country from the agreement.

 

Judith Garber, the U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State for International Environmental and Scientific Affairs attended the Bonn summit. During her time there she told other delegates that the United States does not want to completely exclude the possibility of being involved in the global fight against climate change.

 

Indeed, she said that the nation wishes to continue to be engaged with other countries around the world in order to help move towards a cleaner future. She proceeded by reeling off a list of actions that the United States is undertaking in order to further the battle against climate change.

 

However, she tempered her positive speech by reminded the cohort that President Trump’s views on the Paris Agreement have no changed and that his position is entrenched. Nevertheless, she indicated that while he wants to withdraw from the deal as soon as he can, there is nothing stopping him from joining back up again in the future if terms that are more favourable to the American public can be agreed upon.

 

The general consensus by the time Garber had finished was that it may well be the case that re-joining won’t be necessary. This could be the case because the United States might not ever leave to begin with.

 

It was noticed by onlookers that Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Deal was undermined somewhat by his choice of methods as to how to execute his decision. He could have declared the original entry into the deal to be invalid because Obama did not allow Congress to be part of the decision. This would have allowed the President to withdraw straight away.

 

What President Trump has done instead has been to go down the official withdrawal route. This process will take over three years and won’t actually be triggered until the day after the next presidential election in the United States. This won’t be until 2020. So, the United States looks like it is going to be locked into this deal for, at least, another six years.

 

During this time, Trump will continue to send delegates to meetings. A State Department official said that this is in order to “ensure a level playing field that benefits and protects U.S. interests.”

 

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Costa Rica Beat Former Record By Using Renewables for 300 Days

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Costa Rica is setting the bar high for renewable energy use with its new record of 300 days.

 

The Central American country has managed to run on renewable energy for 300 days so far this year, beating its previous records of 299 days in 2015 and 271 days in 2016.

 

The Costa Rican Institute of Electricity (ICE) claims that the country has run exclusively off of power that has been generated by five different renewable energy sources. These sources are hydropower, wind, geothermal, biomass and solar.

 

Hydropower contributes the largest portion of Costa Rica’s energy as the country sees a large volume of rain annually. The reliability of the rain – due to the presence of the rainforest – drives hydropower generation and allows Costa Rica to become more and more dependent on renewables.

 

Yet, hydropower is just one cog in Costa Rica’s renewable power generation machine. It is predicted that 2017 is going to be a good year for wind production in the country. Indeed, it could well be the year Costa Rica produces the most ever wind power. Currently there are sixteen wind farms across the country, which are producing a cumulative total of 1,014.82 gigawatt hours.

 

With each of these renewable sources doing their bit, it is likely that Costa Rica could actually go beyond their 300 day mark before the end of the year.

 

But, this isn’t the only step Costa Rica is taking to improve the country’s sustainability. Their commitment also includes an ambitious but promising target of becoming completely carbon neutral by 2021. This would be an incredible achievement for the country, particularly in light of the recent, revamped drive towards environmental sustainability and clean energy from global leaders.

 

Costa Rica’s other goal is to completely eliminate the use of single-use plastics. Finally, the nation has made it clear they are going to work on expanding their forest cover.

 

Costa Rica is home to huge swathes of tropical rainforest, which are in danger of rapid deforestation among other threats. It is therefore pivotal that the country puts in a serious effort to protect its natural habitats and conserve its staggering biodiversity.

 

All that remains to be seen now is how Costa Rica will fare for the rest of the year and whether or not the country can maintain its excellent record for years to come. Whatever the outcome, Costa Rica is pioneering the way to 100% dependence on renewables and is setting a good example for other countries to follow suit.

Energy Shortfalls

powerlines_6.jpgReuters is reporting today (Dec. 1, 17) that Sweden will need an additional 2.6GW of power generation capacity by 2040 if production capacity is to keep up with demand. This is due, largely in part, to the planned shutdown of some of Sweden’s nuclear plants.

Germany, too, has been faced with a daunting task of providing energy during their total transition away from nuclear power which was sped up after the 2011 nuclear incident in Fukushima, Japan. Germany’s rather unfortunate solution has been to restart, and even construct new coal-fired power plants; significantly increasing Germany’s carbon footprint.

Sweden and Germany are not alone. Already mentioned, Japan has had to take drastic measures in power supply to be able to maintain a relatively stable network since most of its nuclear power plants remain offline.

Using renewables may seem like a great idea to help combat the gaps left by nuclear, but there isn’t enough capacity in place to provide a full replacement. What’s more, many sources of renewable energy are weather-dependent or dependent on other uncontrollable environmental factors.

While individual countries alone assess their power needs and make the decisions on the future of nuclear energy, they are often not alone in solving the problems faced by decommissioning. Efforts have been underway for many years already to connect grids with one another, creating a continent-wide super-grid capable of making the most use of available (renewable) power resources. With sufficient interconnection Sweden would be able to benefit from a solar power plant in Spain, or wind farms closer to home in Denmark and Germany, when their plants are able to produce more than can immediately be consumed domestically.

In short, though there is a looming shortfall which we cannot deny; there is a will and a means to help mitigate the effects and help boost renewable energy production.

Who are the large players in the energy industry?

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Where would the world be without energy? You certainly would not be reading this article right now. From the production and supply of electricity to jet fuel and heating oil, our lives depend on energy. So too, do we depend on the companies that are responsible for supplying and providing that energy. When we think of an energy company we often include our utility company, but also the gas station and perhaps even the oil companies. The latter companies are known the world over because of their sheer size and the exposure they have in providing us with that crucial element; energy.

Below we take a look at some of the largest names in energy production, that is to say companies that are active in the he production and sale of energy, including fuel extraction, manufacturing, refining and distribution. The ranking has taken place based on market capital for these publicly traded companies. Most large energy companies are public in order to compete and thrive in the energy economy. That’s not to say that there are many larger, small energy companies that are still privately held; but the below list counts the giants.

Exxon Mobil

Based in the US and known for its Exxon, Mobil and Esso brands around the world, this energy behemoth is based in Irving Texas and generates more revenue than any other publicly held corporation in the world.

Royal Dutch Shell

The 6th largest company in the world by revenue, Royal Dutch Shell is an Anglo-Dutch corporation which was formed by the joining of Royal Dutch Petroleum and the Shell Transport and Trading Company. Headquartered in The Hague, the company’s registered office is in London.

Chevron

 

A US company takes spot 3 on the list, with chevron beating out France’s Total and Britain’s BP, though this is a highly contested spot. Headquartered in California, the company is one of the successor companies to Standard Oil, and is active in more than 180 countries and known aborad largely by the Texaco brand. 

The Microgrid Imperative

Microgrid.jpgThis year Microgrid conference started with a list of people who have suffered from power outages this year. The outages were caused by damaged power lines and were incredibly costly to remedy. This highlighted the clear need to find a better method of providing the public with electricity.

 

So far, microgrids have not been flying off the shelves. Nevertheless, adoption of this system is growing every year despite some clear challenges that have prevented people from wanting to get involved with them. Microgrids need a variety of specialist technology and equipment and those using them needs to abide by a number of regulations and policies. They are also reasonably pricey. Furthermore, the technology that powers these microgrids is not standardized.

 

The main adopters of microgrids so far have been military bases, universities, schools and hospitals. This is because these markets each have their own individual motivation for adopting this technology. For example, clean energy microgrids can help universities achieve their goals of sustainability. Meanwhile, a microgrid could provide better cyber security and energy independence for a military base or greater energy stability for a hospital.

 

There are a few projects taking place across the US that show the effectiveness of using microgrids but these are rare at present. This is despite the fact that there is growing proof that the current grid system in the United States is in dire need of renovation and is vulnerable in a variety of different ways. But, there is hope that utilities might start to recognise that microgrids could be a non-wires alternative thanks to their capacity for shaping loads and thus eliminating the problem of costly transmission upgrades.

 

Doug Staker, a VP with Demand Energy Networks (DEN, an Enel company) said  “One of the things about grid-connected microgrids is we have the ability to create load with the storage at night and then we are able to take and time shift and manage that load to manage the building load or manage that network load”.

 

He continued by explaining that if you flatten a load, the overall efficiency is improved and thus the need for these expensive upgrades becomes greatly reduced.

 

There are also resiliency issues in the current system in the US. These could potentially be solved with the adoption of microgrids. When there is a serious storm or a forest fire in a remote part of the country, falling trees can take out power lines and their poles. Once these are destroyed, the effect is multi-day outages.

 

In this situation a microgrid could continue providing power to a gas station, police station and hospital while the outage is fixed. At the very least this would keep the town in question functioning on a basic level while full functionality is being restored.

 

Staker concluded by saying, “I think you are going to see more and more utilities look to build that infrastructure or do like Con Ed did with us and incent private developers to go out and build them.”

 

 

Chinese Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)

green-technology-frontiers-carbon-capture-and-storage-ccs-14-728.jpgChinese development of CCS project was spurred in 2005 through the formation of GreenGen, mentioned later, and the EU-China Near Zero Emissions Coal (NZEC) agreement. The latter was formed with the aim of demonstrating advanced, near zero emissions coal technology through carbon capture and storage (CCS) in China and the EU by 2020. To support this, a UK-China bilateral NZEC initiative was formed with an ambitious three phase process with the intention of commissioning a demonstration plant in 2014. Project players include nine Chinese partners (GreenGen, IET, THCEC, DTE, DCE, ZJU, NCEPU, WHU and TPRI) and four UK partners (IMP, DB, Alstom and Shell).

Shareholders from the energy sector including five power companies, two coal production companies and one investment company set up GreenGen, to promote high efficiency, low environmental emission plants. The group is developing a pilot IGCC demonstration project in the Tianjin Binhai New Development Zone. Many are also collaborating with international players to develop CCS such as the Huadian group and Duke Energy.

It is estimated that CO2 could be used to simultaneously recover more than 40 million barrels of oil and more than 12 gigatonnes of CO2 could be stored. The two sites with the most potential for both oil recovery and CO2 storage are Bohaiwan and Songlio of 18 billion barrels and 9 billion barrels respectively, and a storage potential of 5.4 gigatonnes and 2.4 gigatonnes.

For 90% of large stationary emitters it is estimated that a storage option is within 100 miles and for 85% within 50 miles. This includes 2,300 gigatonnes of onshore CO2 storage capacity in deep saline formations (2,290 gigatonnes), coal seams (12 gigatonnes), oil fields (4.6 gigatonnes) and gas fields (4.3 gigatonnes), and 780 gigatonnes of offshore storage.

However, re-combustion capture and the use of oxyfuels have the most potential due to their expected lower capital costs, levelised. CO2 could also be used for energy intensive industries such as iron and steel, ammonia, cement and ethylene production. The Chinese government is expected to introduce a target to reduce the country’s energy intensity by 20% in its eleventh five year plan. This roughly equates to a 306 mega tonne reduction in CO2 emissions.

The world’s newest nuclear power plants

Nine-Mile-Point-Nuclear-Plant-cropped.jpgThe optimism surrounding nuclear power that existed in the 1960s, 70s, and into the 80s was quickly replaced with scepticism and distrust after a number of serious and very high-profile nuclear incidents. With the latest incident being the 2011 tsunami which crippled several reactors in Japan and led to the catastrophic failure of containment and the release of radioactive materials, development of nuclear technology has again slowed to a crawl.

However, there is still development and there are still new nuclear projects forging ahead as the existing fleet ages and replacements become increasingly urgent. Though the disasters have left their scars, they have also brought about a new awareness for safety and lessons learned can be applied in new as well as existing plant construction.

One of the latest nuclear power plants nearing completion does away with the notion that the plant must be on land entirely. Nuclear reactors have been used on ships since early in the technology’s life, though mainly to produce power for the ships. And while there have been some plants located on ships to produce power to be used on-shore, Rosatom’s designs for ship-based nuclear power plants are the first that are set to be mass-produced.

Elsewhere, European countries Finland and France are putting the newly designed Evolutionary Power Reactor design to use in new-build nuclear power plants at Olkiluoto and Flamanville. First marketed as the European Pressurised Reactor, the EPR is also being deployed in China where it is likely to see the design’s commissioning debut after significant delays in Finland and France.

Elsewhere in Europe, Slovakia was left with a shortfall in power after joining the EU and the forced closure of two soviet-era reactors which failed to meet EU safety standards. To continue to help provide power to the grid, Slovakia is also expanding its nuclear fleet with the addition of a third and forth Russian-designed reactors to be deployed at the Mochovce plant site, the first of which will come online in 2018.

While the nuclear power-plant boom has turned into a trickle, there is still plenty of opportunity for development and there are many new plants coming online around the world for many years to come.