As we prepare to post this newsletter, COP26 climate negotiations are wrapping up in Glasgow. A New York Times headline reads, “Negotiators Race to Reach Climate Deal as Activists Demand Action”, which pretty well describes the disconnect between what world leaders appear willing or able to deliver vs what the crisis demands. Even this summit’s so-called achievements are suspect. Consider the questionable merits of the celebrated 40+ country agreement to phase out coal, or marvel at the European Union’s unyielding grip on the fiction that biomass is a climate solution.
At this moment, negotiators are patting themselves on the back for having the courage to include, in the agreement’s second draft, a mere mention of fossil fuels – something conspicuously absent from Paris and all other COPXX agreements to date. Even this most timid nip at the hand that feeds so many governments and politicians may vanish from the final agreement.
You can treat yourself to a refresher on fossil fuel industry influence by noting how many rich countries plan to keep developing, extracting, consuming, and exporting coal, oil, and gas at carbon-budget-busting rates. Or consider how natural gas utilities in politically conservative states are imposing steep cancellation fees on customers trying to plug the pipe and electrify their homes. The industry hypes carbon capture & sequestration as their white knight – justification for continuation of business as usual. But it remains a sketchy, expensive, and vastly underperforming technology with no clear path to success.
Fortunately, climate activists are not letting any of this slide, and we have updates on protests and actions from Glasgow and Springfield. There were many more, and they will continue to resist pollution, injustice, and inequality while holding focus on the existential nature of climate change.
The choice between a sustainable future and the carbon economy seemed present in all of this week’s reports. Examples include developments in the Mass Save energy efficiency program, which can’t seem to rid itself of incentives to purchase new gas appliances. Efforts to modernize the grid are hostage to legislation jeopardized by the whims of Joe Manchin, a West Virginia coal baron Senator.
Most of this week’s good news is packed into our clean energy, energy storage, and clean transportation sections.
We’ll leave you to consider our ballooning demand for lithium to power a surge of new electric vehicles. Developers currently have their sights on a huge deposit in Nevada’s Thacker Pass – a place protected by treaty agreement with Indigenous people who want no part of a lithium mine. Lithium exists in abundance in other, less-sensitive places, like the toxic Salton Sea in California. Even the green economy presents choices that result in either benefit or harm. It’s up to us to nudge policy, and policy makers, in the right direction.
For even more environmental news, info, and events, check out the latest newsletter from our colleagues at Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT)!
— The NFGiM Team
PROTESTS AND ACTIONS
Tens of Thousands Throng Streets of Glasgow Demanding Climate Justice
Indigenous groups led the march amid criticism that they have been side-lined from the official COP26 summit.
By Adam Barnett and Rich Collett-White, DeSmog Blog
November 6, 2021
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND — Thousands of protestors marched through Glasgow today to demand action from world leaders and polluting companies, as the COP26 UN climate summit moves into its second week.
Indigenous groups were front and centre of the demonstration, with one protestor calling them the “first true climate leaders”.
Organisers say over 100,000 people joined the protests, with 300 other demonstrations taking place around the world.
Marchers progressed from Kelvingrove Park in the west of the city through to Glasgow Green in the east, where they heard speakers from across the climate movement.
Among them was Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, Marshall Islands Climate Envoy to the United Nations and a member of the Pacific Climate Warriors group, who said:
“The physical existence of our islands is what’s at stake. That’s why I flew all the way here, for over 18 hours, in order to make sure our message gets here.”
“My message is this: we as a people are not going anywhere. We survived three eras of colonialism. We survived over 60 nuclear weapons detonated in our islands through the US nuclear weapons testing programme. We will survive climate change. We refuse to leave. We refuse to go anywhere, and our sovereignty is not up for debate,” she said.
Asad Rehman, a spokesperson for the COP26 Coalition, which coordinated the protests, said:
“Many thousands of people took to the streets today on every continent demanding that governments move from climate inaction to climate justice. We won’t tolerate warm words and long-term targets anymore, we want action now.
“Today the people who have been locked out of this climate summit had their voices heard – and those voices will be ringing in the ears of world leaders as we enter the second week of negotiations.”
» Read article
Activists protest Eversource’s planned Springfield pipeline
By DUSTY CHRISTENSEN, Daily Hampshire Gazette
November 4, 2021
SPRINGFIELD — Speaking in front of a crowd gathered in front of City Hall on Thursday, local climate justice activist Naia Tenerowicz spoke forcefully about the impacts of climate change on younger generations.
When contemplating the future, previous generations thought about flying cars and other technological marvels, Tenerowicz said, while younger generations think merely of salvaging “dreams of a livable future.”
“I am not willing to fund the destruction of my future,” Tenerowicz said. “I am not going to stand aside as Eversource fuels the fire that is burning my dreams.”
Tenerowicz was one of around two dozen activists from the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition and other groups gathered in front of City Hall for a press conference, expressing their opposition to Eversource’s planned construction of a gas pipeline from Longmeadow into downtown Springfield. The pipeline would be a significant expansion of the region’s fossil fuel infrastructure after state lawmakers passed a climate law earlier this year that requires the state to halve its carbon emissions by the end of the decade and become carbon neutral by 2050.
“Make no mistake, this is a major expansion project,” said Zulma Rivera, an organizer with Neighbor 2 Neighbor.
» Read article
» More about protests and actions
COP26 cop-out? Indonesia’s clean energy pledge keeps coal front and center
By Hans Nicholas Jong, Mongabay
November 10, 2021
JAKARTA — Indonesia has signed another seemingly landmark pledge at the COP26 climate summit underway in Glasgow, this time to phase out its use of coal, the dominant source in its energy mix, by the 2040s.
But as with the first pledge it made at COP26 — to end deforestation by 2030, which it then immediately backpedaled from — the details of the coal pledge suggest no actual intent on moving away from the highly polluting fossil fuel in real terms, activists say.
The headline figure that Indonesia is touting under this new agreement on a clean energy transition, signed Nov. 4 by 23 countries, is the retirement of 9.2 gigawatts of coal-fired power plants by 2030. This represents a quarter of its total generating capacity from coal, and is more ambitious than its initial plan to decommission 1.1 GW of coal power by 2030.
But such a reduction is meaningless when the country is building or planning to build 13.8 GW of new coal plants during this same period, says Adila Isfandiari, a senior climate and energy researcher at Greenpeace Indonesia.
“So it’s useless if we decommission 9.2 gigawatts of coal but then build 13.8 gigawatts of new coal,” Adila told Mongabay. “We won’t be able to increase the capacity of renewable because the space [for new energy] has already been occupied by these new coal plants.”
» Read article
» More about climate
Thailand switches on 45MW floating solar plant, plans for 15 more
By Joshua S Hill, Renew Economy
November 11, 2021
One of the world’s largest hybrid floating solar arrays has officially begun commercial operation on a hydropower dam in the east of Thailand, with plans for 15 more such projects to come, totalling 2,725MW across the country.
The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) said this week that the 45MW Hydro-Floating Solar Hybrid Project at Sirindhorn Dam began had been switched on at the end of October atop Sirindhorn Dam in Thailand’s Ubon Ratchatani Province.
It is billed as a “hybrid” project as it can not only produce electricity from solar panels during the day but also hydropower from the existing dam.
» Read article
» More about clean energy
Utilities defend energy efficiency plan
Face criticism for subsidizing natural gas heating systems
By Colin A. Young, CommonWealth Magazine
November 9, 2021
GETTING MORE people to adopt electric heat sources in place of fossil fuel-powered sources is a crucial part of the effort to meet the state’s new climate targets, but senators said Monday that the latest three-year plan for the Mass Save program isn’t ambitious enough to truly drive that change.
Utility executives on Monday walked lawmakers on the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change through what they see as “a significant pivot and expansion” of their energy efficiency program, detailing how Mass Save is prepared to more closely align its mission with the state’s new law requiring that greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 be at least 50 percent lower than 1990 emissions and that Massachusetts achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Energy officials have said that in order to reduce emissions fast enough to comply with the new net-zero emissions climate law, the state will have to retrofit about 1 million homes in the next decade, or about 100,000 homes each year. Fewer than 500 homes actually made that shift in 2020 and the plan that Mass Save administrators presented to senators on Monday would still fall short of that target.
Sens. Cynthia Creem of Newton and Marc Pacheco of Taunton each raised concerns with the decision of Mass Save to retain incentives for people switching from one fossil fuel-powered heating source to another more efficient fossil fuel-based source, arguing that it is counterproductive to the goal of compelling the adoption of electric heat sources.
“That’s not heading us towards where the goal is in terms of decarbonization. We end up subsidizing a fossil fuel system, now you’re talking about another 10 years at that home, at a minimum, where we’re having a new HVAC system or heating system subsidized to do exactly the opposite of what our end goal is, and that’s to move to a system statewide that is fossil fuel-free,” Pacheco said.
» Read article
Iomart shows vibrational cooling system from Katrick Technology at COP26 Glasgow
Encouraging results from tests of vibrational cooling at Glasgow data center
By Peter Judge, Data Center Dynamics
November 4, 2021
Scottish colocation provider Iomart has tested a novel heat pump system at its Glasgow data center, and presented the results to an event during the COP26 climate change conference in the city.
The thermal vibration bell (TVB) from Scottish startup Katrick Technologies uses a “bi-fluid” to derive mechanical energy from the data center’s waste heat, which drives the cooling system. Iomart has tested a 120kW capacity TVB at its Glasgow data center, and has shown the results at an event at the Iomart data center today, attended by members of the UK and Scottish Parliaments.
Katrick says the TVB can be used for any data centers, and the company also produces wind panels, which can harness wind power on a smaller and more effective scale than large turbines.
Iomart, which has committed to using renewable energy in its UK data centers, installed the TVB at its Glasgow data center in October 2021, and the initial results are promising, says Iomart CEO Reece Donovan: “Initial results have been very pleasing. We think we can save up to 70 percent of our cooling costs, and 25 percent of our overall energy usage. Data centers are a huge consumer of power globally. And it’s down to us to play a much more active role in achieving a greener future for the tech industry,”
» Read article
» More about energy efficiency
‘We are uniting’: Long-duration energy storage competitors join forces at COP26
By John Engel, Renewable Energy World
November 11, 2021
Normally competitors in the quest to deploy long-duration energy storage, and replace fossil fuels with dispatchable clean energy at all hours of the day, 24 companies joined forces at the COP26 United Nations climate summit to form the Long Duration Energy Storage Council.
ESS, Form Energy, and Ambri are among the founding members of the council, which aims to provide guidance to governments and grid operators on the path to deploying 85-140 TWh of long-duration energy storage globally by 2040.
“ESS commends the formation of the LDES Council and is proud to be a founding member of an organization committed to global decarbonization,” sad ESS CEO Eric Dresselhuys, who is attending COP26 in Glasgow this week. “As an industry, we are uniting to provide our expertise and experience to accelerate energy sector transformation with long-duration energy storage as a key enabler of clean, reliable power grids.”
Mechanical, electrochemical, chemical, and thermal long-duration energy storage technologies are all represented by the LDESC, as well as equipment manufacturers, low-carbon energy system integrators, industrial customers, and capital providers.
The LDESC will release a strategic report on long-duration energy storage technologies on Nov. 23. The report will detail how $1.5-3 trillion investment in long-duration energy storage can eliminate 1.5-2.3 Gt of CO2 produced annually from fossil fuels.
Long-duration energy storage — five hours or more — is a crucial piece in the world’s transition away from polluting fossil fuels toward renewable energy resources.
» Read article
On Batteries, Minerals, the Circular Economy, and Finite Supply
By Shelley Robbins, Clean Energy Group, in Renewable Energy World
November 4, 2021
As the fossil fuel industry rages against the dying of the gas light, they continue to work to plant doubt about an economy centered around solar and wind paired with battery storage. Since it is hard to cast doubt on the abundance of sun and wind, they instead target battery storage and the components that make up much of today’s lithium-ion batteries.
The fossil industry rhetoric – that there isn’t enough lithium and cobalt available to supply a dramatic increase in battery production for electric vehicles and stationary battery storage – simply isn’t accurate. Energy strategist Kingsmill Bond with Carbon Tracker has blown up the myth that minerals are constrained by simply running the numbers. His projections are even conservative in that they assume battery components won’t change, when of course they will. Battery developers are actively and effectively working to replace challenging raw materials such as cobalt in batteries while simultaneously working to improve the safety and business ethics of the supply chain.
But the news gets better. EV batteries can be repurposed as stationary batteries. An EV battery is designed and sized to dispatch a lot of power, very quickly, and we are all grateful for that when we hit the accelerator to merge into traffic on a highway. When these batteries reach 80 percent capacity and begin to lose their ability to do this, they can be repurposed for less demanding stationary uses, such as being paired with solar PV in both residential settings and at grid scale. McKinsey estimates that repurposed EV batteries could supply 200 gigawatt-hours of grid storage by 2030 and will cost 30 percent to 70 percent less than new batteries by 2025.
Once a battery has done all it can do, minerals and valuable components can be recovered and recycled. There are now approximately 100 companies worldwide that are recycling lithium-ion batteries, including Li-Cycle in New York and Redwood Materials in Nevada. American car manufacturers Tesla, Ford and GM all have contracts and commitments with battery recycling companies. A battery and its valuable mineral components are not single use. They keep going and going and going.
» Read article
» More about energy storage
MODERNIZING THE GRID
Democrats’ infrastructure bills don’t go far enough on cleaning up the power grid
A clean grid is the linchpin of any plan to tackle climate change
By Justine Calma, The Verge
November 3, 2021
On a call Tuesday morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rallied Democrats to pass two ambitious bills at the heart of President Biden’s agenda, aiming for a final house vote later this week. But the climate provisions of the $1.75 trillion budget reconciliation bill that progressives want to pass alongside a bipartisan infrastructure bill are newly uncertain after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) pushed to further delay the vote during a surprise press conference on Monday.
It’s the latest twist in a long struggle for Congress to pass meaningful legislation in support of the ambitious climate goals President Biden set on entering office. The reconciliation framework released last week puts $555 billion into clean energy, the first major effort to meet the Biden administration’s goal of a power grid running entirely on carbon-free electricity by 2035. But while this bill and the companion infrastructure bill do a lot to speed the growth of clean energy in the US, experts say these two bills won’t get Democrats all the way there.
“Is it going to be enough? No,” says Leah Stokes, an associate professor of political science at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “This is a really good down payment on the progress that we need.”
The bulk of climate funds in the White House’s framework for the reconciliation bill are for $320 billion in tax incentives for clean energy technologies. Existing tax incentives for wind and solar energy projects give people and utilities some relief from federal income taxes. A key change in this bill is that it would offer direct pay as an alternative. That gives utilities more incentive to build out renewable energy projects since they don’t have a lot of federal tax liability, according to Stokes. There are also new tax credits for batteries and energy storage, microgrid controllers, and other carbon-cutting technologies. The bill also gives home and building owners rebates for electrification projects.
» Read article
» More about modernizing the grid
SITING IMPACTS OF RENEWABLES
Plans To Dig the Biggest Lithium Mine in the US Face Mounting Opposition
Resistance to Lithium America’s plans to dig an element critical to the energy transition at Nevada’s Thacker Pass shows that “clean” energy could face the same challenges as fossil fuels.
By Cayte Bosler, Inside Climate News
November 7, 2021
HUMBOLDT COUNTY, Nevada—Deep below the tangled roots of the old-growth sagebrush of Thacker Pass, in an extinct super-volcano, lies one of the world’s largest deposits of lithium—a key element for the transition to clean energy. But above ground, a cluster of tents has risen in the Northern Nevada desert where, for eight months, environmental and tribal activists are protesting plans to mine it for “green” technologies.
“We are not leaving until this project is canceled,” said Max Wilbert, of the Protect Thacker Pass campaign. “If need be, this will come down to direct action. We mean to put ourselves in between the machines and this place.”
Plans to dig for the element known as “white gold” have encountered a surge of resistance from tribes, ranchers, residents and activists who say they believe the repercussions of the mine will outweigh the lithium’s contributions to the nation’s transition to less-polluting energy sources than fossil fuels.
The opponents view lithium extraction as the latest gold rush, and fear that the desperation to abate the climate crisis is driving a race into avoidable environmental degradation. The flawed assumption behind the “clean energy transition,” they argue, is that it can maintain levels of consumption that are inherently unsustainable.
“We want people to understand that ‘clean energy’ is not clean,” Wilbert said. “We’re here because our allegiance is to the land. It’s not to cars. It’s not to high-energy, modern lifestyle. It’s to this place.”
» Read article
» More about siting impacts
Solid-State Batteries Are Coming! Solid-State Batteries Are Coming!
Two new announcements this week suggest the dawn of the solid-state battery era is getting closer.
By Steve Hanley, Clean Technica
October 29, 2021
Solid-state — what does that even mean? For older people, it takes us back to the days when transistors replaced vacuum tubes, a development that led inexorably to the digital revolution. Today, it refers to the “stuff” that goes between the anode and the cathode of a battery cell. That “stuff” is where the electrical charge is stored and while various manufacturers have their own recipe for “stuff,” virtually all of it contains volatile solvents that make it into a semi-liquid paste similar in appearance and texture to fig jam.
That paste contains lithium, which under some circumstances can form sharp spikes of metal called dendrites. Those spikes can cause a short circuit inside a cell which then leads to overheating. If the cell gets hot enough, the paste ignites, which makes the nearby cells overheat and ignite and before you know it, you have a full scale “thermal runaway event,” which is a polite way of saying a really, really big fire.
Solid-state technology eliminates that semi-liquid paste and replaces it with a solid substance (there are dozens, if not hundreds, of ideas about what that substance should be), but the benefit is no dendrites and no fires. Improvements in energy density and battery life are also expected from solid-state technology.
There are a lot of trade secrets involved and lots of money on the table for the winners of the solid-state sweepstakes. The buzz about solid-state batteries is always that they will be here soon, but how soon is soon? Over and over, the year 2025 is mentioned. That’s no guarantee that you will be able to buy a car with solid-state batteries by then, but it seems to be the expectation in the industry that they will be available by then.
2025 is not that far away. No matter how you look at it, the EV revolution is about to accelerate. That’s good news for us and good news for the planet.
» Read article
» More about clean transportation
CARBON CAPTURE AND SEQUESTRATION
» More about CCS
Utility Company in Oklahoma May Charge $1,400 Fee to Switch From Gas to Electric
By Paige Bennett, EcoWatch
November 9, 2021
A utility company in Oklahoma could start collecting a $1,400 “exit fee” for customers who switch from gas service to electric. If approved, the new fees could set a precedent for fossil fuel companies and discourage customers from switching to electric heating and stoves.
Oklahoma proposed the new exit fees as part of a larger plan for Oklahoma Natural Gas, the state’s largest utility company, to sell off its debt. The debt comes from a historic cold snap in February 2021, which caused fuel costs to sharply increase.
The exit fee solely targets clients switching to electric and could be approved by December. If so, the fees would go into effect in June 2022. The proposal is currently under review by a judge at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.
Environmentalists warn that this move would prevent customers from transitioning to zero-carbon energy sources, as the cost to switch would increase exponentially. The precedent is already set, though, as officials in Texas and Kansas are now considering similar proposals.
“Exit fees are just one more example of barriers being put in place to make it more difficult for customers to electrify their homes and cut greenhouse gases,” Charlie Spatz, a researcher who tracks preemption laws at the Energy and Policy Institute, told HuffPost. “As gas prices rise and consumers are more concerned about their carbon footprints, this exit fee could become a serious financial hurdle locking customers into the gas system.”
The move to enact exit fees comes after Oklahoma banned new gas hookups in buildings, following a similar decision in Berkeley, California that requires new buildings to have electricity rather than gas. Meanwhile, over 20 states under conservative leadership have made laws to ban such bans on gas. The exit fees are another strategy to keep fossil fuels in power, despite the fact that buildings (including operations and construction) are responsible for nearly 40% of carbon emissions in the U.S.
» Read article
» More about gas utilities
FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY
New report exposes five wealthy countries whose fossil fuel production threatens chance at 1.5ºC
The Fossil Fuelled 5 examines five wealthy nations — the United States, Canada, Norway, Australia, and United Kingdom — with a widening gap between their rhetoric on climate action and their plans to expand the production of fossil fuels
By Collin Rees, Oil Change International
November 12, 2021
GLASGOW — After two weeks of talks, pledges and meetings in Glasgow, a scathing report has cut through the rhetoric of five wealthy nations, including the COP Hosts, by reviewing their plans to expand the production of the primary cause of climate change – fossil fuels.
The report, coined The Fossil Fuelled 5, finds that the gap between climate rhetoric and reality is dangerously wide, with wealthy nations — the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Norway and Australia — planning to approve and subsidise new fossil fuel projects which undermines their recent claims of leadership in addressing the climate crisis.
The report that analysed recent government announcements and the latest data on fossil fuel production found that:
- There is an alarming gap between what the Fossil Fuelled 5 are pledging to do to reduce their domestic emissions and their plans to expand fossil fuel production, undermining efforts to curtail global emissions and ignoring their responsibility to phase out fossil fuels, rapidly and justly.
- Coal, oil and gas production must fall globally by 69%, 31% and 28% respectively between now and 2030 to keep the 1.5ºC target alive. However, the projections suggest that the Fossil Fuelled 5 will reduce coal production by only 30%, and actually increase oil and gas production by 33% and 27%, respectively. As wealthy nations, the Fossil Fuelled 5 should be leading this transition away from fossil fuels.
- Despite their net zero targets and climate pledges these five nations alone have provided over $150 billion in public support for the fossil fuel production and consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic. This level of support to fossil fuel production is more than the entire G7 put towards clean energy as part of the pandemic recovery ($147 billion).
The report released today on the final day of COP26, led by Freddie Daley from the University of Sussex, synthesises the most recent government emissions pledges and compares them to the fossil fuel production plans in the coming decade, as well as other factors such as fossil fuel subsidies. They show that several of the world’s wealthiest nations “are doubling down on fossil fuel production” which will “have disastrous impacts for all life on our planet, but especially those communities in the Global South who have done the least to create this crisis and have the fewest resources to adapt to its impacts.”
» Read article
» Read the report
» More about fossil fuels
COP26: E.U. is committed to forest biomass burning to cut fossil fuel use
By Justin Catanoso, Mongabay
November 10, 2021
GLASGOW, Scotland — In the view of Frans Timmermans, the European Union’s point man for U.N. climate summit negotiations at COP26, it is more achievable, and economical, for the 27 E.U. member nations to heavily subsidize the burning of wood pellets to make energy, than it is to invest in truly renewable energy solutions such as wind and solar now.
That’s the case even though the burning of woody biomass and the wood pellet supply chain releases carbon emissions greater than the burning of coal per kilowatt hour produced, according to current science.
So, in the meantime, forest biomass will be burned in Europe, and though it is counted as “carbon neutral” according to E.U. and U.N. rules, it will continue to add significant carbon to the atmosphere at a time when humanity and Earth most need emission cuts.
Aside from meeting energy demands, a key incentive to burning wood are U.N.-tolerated national policies that do not require countries to count wood pellet carbon emissions at the smokestack, thus claiming carbon reductions that exist only on paper, while undermining the legitimacy of the ambitious carbon-reduction pledges they’re making here in Glasgow. Not to mention the addition of all that wood-derived carbon to the atmosphere and the impacts it will have on heatwaves, droughts and other extreme weather.
This commitment to biomass burning comes as more than 100 nations signed the Glasgow Declaration on Forest and Land Use last week, pledging to end deforestation by 2030, while leaving the door open to logging on which the wood pellet industry depends.
» Read article
» More about biomass
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