The Salem City Council has asked state environmental officials to take another look at the Peabody “peaker” power plant, adding their voice to the litany of objections and concerns raised over the past year by opponents to the plant. The 11-member council unanimously approved a resolution “strongly and urgently” opposing the plant’s construction. It calls for Gov. Charlie Baker and Bethany Card, secretary to the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to “reopen the (state review) process and do a full environmental impact review.” The statement echoes a similar plea from Peabody officials.
The East African crude oil pipeline (EACOP) is another piece of fossil infrastructure under fire. If built, it will transport oil drilled in a biodiverse national park in Uganda more than 870 miles to a port in Tanzania for export. The pipeline is part of a pattern where the world’s biggest fossil fuel firms are quietly planning scores of carbon bomb oil and gas projects that would drive the climate past internationally agreed temperature limits, with catastrophic global impacts.
Atmospheric concentrations of another potent greenhouse gas — methane — grew tremendously in 2021, but scientists are still trying to figure out why. The reason for last year’s big increase is unclear because methane in the atmosphere can come from many different sources. The oil and gas industry is responsible for much of it, but there are also natural sources, and climate change can increase the rate of those emissions. Helpfully, NASA scientists, using a tool designed to study how dust affects climate, have identified more than 50 methane-emitting hotspots around the world – an important step toward mitigation.
Listen up. Three major studies just completed by the United Nations conclude that the world is fast approaching irreversible climate tipping points. At a time when existing emissions reduction plans are woefully inadequate and solving climate problems requires unprecedented international cooperation, geopolitical tensions are peaking.
Let’s take that sobering news as a call to action, rather than cause for despair. On the hopeful side, we’re seeing lots of stories about how legislation and the private sector are finding ways to break down barriers and accelerate the transition to renewable energy. One example is the C-PACE program being finalized in Maine. It involves loans to commercial property owners that eliminate down payments and spread the cost of solar, energy efficiency, and other projects over longer terms than conventional bank loans. More broadly, the New England states, having spent years crafting climate and clean energy plans, are in a good position to secure Inflation Reduction Act funds.
In Minnesota, green energy jobs are booming, but 84% of the companies in that sector report having trouble hiring qualified workers. A program at White Earth Tribal and Community College is stepping up to fill that gap.
Another obstacle being addressed is the high cost of electric vehicles. So far, the people with long commutes who stand to benefit the most from EVs often aren’t able to afford them. Traditional lease programs don’t work because of high-mileage penalties. But Zevvy, a California financing startup hopes to change that with a new leasing model. It features a fixed fee that’s cheaper than a monthly loan payment, plus a small per-mile fee that should result in drivers saving money compared to what they’d pay to keep burning gasoline.
And it’s looking like the energy crisis Russia sparked by invading Ukraine is likely to speed up rather than slow down the global transition away from fossil fuels and toward cleaner technologies like wind, solar and electric vehicles. Some countries have been burning more fossil fuels like coal because of war-related disruptions, but that effect is expected to be short-lived.
In Massachusetts, the Mass Save program provides funding for all sorts of energy efficiency projects, small and large. The primary complaint has been the program is administered by the state’s investor-owned gas and electric utilities, and has been used to slow the transition away from natural gas. The conflict of interest baked into that arrangement played out in Wellesley recently, when National Grid offered nearly $1.5 million in Mass Save funds to help fund energy efficient equipment at two new schools, on the condition that the buildings connect to gas lines. The town managed to beat back this crude attempt at extortion and collect the money anyway, but the episode underscores the need to remove Mass Save from utility control.
While we’re on the topic of utilities, millions of service shutoffs during the pandemic highlighted the growing U.S. electricity affordability crisis. Utility company commitments to customer equity, energy affordability and equitable access to clean energy resources are becoming more common, but energy justice advocates say they’re not enough. Advocates say investor-owned utilities need to do more to help low-income customers, customers of color and residents of traditionally underserved communities.
Urban heat islands are a common hazard in many of those communities. Reducing the surface area of pavement or making it more reflective can be effective cooling strategies. Boston’s Chelsea neighborhood is experimenting with lightening pavement – making it more reflective – by using a shot blasting technique.
At a time when fossil fuel giants are posting record profits, we take a look at the growing trend to sell off wells, coal mines, and other operations through private equity. The practice takes some of the dirtiest assets off the books of publicly-traded companies, and shifts them to the private sphere shielded from rigorous reporting requirements. Some environmental advocates are warning that these transactions, supposedly driven by an effort to reduce emissions and climate risks, may instead do the opposite.
Now that New Zealand has decided to support a temporary moratorium on deep-seabed mining, this is a good time to review the case against doing it at all.
We’ll close with reporting from Greenpeace on the fantasy of plastics recycling. Only 5% of the mountains of plastic waste generated by US households last year was recycled, but the plastics problem is much bigger than wanton consumerism or laziness. The situation would still be bad even if every household separated every piece of plastic and disposed of it in a dedicated recycling plant. Not a single type of plastic packaging in the US meets the definition of recyclable used by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s new plastic economy initiative.
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
PEAKING POWER PLANTS
Salem councilors call for stronger state review of Peabody plant
By Dustin Luca, The Salem News
October 27, 2022
SALEM — The City Council has asked state environmental officials to take another look at the Peabody “peaker” power plant, adding their voice to the litany of objections and concerns raised over the past year by opponents to the plant and other local officials.
A 55-megawatt “peaker” plant planned in Peabody would be powered by oil and natural gas, and run during peak times of energy use. Construction on the new plant has already started, with developers expecting the $85 million project to be completed by summer 2023.
With a unanimous vote Tuesday night, the 11-member council in Salem approved a resolution “strongly and urgently” opposing the plant’s construction. It calls for Gov. Charlie Baker and Bethany Card, secretary to the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to “reopen the (state review) process and do a full environmental impact review,” echoing a similar plea from Peabody officials.
Salem councilors noted they didn’t want to create an impression they were telling their peers in Peabody what to do. The resolution is targeting state actors and calling for further review, they said, feeling it was a necessary statement to make.
“This is a resolution that’s directed to our environmental affairs departments in the state to hopefully be another community that’s encouraged enough to follow through on a promise they’ve made,” Ward 5 Councilor Jeff Cohen said: “to have that environmental impact study any time any power plant is built.”
» Read article
» More about peakers
There was a record-breaking increase in methane in Earth’s atmosphere last year
Methane is an even more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and scientists are scrambling to figure out why there’s been such a dramatic increase of it in the atmosphere
By Justine Calma, The Verge
October 27, 2022
Concentrations of a super potent greenhouse gas in the atmosphere — methane — grew tremendously in 2021. It’s still something of a mystery why the world saw such an “exceptional increase” last year, says the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which released the numbers yesterday.
The reasons for the big leap last year are unclear because methane in the atmosphere can come from many different sources. But we do know who’s consistently responsible for huge amounts of methane pollution. Every year, the oil and gas industry leaks tremendous amounts of methane. There are also natural sources of methane emissions, and climate change can make that a bigger problem. So it’s no wonder methane is building up at astonishing levels in our atmosphere.
2021 marked the biggest year-on-year increase in atmospheric methane concentrations since the WMO started keeping track around four decades ago. With that jump, the amount of methane lingering in the atmosphere in 2021 was 262 percent of what it was before the industrial revolution. And once methane is in the atmosphere, it’s initially 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide when it comes to heating up the planet. Methane is estimated to have caused about 30 percent of the current rise in global temperatures since the industrial revolution.
Methane is simultaneously a pervasive and elusive pollutant to track. The fossil fuel industry sells it as the “natural gas” used in home heating and cooking stoves. And the gas is constantly leaking from oil and gas fields, pipelines, and even stoves. About 82.5 million tons of methane escaped from the oil and gas industry last year, according to the International Energy Agency.
For a sense of scale, consider what experts estimate is likely the fossil fuel industry’s single-largest methane leak ever — which just happened this month. A nearly half-mile stretch of the Baltic Sea was bubbling with leaking methane after suspected sabotage to the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines. While the cause and severity of that leak make it unusual, the upper estimate of how much gas escaped from the Nord Stream pipelines represents just a small fraction of industrial methane leaks every year. The worst-case emissions scenario for Nord Stream pipelines is equivalent to only two days of routine leaks from oil and gas infrastructure around the world. And there’s plenty of research that suggests that methane leaks are actually underestimated.
Tracking methane emissions gets more complicated because a lot of it also comes from animals and the environment. A cow will belch up around 220 pounds of methane a year, a major source of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. Methane also wafts up from landfills as organic material decomposes.
» Read article
New NASA instrument detects methane ‘super-emitters’ from space
The Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT) identified more than 50 methane hotspots around the world.
By Al Jazeera
October 26, 2022
NASA scientists, using a tool designed to study how dust affects climate, have identified more than 50 methane-emitting hotspots around the world, a development that could help combat the potent greenhouse gas.
NASA said on Tuesday that its Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT) had identified more than 50 methane “super-emitters” in Central Asia, the Middle East and the southwestern United States since it was installed in July onboard the International Space Station.
The newly measured methane hotspots — some previously known and others just discovered — include sprawling oil and gas facilities and large landfill sites. Methane is responsible for roughly 30 percent of the global rise in temperatures to date.
“Reining in methane emissions is key to limiting global warming,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement, adding that the instrument will help “pinpoint” methane super-emitters so that such emissions can be stopped “at the source”.
Circling Earth every 90 minutes from its perch onboard the space station some 400km (250 miles) high, EMIT is able to scan vast tracts of the planet dozens of kilometres across while also focusing in on areas as small as a football field.
The instrument, called an imaging spectrometer, was built primarily to identify the mineral composition of dust blown into Earth’s atmosphere from deserts and other arid regions, but it has proven adept at detecting large methane emissions.
“Some of the [methane] plumes EMIT detected are among the largest ever seen — unlike anything that has ever been observed from space,” said Andrew Thorpe, a Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) research technologist leading the methane studies.
» Read article
» More about gas leaks
Commercial building owners are about to get a new tool to fight climate change in Maine
Maine is the latest state to offer Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy, or C-PACE, loans, a tool that lets property owners repay loans for solar, energy efficiency and other projects through a line on their property tax bills.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
October 26, 2022
Maine is finalizing rules for a program that will soon let commercial property owners pay for clean energy upgrades through their property tax bills.
Loans known as C-PACE — or commercial property-assessed clean energy — eliminate down payments and spread the cost of solar, energy efficiency, and other projects over longer terms than conventional bank loans. When a property is sold, repayment responsibility transfers to the buyer, allowing owners to invest without worrying whether they will own long enough to fully recoup the cost savings.
“It is a financing tool that reduces the upfront cost barrier to renewable energy and energy efficiency measures for commercial properties,” said Robert Wood, director of government relations and climate policy at the Nature Conservancy’s Maine chapter. “It has a clearly successful and growing track record in a number of other states.”
Connecticut became the first state to approve a C-PACE program in 2012. Adoption picked up from there and today more than 20 states and the District of Columbia have active programs in place. Maine passed legislation (LD 340) last year to establish a program administered by Efficiency Maine Trust.
Maine has been making an ambitious push to cut its greenhouse gas emissions since 2019, when Gov. Janet Mills took office and declared climate issues a priority for her administration. In 2020, the state released a comprehensive climate change plan Maine Won’t Wait, which includes a goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.
One of the major strategies in the document is to modernize Maine’s buildings. The heating, cooling, and lighting of commercial buildings are responsible for an estimated 11% of the state’s emissions. C-PACE is seen as a tool to address this segment.
» Read article
New England states poised to capitalize on new federal climate law incentives
Every New England state except New Hampshire has already adopted climate laws requiring greenhouse gas emission reductions. The work already done around those plans should help them secure Inflation Reduction Act funds.
By Lisa Prevost, Energy News Network
October 24, 2022
Years of work crafting climate and clean energy plans have left New England states in a prime position to take advantage of renewable energy incentives in the historic climate bill enacted by Congress over the summer, advocates say.
“We’ve worked really hard to create fertile ground for this type of thing — in five of the six states, you have climate laws already passed,” said Sean Mahoney, executive vice president of the Conservation Law Foundation. “The states have prepared for this day. And now the Inflation Reduction Act is going to provide them with the resources to execute on it.”
The Inflation Reduction Act, or IRA, will allocate an estimated $369 billion over 10 years for energy security and climate change measures, according to the Congressional Budget Office. (It also includes many other forms of aid, including $64 billion to extend the Affordable Care Act and $4 billion for drought relief efforts in 17 western states.)
The wide-ranging climate change measures include tax credits for renewable energy production and storage, loans and grants for energy transmission projects and transmission planning, grants and rebates to replace heavy-duty vehicles with zero-emission vehicles, and financial assistance for clean energy technology manufacturing.
There are also rebates for consumers who install heat pumps and other energy-saving retrofits in their homes. Tax credits are available for the purchase of new or used electric vehicles by income-qualified buyers.
Passage of the law has generated “a whole bunch of enthusiasm” among the members of NECEC, a clean energy trade organization, because they see the coming injection of federal resources and private investment that will attract as an economic buttress in the face of inflation and an “up and down economy,” said Jeremy McDiarmid, vice president for policy and government affairs.
The Northeastern states overall are well positioned to jump on these opportunities because of the policy groundwork that has already been laid, he said.
» Read article
» More about legislation
GREENING THE ECONOMY
White Earth Tribal College becomes a bright spot for solar energy job training
As alternative energy jobs expand across Minnesota, a new program offered at a northwestern Minnesota reservation college is connecting Native and other workers to good-paying work.
By Andrew Hazzard, Sahan Journal, in Energy News Network
October 27, 2022
MAHNOMEN — Near the tall grasses outside White Earth Tribal and Community College, students huddled around a small ground-mounted-unit solar array on an unusually warm October day. The trainees, ranging in age from recent high school graduates to people in their 60s, took turns connecting wires, testing voltage, and flipping switches that connected the panels to a large battery.
“Be gentle with the wires,” instructor George Lemelin cautioned them. “Take your time, relax, no worry or hurry about anything.”
The five students were wrapping up a 45-hour solar-energy training certificate program that gives a basic introduction to electrical work with an emphasis on solar power. To test their knowledge, the group assembled, connected, tested, and powered up a ground-mounted solar array.
For Andrew Goodwin, 45, the course is a chance to change careers. After 20 years of union masonry jobs, he’s looking for rewarding work that’s easier on his body. He sees opportunities for trade work in solar in northwestern Minnesota.
“I’d like to make my own system and sell it,” he said.
Solar energy jobs are on the rise in Minnesota, and new workers are in demand, according to a new report published by Clean Energy Economy Minnesota, a nonprofit organization that promotes renewable energy. The solar industry grew 9% last year, the report found, higher than the 5%growth seen overall in clean-energy jobs, which include heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, clean-car production, and renewable energy like wind and solar power.
But 84% of companies in the clean energy sector reported trouble hiring qualified workers, according to Gregg Mast, executive director of Clean Energy Economy Minnesota.
The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act expanded and extended existing tax credits on solar power projects for commercial and residential users, which renewable energy experts believe will supercharge growth in the sector.
» Read article
» More about greening the economy
War in Ukraine Likely to Speed, Not Slow, Shift to Clean Energy, I.E.A. Says
While some nations are burning more coal this year in response to natural-gas shortages spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that effect is expected to be short-lived.
By Brad Plumer, New York Times
October 27, 2022
The energy crisis sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is likely to speed up rather than slow down the global transition away from fossil fuels and toward cleaner technologies like wind, solar and electric vehicles, the world’s leading energy agency said Thursday.
While some countries have been burning more fossil fuels such as coal this year in response to natural gas shortages caused by the war in Ukraine, that effect is expected to be short-lived, the International Energy Agency said in its annual World Energy Outlook, a 524-page report that forecasts global energy trends to 2050.
Instead, for the first time, the agency now predicts that worldwide demand for every type of fossil fuel will peak in the near future.
One major reason is that many countries have responded to soaring prices for fossil fuels this year by embracing wind turbines, solar panels, nuclear power plants, hydrogen fuels, electric vehicles and electric heat pumps. In the United States, Congress approved more than $370 billion in spending for such technologies under the recent Inflation Reduction Act. Japan is pursuing a new “green transformation” program that will help fund nuclear power, hydrogen and other low-emissions technologies. China, India and South Korea have all ratcheted up national targets for renewable and nuclear power.
And yet, the shift toward cleaner sources of energy still isn’t happening fast enough to avoid dangerous levels of global warming, the agency said, not unless governments take much stronger action to reduce their planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions over the next few years.
Based on current policies put in place by national governments, global coal use is expected to start declining in the next few years, natural gas demand is likely to hit a plateau by the end of this decade and oil use is projected to level off by the mid-2030s.
Meanwhile, global investment in clean energy is now expected to rise from $1.3 trillion in 2022 to more than $2 trillion annually by 2030, a significant shift, the agency said.
“It’s notable that many of these new clean energy targets aren’t being put in place solely for climate change reasons,” said Fatih Birol, the agency’s executive director, in an interview. “Increasingly, the big drivers are energy security as well as industrial policy — a lot of countries want to be at the leading edge of the energy industries of the future.”
» Read article
» Read the IEA report
Perovskites can make solar panels more efficient than silicon alone
But will their remarkable performance in the lab ever translate into real market momentum? Caelux and other tandem-solar startups are betting the answer is yes.
By Eric Wesoff, Canary Media
October 19, 2022
Startup Caelux is betting that its “tandem” solar technology, which combines perovskite photovoltaics with market-dominating silicon, will result in more efficient solar panels — and the company recently received a $12 million investment from Indian conglomerate Reliance New Energy to commercialize this new approach. Vinod Khosla, no stranger to next-generation solar, is also an investor in the Caltech spinout, which is based in Pasadena, California.
Tandem solar startups like Caelux place a light-absorbing layer made from perovskites, a class of crystalline materials, atop a conventional silicon cell. This dual-material architecture has the potential to break through the efficiency barrier of single-junction silicon because of the different wavelength sensitivities of silicon and perovskite materials.
In the last 10 years, the average conversion efficiency of commercial wafer-based silicon modules has increased from about 15 percent to more than 20 percent and is forecast to reach efficiencies of 23 to 24 percent by the end of the decade, approaching the practical limits of this technology.
With a perovskite layer added, “you’re going to see a 20 percent to 30 percent relative efficiency boost,” Caelux CEO Scott Graybeal told Canary Media. “So you’re talking about modules that will come out at 27 percent to 29 percent efficiency.”
With more efficient solar panels, more electricity could be produced from a plot of land or a rooftop, making solar power — already the cheapest form of electricity in history — even more cost-effective.
» Read article
» More about clean energy
Wellesley teed up a bold move on climate action. Then came an offer it couldn’t refuse.
How $1.5 million in incentives from National Grid nearly derailed the town’s net-zero plans
By Sabrina Shankman, Boston Globe
October 26, 2022
It took five years of painstaking work and delicate negotiations, but finally this summer town officials in Wellesley were on the cusp of a bold step to a climate-friendly future. Two new schools and a renovated town hall were to be completely free of fossil fuels. Officials hoped the projects would be an inspiration for residents and even for other communities.
Then came a wrinkle as leaders were finalizing the plans this summer. National Grid, the gas and electric giant, offered nearly $1.5 million to help with the cost of cutting-edge electric heating and cooling equipment.
But there was a catch. To get the money, the town would have to install gas lines to each of the new buildings.
[…] Steve Gagosian, the town’s design and construction manager, sent a terse letter to National Grid on Aug. 12, in hopes of convincing the utility to offer the money without requiring gas lines.
“It would appear that the incentive to electrify and then maintain a fossil fuel service are at odds with each other and sustainable climate goals,” Gagosian wrote.
National Grid replied that it was looking into his request, but Gagosian said months passed without hearing back.
By late August, some members of the School Committee and Select Board seemed “ready and willing to drop their commitment to Net Zero Energy Ready buildings” in order to ensure Wellesley got the National Grid money, a volunteer involved with the town’s climate effort claimed in an e-mail to Gagosian.
Then, on Oct. 18, the Globe interviewed a National Grid official for this story, who verified the company’s position and confirmed details of the offer. Three days later, on Friday, Gagosian said he received an unexpected message from National Grid on his office voicemail. The company said it had decided to rescind the requirement for gas connections.
[…] Even with Wellesley’s situation seemingly resolved, climate advocates said the offer and its terms underscore how the business interests of gas utilities put climate efforts at risk. They noted that National Grid’s offer came via Mass Save, the state’s energy efficiency program, which offers rebates for equipment such as electric heat pumps. While Mass Save is funded by ratepayers, the program itself is run by gas and electric utilities including National Grid. The program is meant to encourage reductions in harmful climate emissions, and yet in this case, it appeared to be aimed at ensuring those Wellesley buildings remained tied to fossil fuels.
“The investor-owned utilities should never have had control over these incentives,” said Logan Malik, interim executive director of the Massachusetts Climate Action Network, a climate advocacy group. The arrangement “is not designed in a way that can ensure we are electrifying as quickly as we need to be.”
Gas utilities in Massachusetts make most of their profit by installing new pipes, the cost of which is passed on to customers as a surcharge on their gas bills. And while state climate plans call for widespread conversion to electric heat powered by a clean grid, the gas industry has been pushing for climate policies that would allow it to pump new fuels through its pipes, another potential motivation to install more, climate advocates say.
» Read article
» More about energy efficiency
How pavement can help cool overheated cities, even in chilly Mass.
By Martha Bebinger, WBUR
October 24, 2022
On a typical summer day, it might be 10-12 degrees cooler in leafy sections of Boston than it is downtown, because unshaded pavement and roofs absorb and radiate so much heat.
Reducing pavement or making it more reflective are strategies more communities must adopt to help cool cities, experts say, and slow global warming. One of the dire challenges with pavement is how much heat it radiates at night.
“It’s this inability to cool down at night that leads to some of the worst health effects,” says Carly Ziter, an associate professor of biology at Concordia University in Montreal.
Heat radiating off asphalt, concrete and bricks overnight can disrupt sleep. Lack of sleep can aggravate chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and anxiety. Some researchers forecast more deaths connected to excessive nighttime heat.
More than a dozen U.S. cities, mostly in central or southern states are testing ways to cool pavement, in addition to planting trees and coating roofs white. In Massachusetts, where being too cold has historically been more of a concern than being too hot, there are a few experiments, but most decision makers are waiting and watching. There’s not much research about what works, on which surfaces, and in what settings.
In late September, a machine that looked like an oversized floor sander rolled slowly up and down the street in front of Chelsea’s Boys and Girls Club. Tiny metal beads pummeled the top black layer of asphalt, leaving it light gray.
“It’s striking,” says Tim Corrigan, an engineer with Weston and Sampson, “and what we hoped to see here.”
Asphalt fades from black to gray over time. This technique, called shot blasting, speeds up that process. Pavement color makes a big difference when it comes to heat. Black asphalt absorbs more sun than concrete, for example, and can be about 20 degrees hotter. Bringing asphalt closer to the color of concrete is the aim of many cool pavement projects.
“Our goal is to make the pavement hold less of the heat from the sun and reflect it back into the atmosphere,” says Corrigan, who proposed this experiment for Chelsea, an urban heat island where summer temperatures are often 10 or more degrees warmer than in suburbs.
» Read article
» More about building materials
This startup offers affordable EV leases to people with long commutes
Zevvy has raised seed funding to scale its electric-vehicle leasing, which is aimed at saving money and slashing emissions for the people who drive the most.
By Julian Spector, Canary Media
October 25, 2022
The people who stand to benefit the most from electric vehicles often aren’t the ones who’ve been able to get them. A Bay Area financing startup hopes to change that.
Zevvy wants to make electric cars accessible to the millions of Americans who commute many miles each day and tens of thousands of miles each year. These workers typically can’t afford the premium of a new electric vehicle, and they can’t lease one because they’d blast through the mileage cap. As such, they end up in the used car market and rack up steep annual bills for gas and maintenance.
The EV market hasn’t found a way to reach these customers effectively, contends Zevvy founder and CEO Andrew Krulewitz. But that needs to happen, both for drivers’ pocketbooks and for the planet’s health.
“If you think about maximizing an EV’s impact, financially and environmentally, you want it driven as much as possible,” Krulewitz told Canary Media.
Put another way, there’s a big difference in avoided carbon (and tailpipe) emissions from electrifying the personal vehicle of someone who taps on a keyboard at home every day versus someone who drives 60 miles to and from work every day. Similarly, the personal financial savings from reduced fuel and maintenance costs add up the more miles are driven on an electric vehicle.
The trick is getting your hands on one. Zevvy hopes to make this possible with a new type of financing product based on proprietary analytics. Drivers can sign up for a lease with a minimum commitment of six months. The monthly bill combines a fixed fee of several hundred dollars plus a variable fee of “only a few cents for every mile they drive,” and there’s no cap on mileage per month.
Zevvy calculates the fixed fee to be cheaper than a monthly loan payment, and the per-mile fee should result in drivers saving money compared to what they’d pay to keep burning gasoline, Krulewitz said. On Tuesday, the company raised $5.4 million in seed funding led by MaC Venture Capital. It’s a relatively small funding round at a time of massive investment in climatetech, but it’s enough to bring EVs to 1,000 California commuters in the coming year.
» Read article
» More about clean transportation
The energy system is ‘inherently racist,’ advocates say. How are utilities responding to calls for greater equity?
Millions of utility shutoffs during the pandemic highlighted the growing U.S. electricity affordability crisis, customer advocates say. Utilities say funding, outreach are barriers to doing more.
By Robert Walton, Utility Dive
October 26, 2022
Utility company commitments to customer equity, energy affordability and equitable access to clean energy resources are becoming more common, but energy justice advocates say they’re not enough. Investor-owned utilities need to do more, these advocates say, to help low-income customers, customers of color and residents of traditionally underserved communities.
To assess these efforts, Utility Dive contacted 20 major investor-owned utilities around the country to request details on their customer equity initiatives, including goals and challenges as well as what type of customer data they collect. Eleven utilities responded, sketching out a range of programs that stretch beyond traditional energy efficiency and bill assistance efforts to include expanded access to renewables, new approaches to energy affordability, weatherization offerings and commitments to community partnerships.
[…] Utility responses also highlighted the challenges they face — including struggling to connect with target customers and a lack of sufficient funding for these efforts — that have perpetuated energy system inequities for years.
“This is not a new problem. It’s been happening for a long time,” said Sharonda Williams-Tack, associate director for Sierra Club’s Energy Justice Campaign, Healthy Communities.
Why are utilities showing interest now?
Recent events, including the global pandemic and the racial reckoning in the United States since the murder of George Floyd, have forced regulators to acknowledge issues of energy affordability and equity, say experts. And they have created an opportunity for community-based organizations and consumer advocates to press for utilities to include more formal equity goals and commitments in their planning documents.
The focus on equity isn’t coming from utilities, said Grant Smith, senior energy policy advisor at Environmental Working Group. ”I don’t see that they’re excessively interested in it. … It’s advocates [and] state legislators that champion these issues and get support,” he said.
[…] “The rash of [utility] disconnections during the COVID crisis was pretty abhorrent,” Smith said. “It emphasized the exacerbated affordability issue and actually lent this equity effort a higher profile.”
» Read article
» More about electric utilities
The Case Against Deep-Sea Mining
By Sylvia Earle and Daniel Kammen, Time | Opinion
October 25, 2022
Earle served as the Chief Scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She is the founder of Deep Ocean Exploration and Research, and Mission Blue, a National Geographic Explorer in Residence, and an Ocean Elder. Kammen is Professor of Sustainability at the University of California, Berkeley. He has served as Chief Technical Specialist for Renewable Energy at the World Bank, and Science Envoy in the Obama Administration
Seldom do we have an opportunity to stop an environmental crisis before it begins. This is one of those opportunities. The mining industry is on the brink of excavating the deep ocean, creating a new environmental disaster with irreversible consequences for our ocean and climate. We urgently need a deep-sea mining moratorium to thoughtfully assess the full impact before a new crisis is created.
Deep-sea mining would wreak enormous damage. Massive machines digging, dredging, and vacuuming up the ocean floor would create huge sediment plumes deep in the ocean that will drift on currents, smothering marine life, including species not yet discovered. Surface-level processing ships would dump tailings—the waste materials left after the target mineral is extracted from ore—back into the ocean, killing plant and animal life as it drifts through the water column, releasing acidic and toxic sediment hazardous to fish and those who consume it. This process would disrupt the ocean’s vast natural carbon capture and sequestration system, and release greenhouse gas from the seabed floor, accelerating climate change.
The reason for this enormous destruction is simple—so a few mining companies can reap a profit. But this motive is hidden behind a clever greenwashing campaign.
The mining companies’ justification for deep-sea mining is based on a big lie—that we need deep-ocean minerals for electric car batteries and the transition to green energy. We don’t. New longer-lasting car batteries are becoming available that don’t need deep sea minerals, including batteries based on graphene aluminum-ion, lithium-iron phosphate, iron-flow, and solid-state technologies. We also have the option of low-cost, no-impact extraction of battery materials, such as lithium and cobalt, directly from seawater. And importantly, a circular economy that prioritizes reducing, reusing, and recycling critical minerals can power the clean energy transition without deep-sea mining—and at a lower cost. Car battery recycling is already a rapidly growing industry. Perhaps the best evidence that deep-sea mining is needless is the strong message from the electric vehicle industry: forward-thinking manufacturers including BMW, Volvo, Volkswagen, Renault, and Rivian are supporting the moratorium.
» Read article
[New Zealand] Government backs seabed mining ban in international waters until ‘strong environmental rules’ in place
By Michael Neilson, NZ Herald
October 26, 2022
The Government says it will support a movement to ban deep sea mining in international waters until the international community can develop appropriate rules “backed up by robust science”.
A small but growing global movement is concerned about the practice, which involves extracting metals and minerals from the seafloor. Campaigners and scientists have long raised concerns about the potential to damage ecosystems, about which little is currently known.
But some nations – including New Zealand’s Pacific neighbours – see it as a means to develop important new revenue streams. Many of the minerals found are vital components of new “clean technology”, including in developing electric vehicle batteries.
Te Pāti Māori and the Green Party have called for the practice to not only be halted in international waters but in New Zealand’s territory as well.
Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta today said Aotearoa New Zealand would back a “conditional moratorium on deep-sea mining in areas beyond national jurisdiction”.
A review is under way of progress on regulations for deep-sea mining in the area managed by the International Seabed Authority (ISA), which covers the seabed beyond exclusive economic zones and extended continental shelves.
The ISA has a July 2023 deadline to complete the regulations, or Mining Code, before mining applications can be submitted.
» Read article
» More about deep-seabed mining
FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY
European Oil Giants Report ‘Obscene’ Profits as Millions Face Deadly Energy Crisis
“The likes of Shell are treating families like cash machines,” said one United Kingdom union leader.
By Jake Johnson, Common Dreams
October 27, 2022
European oil giants Shell and Total reported massive profits Thursday as sky-high energy prices fuel a devastating cost-of-living crisis across the continent, with families struggling to afford heat and electricity as the winter months approach.
Shell, one of the biggest oil companies in the world, posted $9.5 billion in global third-quarter profits—more than double the $4.2 billion it reported during the same period last year. The United Kingdom-based corporation also announced plans to reward shareholders by buying back $4 billion worth of its stock and boosting its dividend by 15%.
[…] Banner earnings reports from Europe’s two largest oil companies sparked fresh calls for a windfall profits tax that would return money to households being hammered by an energy cost spike stemming from Russia’s war on Ukraine, which fossil fuel giants have exploited to raise prices and pad their bottom lines.
“The announcement of yet another obscene profit for Shell shows the scale of the pain that these companies are inflicting on the public,” said Freya Aitchison, an oil and gas campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland. “While oil companies continue to make record-breaking profits, ordinary people are facing skyrocketing energy bills and millions are being pushed into fuel poverty.”
On Twitter, Greenpeace U.K. asked, “How many more households need to be forced into fuel poverty before the government properly taxes oil and gas giants?”
[…] Much of Europe is facing a cost-of-living crisis driven by high energy prices, which have sparked widespread anger and mass demonstrations against insufficient government action.
» Read article
With Fossil Fuel Companies Facing Pressure to Reduce Carbon Emissions, Private Equity Is Buying Up Their Aging Oil, Gas and Coal Assets
Environmentalists fear the sell-offs could keep those facilities operating for years into the future, worsening climate change.
By Nicholas Kusnetz, Inside Climate News
October 24, 2022
When Continental Resources announced a deal last week to take the oil company private, it joined a trend that has swept across the fossil fuel sector in recent years. With investors agitating for energy companies to lower their greenhouse gas emissions, many oil and gas drillers and utilities have sold off wells and coal plants to private companies or private equity firms, which have been eager to scoop up the industry’s dirtier assets.
Now, some environmental advocates are warning that these transactions, supposedly driven by an effort to reduce emissions and climate risks, may instead do the opposite.
Privately held companies are exempt from many of the financial reporting rules that publicly traded companies face, and they are more insulated from the social and environmental pressures that investors have placed on the fossil fuel sector in recent years. As the impacts of climate change have worsened and more governments have acted to reduce emissions, investors have increasingly pressed oil companies to prepare for a pivot away from fossil fuels by scaling back drilling plans and investing in alternatives like renewable energy or biofuels.
The concern is that these privately held companies, facing less external pressure, might continue to run coal plants and oil wells for longer than the publicly traded concerns would have. Advocates also warn that the shift into private hands could increase the risks that the public will be left with the bill for cleanup when the operations are eventually shut and abandoned.
In the case of Continental, a large independent oil producer with headquarters in Oklahoma City, the move to go private was driven explicitly by a desire to free itself from investor restraints.
» Read article
» More about fossil fuel
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