Business
By Climate News NetworkEnergy  09:29AM EST
This Fabric Can Power Your Phone

Scientists in the U.S. and China have fashioned the ultimate in power dressing: a fabric that recovers energy from movement and at the same time turns sunlight into electricity.

A bracelet made from fabric woven with special energy-harvesting strands that collect electricity from the sun and motion.Georgia Institute of Technology

It may be a while before the new material reaches the high street stores and delivers significant energy savings, but it means that a smartphone in a pocket could charge itself from the fabric around it.

And it stands as yet another example of the burst of global ingenuity by materials scientists and engineers in response to the spectrum of climate change driven by rising greenhouse gas emissions.

Researchers have already tested a "bionic leaf" that can harvest sunlight energy 10 times more efficiently than chlorophyll-powered foliage.

Carbon Emissions

They have crafted windows and solar panels from wood, tested a "carbon negative" car battery that replaces its cathode material from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and confected a brew of conifer essence and gut bacteria to make high-octane rocket fuel.

They have even devised an ultra-thin membrane that could capture nine-tenths of the carbon dioxide emissions from coal-burning power stations.

But the latest report from the laboratories—published in Nature Energy journal—could end up being tested in the field, as a tent fabric, or in the office, as curtains that could power a lighting system or as clothing that could exploit the wearer's activity and place in the sun.

The scientists used commercially-available machinery to weave together solar cells fashioned from lightweight polymer fibers with a second and very different thread of fibre-based nanogenerators that exploit the tribo-electric effect: that is, threads that could recover electrical power from any form of movement—rotation, sliding or vibration.

"This hybrid power textile device presents a novel solution to charging devices in the field, from something as simple as the wind blowing on a sunny day," professor Zhong Lin Wang, specialist in nanomaterials synthesis at Georgia Tech School of Materials Science and Engineering, said.

A piece of fabric woven with special strands of material that harvest electricity from the sun and motion.Georgia Institute of Technology

Highly Flexible

The new fabric is 320 millionths of a meter thick, woven together with strands of wool. It is, Professor Wang said, "highly flexible, breathable, lightweight and adaptable to a range of uses."

The energy-harvesting textile is based on common polymer materials that, he said, are not expensive to make and are environmentally friendly. The electrodes are also delivered by a low-cost process, so large-scale manufacture should be possible.

The scientists report that a 4 centimeter by 5 centimeter fragment of the hybrid power textile is capable of stably delivering output power of 0.5 milliwatts, and has been shown to charge a commercial capacitor up to two volts in one minute in ambient sunlight while being mechanically moved.

"The textile could continuously power an electronic watch, directly charge a cell phone, or drive water-splitting reactions," the authors, from Georgia Tech and from Chongqing University and Beijing Institute of Nanoenergy and Nanosystems in China, said.

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By Lorraine ChowBusiness  09:11AM EST
4 Reasons Why the Shipping Container Housing Trend is Here to Stay

By the looks of these innovative projects, the global shipping container trend is here to stay. Done correctly, a shipping container home can be built affordably, quickly, sustainably and even look good. But for a more important reason, builders are also flipping these large steel boxes into homes to house people who need it the most.

1. Homes for the homeless

The Los Angeles Times recently featured the efforts of American Family Housing, a nonprofit organization that's building a two-story, 16-unit apartment building out of shipping containers to house Orange County's homeless veterans. The building is scheduled to open in January, making it California's first ever shipping-container apartment building.

"We are putting them in housing—very energy-efficient, very structurally strong, very beautiful multifamily housing. It happens to be that the materials that will build that housing are shipping containers," Donna Gallup, the group's chief executive, told the Los Angeles Times.

Los Angeles happens to be home to the nation's largest port, meaning that the project is also making use of empty containers that are otherwise taking up space at the docks.

2. Military applications

The same Los Angeles Times report also highlighted the works of American contractors working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that have built hundreds of shipping container homes in Iraq and Afghanistan to billet military and other U.S. personnel.

While they aren't the most eye-pleasing, a shipping container home—or a Containerized Housing Unit—can be ideal in a war zone because they aren't meant to be permanent. Sustainable real estate company Three Squared Construction CEO Leslie Horn described to NREI how shipping containers "have provided strength and portability." Shipping containers are naturally easy to transport since they are stackable, seaworthy and resistant to flooding.

Horn added that "[cargo containers] have numerous applications in humanitarian efforts as temporary and permanent housing, transport of goods and commercial pop-ups."

Containerized housing units being moved in a U.S. Army installation in Baghdad in 2008.Wikimedia Commons

3. Housing shortages

Montainer Inc., a builder based out of Missoula, Montana, is trying to solve Portland's notorious housing shortage one shipping container at a time.

According to Portland Business Journal, "the company sees its offerings as part of the solution to the Rose City's increasingly tight and expensive housing market."

"We see each of these backyards as a vacant lot, with the potential to add much needed housing for the city," said Montainer co-founder and CEO, Patrick Collins, in a release. "We are empowering individual homeowners with a streamlined way to add an [Accessory Dwelling Units] to their backyard, and in essence, become micro developers who can collectively make a real dent in rising housing costs."

A typical Montainer unit with less than 1,000 square feet costs between $80,000 and $120,000. "We really started the company to make homeownership more attainable," Collins told Oregon Live.

A demo unit displayed in Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland, Oregon summer 2016.Montainer

4. Student accommodations

In Amsterdam, The Wenckehof—which consists of 1,000 shipping containers converted into housing for students—is the largest development of its kind, The Guardian reported in October 2015.

Although shipping container homes have its critics, advocates tout its versatility and affordability. One Wenckehof resident told The Guardian that he pays is €450 a month ($505) in rent to live at Wenckehof and also qualifies for a €140 ($170) monthly housing subsidy, much cheaper than the €600 ($675) a month that students often pay to share an apartment in central Amsterdam.

The Wenckehof is not the only shipper container building designed for young academics. Design Boom recently featured an innovative floating, carbon neutral property called The Urban Rigger. The structure is meant to provide affordable and sustainable homes for students in Copenhagen. Amenities include a courtyard, kayak landing, a bathing platform, a barbecue area and a communal roof terrace. Nine container units are stacked in a circle to create 15 studio residences that frame a centralized communal courtyard.

"The housing is also buoyant, like a boat, so that can be replicated in other harbor cities where affordable housing is needed, but space is limited," the designers told Design Boom.

The Urban Rigger features a slew of green building components, including hydro source heating, solar panels and low energy pumps.

"Each year, thousands of newly enrolled students wind up on the student housing office's official list of people in urgent need of a place to live, and it is well-known fact that the real problem far exceeds the official registration. A situation that, by all standards, is completely unacceptable!" the company states on its website.

The first full scale Urban Rigger was launched in the summer 2016 in Copenhagen—or as the company says, "the first in a potential fleet of mobile, sustainable dwellings, for students, refugees and others, in urgent need of a home."

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By Lorraine ChowClimate  09:39AM EST
Nestlé Can Keep Piping Water Out of Drought-Stricken California Despite Permit Expiring in 1988

In a major setback for environmental groups, a federal judge in California has tossed out allegations that the U.S. Forest Service allowed Nestlé's bottled water operation to take water from the San Bernardino National Forest on a permit that expired back in 1988.

A federal court has ruled in favor of the U.S. Forest Service for allowing the Nestlé' to continue its use of a four-mile pipeline that siphons water from the San Bernardino National Forest.

The decision regards a lawsuit filed against the Forest Service in October 2015 by the Courage Campaign Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Story of Stuff Project. The groups alleged that the agency was allowing Nestlé Waters North America to pipe water from public lands on a permit that had long expired.

With the ruling, the multinational food and drink corporation can continue its use of a four-mile pipeline that siphons thousands of gallons of public water a day from the Strawberry Creek watershed and sell it back to the public as bottled water. The water is sold under the Arrowhead brand.

U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal wrote in a Sept. 20 order that since the Forest Service received a request to renew the permit in May 1987, the effort was considered a "timely and sufficient application for renewal," thus keeping the original permit valid.

Bernal rejected the plaintiffs's argument that the Forest Service's failure to act on the May 1987 request renders the permit invalid.

"Plantiffs do not identify, and the court cannot find, any authority holding that an agency's failure to act within a reasonable time" invalidates a special use permit, Bernal wrote.

The decision was criticized by the three environmental groups that initiated the lawsuit.

"The court has just confirmed what many Americans fear, massive corporations play by a different set of rules than the rest of us," Eddie Kurtz, executive director of Courage Campaign Institute, said in reaction to yesterday's decision. "Nestlé has been pulling a fast one for nearly 30 years, taking a public resource, depriving plants and animals of life-sustaining water, and selling that water at an obscene profit without the right to do so, but apparently our justice system is OK with that."

"We're shocked by the court's decision to let Nestlé continue its operations, and we will continue to stand with hundreds of thousands of Californians and people across the nation to take back control of this public water," added Michael O'Heaney, executive director of the Story of Stuff Project. "This fight is far from over."

Let's not forget that California is experiencing its fifth year of an epic drought. The Center for Biological Diversity pointed out that in 2015 alone, Nestlé had piped away an estimated 36 million gallons of water from the forest to sell as bottled water. Nestlé pays an annual permitting fee of $524 for permission to run its pipeline.

"Reports from the end of 2015 and the summer of 2016 indicate that water levels at Strawberry Creek are at record lows, threatening local wildlife that are already dealing with the ongoing drought in Southern California," the Center for Biological Diversity said.

"The court's decision is disappointing, but the real tragedy lies in the fact that Strawberry Creek is drying up, dooming the plants, fish and animals that have relied on it for tens of thousands of years" said Ileene Anderson, senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. "Bottling water is not worth sacrificing Strawberry Creek, so we're considering our options for appeal."

Environmentalists have long decried bottled water as wasteful, expensive, unnecessary and a major source of plastic pollution.

Annie Leonard, the executive director of Greenpeace USA, argued in November: "A four-year review of the bottled water industry in the U.S. and the safety standards that govern it, including independent testing of over 1,000 bottles of water found that there is no assurance that just because water comes out of a bottle it is any cleaner or safer than water from the tap. In fact tap water is tested more frequently than bottled water."

Nestlé Waters was not a party in the case but told EcoWatch in a prepared statement it was "pleased" with the ruling.

"The Forest Service has acknowledged that our permit is in full force and effect until the renewal process is concluded," Christopher Rieck, spokesman for Nestlé Waters North America Inc., said. "We look forward to working in close cooperation with them to continue to manage the Arrowhead Springs in Strawberry Canyon sustainably for the long-term."

The company added that it recognizes "the impact the drought is having across the state, and we have implemented new technologies in our California facilities that will conserve 55 million gallons of water each year."

Nestlé carefully monitors all spring sources and manages them to ensure long-term sustainability and healthy habitats, he said.

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By Climate NexusEnergy  09:28AM EST
3 More Companies Commit to 100% Renewables

Apple, Bank of America and Amalgamated Bank have pledged to go 100 percent renewable, joining the RE100 group.

This new solar project will supply Apple's data center in Arizona with renewable energy.Apple

Bank of America also announced it will be "carbon neutral" by 2020, while Apple announced new commitments to power its supply chain with renewable energy.

"Apple is committed to running on 100 percent renewable energy, and we're happy to stand beside other companies that are working toward the same effort," said Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president for Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives.

The announcements at Climate Week come on the heels of GM's pledge last week to power its worldwide operations with 100 percent clean energy by 2050.

"Apple has taken another important step to deliver on its commitment to powering its corner of the internet with 100 percent renewable energy," said Gary Cook, Greenpeace senior IT analyst. "This deal once again shows that renewables are not just good for the environment, but good for business."

For a deeper dive:

News: GreenBiz, BusinessGreen, Ars Technica, Mashable, Global Times, PV-Tech, edie.net, Environmental Leader, CNBC

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

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By SustainiaBusiness  11:43AM EST
Building World’s Largest Platform for Sustainable Solutions

Sustainia and the UN Global Compact announced Monday a unique global partnership that is committed to building the world's biggest interactive platform for sustainable solutions. The Global Solutions Platform aims to inspire global companies to develop new products, business models and partnerships that can help reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Sustainable solutions can be found in every corner of the globe. From solar-powered water purification to sneakers made from plastic waste, they all make our world a cleaner, greener and fairer place. Unfortunately, they are fragmented and often poorly understood.

In response to this challenge, UN Global Compact and Sustainia have announced a new strategic partnership which is committed to creating the world's biggest virtual showroom, putting sustainable solutions just one click away.

The Global Solutions Platform is designed to be the go-to place for business leaders seeking connections and inspiration, for investors seeking new opportunities and for authorities in need of credible private partners. The full platform will launch in early 2017.

"The Global Solutions Platform will be a global focal point for product and business model innovation. It empowers business leaders and entrepreneurs to take leadership in this new landscape which demands solutions to global challenges," Erik Rasmussen, CEO of Sustainia, said Monday.

Sustainia brings more than five years of experience in the solutions sector to this new partnership. Since 2012, the company has worked extensively to identify the most promising sustainable solutions and global trends, presented each year in its flagship publication, the Sustainia100. These are solutions that turn food shortages into effective agriculture, unemployment into targeted education programs and digital jobs, and polluted cities into sun-powered, green metropolises. In five years, more than 4,500 solutions have come onto Sustainia's radar and these solutions will provide the initial foundation for the ambitious new platform.

Support from leaders worldwide

According to a 2016 UN Global Compact-Accenture study, 87 percent of global CEOs believe that the UN Sustainable Development Goals represent an essential opportunity to rethink approaches to sustainability. A further 49 percent of CEOs claim that sustainability issues are already part of board-level discussions and express the need for integrating sustainability into their strategic planning. Therefore, the new platform will bridge growing awareness of the UN Sustainable Development Goals with the practical solutions business leaders need in order to implement their sustainability plans.

The announcement was made at the UN Global Compact Private Sector Forum, an annual event attended by senior business leaders in order to further business action on sustainable development. The full platform will be rolled out in the spring and will be supported by a global solutions campaign that will give business leaders an opportunity to submit their sustainable solutions for inclusion.

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By Stefanie SpearBusiness  11:11AM EST
10 Most Profound Passages From 'Let My People Go Surfing'

Ten years after its original publication, Patagonia's founder, Yvon Chouinard, has revised and expanded his beloved book Let My People Go Surfing—"the philosophical manual for the employees of Patagonia."

I read Chouinard's original book nearly a decade ago and was fortunate to get him to sign my treasured copy in 2013 when he was in Cleveland, Ohio, to receive the Inamori Ethics Prize, which honored his integrity as a business leader and lifetime commitment to corporate social responsibility.

Though more than 40 percent of the republished book contains new material, I relished the parts that were from the original edition, remembering how his words have impacted my business decisions over the years. However, the new parts of the book are inspiring as well. "The purpose of the revised edition," as Chouinard tells us in the preface, "is to share what we have done in the last decade and what we plan to do in the decades ahead to achieve our goals."

I especially enjoyed the new foreword by renowned author and activist Naomi Klein, asking, "What if we shopped to live, instead of lived to shop?"

Klein sums up the book by saying: "This is the story of an attempt to do more than change a single corporation—it is an attempt to challenge the culture of consumption that is at the heart of the global ecological crisis."

Though I highly recommend reading the entire book, I wanted to share the passages I found especially profound.

Here are 10 of my favorite quotes from the self-proclaimed "reluctant businessman":

1. "I read every book on business, searching for a philosophy that would work for us. I was especially interested in books on Japanese or Scandinavian styles of management because I knew the American way of doing business offered only one of many possible routes."

2. "Our philosophies aren't rules; they're guidelines. They're the keystone of our approach to any project, and although they are 'set in stone,' their applications to a situation isn't. In every long-lasting business, the methods of conducting business may constantly change, but the values, the culture and the philosophies remain constant."

3. From a series of Patagonia ads in 2004: "Who are businesses really responsible to? Their customers? Shareholders? Employees? We would argue that it's none of the above. Fundamentally, businesses are responsible to their resource base. Without a healthy environment there are no shareholders, no employees, no customers and no business."

Doug Tompkins, founder of The North Face and Esprit, with Yvon Chouinard in Patagonia, 1992.Rick Ridgeway

4. "Cotton fields contribute millions of metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year. A conventional cotton field stinks; its chemicals burn the eyes and nauseate the stomach. Before harvesting in non-frost regions like California, cotton has to be sprayed by a crop duster with the defoliant Paraquat, about half of which hits the target. The rest settles over the neighbors' fields and into our streams.

"None of this is necessary. No cotton was grown this way before World War II, when many of the chemicals now used in agriculture were first developed as nerve gases for warfare.

"When we first started looking for alternatives, organic cotton was available from a few family farmers in California and Texas. We experimented. At first we made only T-shirts with organic cotton. Then, after several trips to the San Joaquin Valley, where we could smell the selenium ponds and see the lunar landscape of cotton fields, we asked a critical questions: How could we continue to make products that laid waste to the Earth in this way? In the fall of 1994, we made the decision to take our cotton sportswear 100 percent organic by 1996."

5. "Remember, work has to be fun. We value employees who live rich and rounded lives. We run a flexible workplace, and we have ever since we were a blacksmith shop that shut down whenever the waves were six feet, hot and glassy. Our policy has always allowed employees to work flexible hours, as long as the work gets done with no negative impacts on others. A serious surfer doesn't plan to go surfing next Tuesday at two o'clock. You go surfing when there are waves and the tide and wind are right."

6. "People may be afraid of the term 'activist' because they associate it with ecosabotage and violent protests, but I'm talking about normal citizens who want the government to live up to its obligations to protect our air, water and all other natural resources. Activists have an infectious passion about the issues they support, whether they are mothers fighting to clean up toxic landfills that are killing their children or farmers trying to hold on to their fourth-generation family business threatened by urban sprawl. These are the people on the front lines, trying either to make the government obey its own laws or to recognize the need for a new law."

7. The power of the film [DamNation] to motivate and embolden citizen action against dams around the world has been its greatest achievement.

As world leaders scramble to find climate change solutions, the film is helping to both combat the myth of "green hydro" dams and show that dam removal is proving to be a powerful tool to restore endangered wildlife, reduce methane emissions, build coastal resiliency and eliminate public safety hazards.

Patagonia makes a stand with the gauchos.Tim Davis

8. "It pains me to bear witness to the sixth great extinction, where we humans are directly responsible for the complete destruction of so many wonderful creatures and invaluable indigenous cultures. It saddens me especially to observe the plight of our own species; we appear to be incapable of solving our problems." ... "I'm a total pessimist about the fate of the natural world. In my lifetime, I've seen nothing but a constant deterioration of all the processes that are essential to maintaining healthy life on Planet Earth ... Thinking these dark thoughts doesn't depress me; in fact, I'm a happy person. I'm a Buddhist about it all. I've accepted the fact that there is a beginning and an end to everything. Maybe the human species has run its course and it's time for us to go away and leave room for other, one hopes, more intelligent and responsible, life forms."

Protestors demand attention in Eureka, California.Amy Kumler

9. "Before we are entitled to encourage other companies to act responsibly we have to do so ourselves. There's only one way to lead, and that's by being in front and leading by example. Our environmental assessment program educates us, and with education we have choices. When we act positively on solving problems instead of ignoring them or trying to find a way around them, we are further along the path toward sustainability. Every time we've elected to do the right thing, it's turned out to be more profitable."

10. "The zen master would say if you want to change government, you have to aim at changing corporations, and if you want to change corporation, you first have to change the consumers. Whoa, wait a minute! The consumer? That's me. You mean I'm the one who has to change?"

Listen here as Chouinard reads the prologue:

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By Climate NexusEnergy  08:30AM EST
General Motors Commits to Run on 100% Renewables by 2050

General Motors committed to power its operations in 59 countries with 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

General Motors

The Detroit-based carmaker, whose total electricity demand for operations was nine terawatt hours last year, said it saves $5 million annually from renewable energy use. Earlier this week, GM revealed that its 2017 Chevy Bolt EV has a range of 238 miles per charge, outpacing Tesla's Model 3 by 10 percent.

General Motors

For a deeper dive:

News: Independent, Detroit News, BusinessGreen, Green Car Congress, Road and Track, UPI, Michigan Radio

Commentary: Nexus Media, Jeremy Deaton column

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

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By Lorraine ChowBusiness  09:39AM EST
Tesla Sues Oil Exec for Impersonating Elon Musk in 'Deplorable and Unlawful' Email

Could Elon Musk be right about the sneaky tactics deployed by Big Oil and Gas? Tesla Motors is suing a senior executive of an oil pipeline services company for impersonating the Tesla CEO in an email.

The electric car company believes that the oil exec's email was an industry tactic to undermine Tesla's push for sustainable transportation.Flickr

Bloomberg and Forbes report that Todd Katz, the chief financial officer of Seattle-based Quest Integrity Group, allegedly pretended to be Musk in an email.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Santa Clara County Superior Court, claims that Katz used the email address "elontesla@yahoo.com" to send a message to Tesla Chief Financial Officer Jason Wheeler on Aug. 3—just after Tesla reported its second-quarter financial results.

The alleged email states:

why you so cautious w Q3/4 gm guidance on call? also what are your thoughts on disclosing M3 res#? Pros/cons from ir pov? what is your best guess as to where we actually come in on q3/4 deliverables. honest guess? no bs. thx 4 hard work prepping 4 today
em

Katz's bio on the company's website states that he previously worked for several top Wall Street investment banks, including Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch.

The complaint claims that Katz was "impersonating Musk in an attempt to unlawfully obtain material, non-public information—including Tesla's financial trade secrets—from Tesla's CFO through fraud, artifice and deception." Fortunately, Wheeler did not disclose any information.

"On information and belief, Katz, Quest Integrity, and/or their oil company clients intended to use that non-public and trade secret information to further their own agendas and to harm Tesla," the lawsuit reads.

Quest Integrity Group's roster of big-name clients include the likes of BP, Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil and more.

According to Bloomberg, Tesla believes that the email was an oil industry tactic to undermine the electric carmaker's push for sustainable transportation.

"In recent years, oil companies have spent billions of dollars on legislative efforts and campaigns aimed at blocking progress toward electric cars and other sustainable energy solutions in the United States and abroad," Tesla said.

Soon after receiving the email, Tesla launched an investigation to pinpoint the culprit behind the message. "Among other things, Tesla had to pay investigators and expend IT and other resources to identify the source of the message, investigate other potential impersonation attempts and efforts to gain access to the company's servers, in order to ensure no disclosures of non-public information had been made," the lawsuit states.

Tesla is seeking an unspecified amount to "recover damages it suffered as a result of Katz's criminal misconduct and to enjoin Katz and his cohorts from engaging in such deplorable and unlawful activities going forward."

"As a result of Katz's impersonation of Musk, Tesla—a publicly traded company responsible for ensuring the integrity of its non-public financial information, trade secrets, and data—has incurred costs, damages, and losses," the lawsuit states.

Tesla's attorney John Hueston told Forbes that "the point of this action is that this was perceived as an effort to gain inside information, non-public information."

"Although it was caught here, Tesla is worried about this happening in some other form," Hueston added. "This could have resulted in highly valuable information being improperly disclosed."

As Electrek noted, a few weeks following the email incident, Musk sent a memo to employees encouraging them to deliver as many vehicles as possible by the end of the quarter. The entrepreneur also said that Tesla was on "razor edge" of turning a profit and that he would like to "throw a pie in the face of all naysayers on Wall Street."

Back in May, Musk accused the oil and gas industry of spreading "propaganda" in order to tarnish his companies, including Tesla, SolarCity and SpaceX.

"We need to appeal to the people–educate people to sort of revolt against this and to fight the propaganda of the fossil fuel industry which is unrelenting and enormous," Musk said.

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By Carbon BriefEnergy  12:39PM EST
7 Charts Show New Renewables Outpacing Rising Demand for First Time

By Simon Evans

For the first time ever, investment in new renewables was more than enough to cover rising global electricity demand in 2015, according to the first World Energy Investment report published by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

While fossil fuels still dominate energy supplies, the IEA says changing investment flows point towards a "reorientation of the energy system."

Carbon Brief has seven charts showing why the IEA thinks an energy shift is underway.

1. Energy Investment

World energy investment amounted to $1.8 trillon in 2015, the IEA says, equivalent to 2.4 percent of the global GDP. Around half went towards fossil fuel extraction and distribution, mainly for oil and gas.

Renewables accounted for 17 percent of the total, around $300 billon. The vast majority of which was in the electricity sector, where nearly 70 percent of investment in power stations went towards renewables.

Global energy investment in 2015, by sector.World Energy Investment 2016 / IEA

2. Oil Slide

Investment in energy was down 8 percent year-on-year in 2015—around $150 billon—largely because of falling investment in oil and gas. Soft demand and Saudi Arabia's determination to squeeze competitors has created a prolonged period of cheap oil that has decimated incomes.

Reductions have been particularly steep in North America, the IEA says, with investment halving in the past two years. The smaller companies that dominate the U.S. shale industry have been particularly hard-hit by the falling oil price, with scores of firms filing for bankruptcy.

Upstream oil and gas investment in 2015, by region.World Energy Investment 2016 / IEA

3. Falling Costs

The Saudi strategy has only been partially successful. Some two-thirds of the fall in oil and gas investment has been absorbed by cost reductions, particularly in the shale sector. Upstream oil and gas costs fell 15 percent in 2015, the IEA says.

These recent oil and gas cost reductions have been easily outpaced by those for new energy technologies. Costs for onshore wind are down by nearly 40 percent since 2008, solar by more than 80 percent, LEDs more than 90 percent and grid-scale batteries by 70 percent.

The IEA says renewable costs will continue to fall, while the reverse will be true for oil and gas:

"IEA medium-term analyses foresee lower costs in renewables, lighting and electricity storage and eventually modest cost increases in upstream oil and gas."

Energy cost developments 2008-2015, by technology.World Energy Investment 2016, IEA

4. Power Shift

The large clean energy cost reductions are behind a continuing shift in the power sector, where 70 percent of investment in generating assets goes to renewables and fossil fuel investment is in decline.

Renewable power investment held steady at around $290 billon in 2015, the IEA says, yet cost reductions mean more capacity could be bought for the money. Solar investment was lower than 2011 in dollar terms, but 60 percent more capacity was added.

Last year, rising renewable additions combined with weakening power demand growth in a landmark way.

The IEA says:

"For the first time, investment in renewables-based capacity generates enough power to cover global electricity demand growth in 2015."

New renewables commissioned in 2015 have the capacity to generate 350 terawatt hours (TWh), against an increase in demand of less than 250TWh. This means all other capacity brought online in 2015 was effectively surplus to requirements.

(It's worth adding a couple of qualifiers: first, 40 percent of investment was to replace aging assets; second, renewables often generate power intermittently rather than on demand).

Net of retirements, nuclear also expanded last year, adding the capacity to generate an extra 50TWh. In total, new plant added in 2015 has the capacity to generate 1,000TWh of electricity a year, more than four times the increase in demand.

Global investment in power generation and electricity networks (colored bars, left axis) and electricity demand growth (line, right axis).World Energy Investment 2016, IEA

Investment in electricity networks is increasing, reaching $260 billon last year. This is partly down to the need to incorporate renewables. However, the IEA says around 90 percent is being driven by the need to expand electricity access and replace old kit.

The network investment figures includes grid-scale batteries. Spending here has risen 10-fold since 2010, the IEA says, though it still amounts to less than 1 percent of the network total.

5. Investment Map

Power sector investments were disproportionately concentrated in China and other Asian countries. The split was particularly stark for new coal-fired generation, where more than 80 percent of investment was in Asia.

This trend is likely to continue. The IEA says around half of under-construction coal capacity is in China, which added more than 50 gigawatts (GW) of coal plant in 2015.

Investment in electricity generation and networks by region and type, 2015.World Energy Investment 2016, IEA

6. China Stranding

The IEA, in comments that echo recent Greenpeace analysis, says that much of this surge in Chinese coal capacity is unnecessary. It says:

"China has over-invested in new fossil fuel capacity … low-carbon sources are expected to be able to cover annual demand growth … through 2020, leaving little scope for an expansion in fossil fuel generation."

It illustrates the problem with the chart below, which shows falling demand growth being more than covered by consistent expansion of nuclear and renewables.

China's power generation growth (bars) and demand growth (line).World Energy Investment 2016, IEA

Fossil over-investment in China and elsewhere, will lead to stranded assets that become redundant before they have repaid the money spent to build them, the IEA said. It calls Chinese investments "inconsistent with market fundamentals."

7. Climate Inconsistent

Low-carbon sources of power are on the rise and fossil fuel's share of the global energy mix is falling. Yet despite identifying a change in direction for energy investment, the IEA says spending on low-carbon will need to increase rapidly over the years ahead if countries of the world are to meet their agreed climate goals.

It concludes:

"Globally, energy investment is not yet consistent with the transition to a low-carbon energy system envisaged in the Paris Climate Agreement reached at the end of 2015."

New low-carbon electricity generation and growth rates in the IEA 2C scenario (2DS).World Energy Investment 2016, IEA

This article was reposted with permission from our media associate Carbon Brief.

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