By Andrea Germanos
The International Energy Agency on Tuesday laid out how clean energy is booming in the face of the coronavirus crisis, revealing that auctioned renewable capacity from January to October was a record-breaking 15% higher than the same period last year.
<div id="6faff" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="72fbe413d6995d807af0d104335d452d"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1326166601297784833" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">In the next five years, renewables are set to become the largest source of electricity ⚡️ generation worldwide - en… https://t.co/qSlN8VmOwD</div> — IEA (@IEA)<a href="https://twitter.com/IEA/statuses/1326166601297784833">1605017731.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="9dbbf" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="85cf7d7e43a53cc4e5ea4641eaf7dadc"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1326209281931276289" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">China 🇨🇳 & the United States 🇺🇸 are propelling 🌍 renewable power capacity to new heights in 2020. Even stronger gro… https://t.co/wmCDCyzD4l</div> — IEA (@IEA)<a href="https://twitter.com/IEA/statuses/1326209281931276289">1605027907.0</a></blockquote></div>
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The House of Representatives passed a sweeping bill to boost clean energy while phasing out the use of coolants in air conditioners and refrigerators that are known pollutants and contribute to the climate crisis, as the AP reported.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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Tech behemoths Google and Facebook have upped their respective pledges to the environment, joining the ranks of Apple and Microsoft. Earlier this year, Microsoft pledged to go carbon negative by 2030, meaning it will account for all the carbon it has ever produced and add enough mitigation to counteract its effect.
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Leaving the lights on at night could collectively cost parents $911 million a year, a recent study found.
By Hao Tan, Elizabeth Thurbon, John Mathews, Sung-Young Kim
China's President Xi Jinping surprised the global community recently by committing his country to net-zero emissions by 2060. Prior to this announcement, the prospect of becoming "carbon neutral" barely rated a mention in China's national policies.
Goodbye, Fossil Fuels<p>Coal is currently used to generate <a href="https://ieefa.org/coals-share-of-china-electricity-generation-dropped-below-60-in-2018/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">about 60%</a> of China's electricity. Coal must be phased out for China to meet its climate target, unless technologies such as carbon-capture and storage become commercially viable.</p><p>Natural gas is <a href="https://chineseclimatepolicy.energypolicy.columbia.edu/en/natural-gas" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">increasingly used</a> in China for heating and transport, as an alternative to coal and petrol. To achieve carbon neutrality, China must dramatically reduce its gas use.</p><p>Electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles must also come to dominate road transport - currently they account for <a href="http://www.xinhuanet.com/fortune/2020-01/08/c_1125433202.htm" target="_blank">less than 2%</a> of the total fleet.</p><p>China must also slash the production of carbon-intensive steel, cement and chemicals, unless they can be powered by renewable electricity or zero-emissions hydrogen. One <a href="https://www.energy-transitions.org/publications/china-2050-a-fully-developed-rich-zero-carbon-economy/" target="_blank">report</a> suggests meeting the target will mean most of China's steel is produced using recycled steel, in a process powered by renewable electricity.</p><p><a href="https://www.energy-transitions.org/publications/china-2050-a-fully-developed-rich-zero-carbon-economy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Modeling</a> in that report suggests China's use of iron ore – and the coking coal required to process it into steel – will decrease by 75%. The implications for Australia's mining industry would be huge; around <a href="https://minerals.org.au/minerals/ironore" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">80%</a> of our iron ore is exported to China.</p><p>It is critically important for Australian industries and policymakers to assess the seriousness of China's pledge and the likelihood it will be delivered. Investment plans for large mining projects should then be reconsidered accordingly.</p><p><span></span>Conversely, China's path towards a carbon neutral economy may open up new export opportunities for Australia, such as "green" hydrogen.</p>
A Renewables Revolution<p>Solar and wind currently account for <a href="https://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/energy-economics/statistical-review-of-world-energy.html" target="_blank">10% of China's total power generation</a>. For China to meet the net-zero goal, renewable energy generation would have to ramp up dramatically. This is needed for two reasons: to replace the lost coal-fired power capacity, and to provide the larger electricity needs of transport and heavy industry.</p><p>Two factors are likely to reduce energy demand in China in coming years. First, energy efficiency in the building, transport and manufacturing sectors is likely to improve. Second, the economy is moving <a href="https://apjjf.org/2018/10/Tan.html" target="_blank">away</a> from energy- and pollution-intensive production, towards an economy based on services and digital technologies.</p><p>It's in China's interests to take greater action on climate change. Developing renewable energy helps China build new "green" export industries, secure its energy supplies and improve air and water quality.</p>
The Global Picture<p>It's worth considering what factors may have motivated China's announcement, beyond the desire to do good for the climate.</p><p>In recent years, China has been viewed with increasing hostility on the world stage, especially by Western nations. Some <a href="https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/09/23/asia-pacific/china-carbon-neutral-2060/" target="_blank">commentators</a> have suggested China's climate pledge is a bid to improve its global image.</p><p>The pledge also gives China the high ground over a major antagonist, the US, which under President Donald Trump has walked away from its international obligations on climate action. China's pledge follows similar ones by the European Union, New Zealand, California and others. It sets an example for other developing nations to follow, and puts pressure on Australia to do the same.</p><p>The European Union has also been <a href="https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy/news/europe-urges-china-to-match-its-climate-ambitions/" target="_blank">urging China</a> to take stronger climate action. The fact Xi made the net-zero pledge at a United Nations meeting suggests it was largely targeted at an international, rather than Chinese, audience.</p><p>However, the international community will judge China's pledge on how quickly it can implement specific, measurable short- and mid-term targets for net-zero emissions, and whether it has the policies in place to ensure the goal is delivered by 2060.</p><p>Much is resting on China's next <a href="https://chinadialogue.net/en/climate/11434-the-14th-five-year-plan-what-ideas-are-on-the-table/" target="_blank">Five Year Plan</a> – a policy blueprint created every five years to steer the economy towards various priorities. The latest plan, covering 2021–25, is being developed. It will be examined closely for measures such as phasing out coal and more ambitious targets for renewables.</p><p>Also key is whether the recent <a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/guest-post-why-chinas-co2-emissions-grew-4-during-first-half-of-2019" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">rebound</a> of China's carbon emissions – following a fall from 2013 to 2016 – can be reversed.</p>
Wriggle Room<p>The 2060 commitment is bold, but China may look to leave itself wriggle room in several ways.</p><p>First, Xi declared in his speech that China will "aim to" achieve carbon neutrality, leaving open the option his nation may not meet the target.</p><p>Second, the Paris Agreement states that developed nations should provide financial <a href="https://unfccc.int/files/essential_background/convention/application/pdf/english_paris_agreement.pdf" target="_blank">resources and technological support</a> to help developing countries reduce their emissions. China may make its delivery of the pledge conditional on this support.</p><p>Third, China may seek to game the way carbon neutrality is measured – for example, by insisting it excludes carbon emissions "embodied" in imports and exports. This move is quite likely, given exports account for a <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140988316302432" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">significant share</a> of China's total greenhouse gas emissions.</p><p>So for the time being, the world is holding its applause for China's commitment to carbon neutrality. Like every nation, China will be judged not on its climate promises, but on its delivery.</p>
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People who love winter sports like skiing and snowboarding know there's something special about being out in the cold.
"We find things in deep winter or at high altitude elevations that we don't find anywhere else, that speak very directly to our connection to nature and to the human soul, really," says Mario Molina, executive director of the nonprofit Protect Our Winters.
He says people who enjoy winter sports want to preserve this experience for future generations.
"They want to pass those sports on to their kids and their grandkids," Molina says.
But global warming is causing warmer winters and more precipitation to fall as rain instead of snow. That puts winter sports at risk.
So the Protect Our Winters campaign mobilizes outdoor enthusiasts to take action.
"We turn passionate outdoor enthusiasts into effective climate advocates," Molina says.
For example, one campaign encourages athletes to speak out against fossil fuel extraction on public lands. Another asks winter sports lovers to contact their elected officials in support of clean energy.
So Protect Our Winters encourages everyone from casual skiers to big-mountain snowboarders to get involved, join together, and demand climate action.
Reporting credit: Stephanie Manuzak / ChavoBart Digital Media.
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.
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By Francesco Starace and Jean-Pascal Tricoire
Why is it so important to decarbonize cities? And how can we do it?
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