US renewables hit milestone in surpassing coal output

May 21, 2020 by  
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The  COVID-19  pandemic has disrupted nationwide  energy  supply-and-demand patterns. Stay-at-home social distancing measures have altered U.S. electricity consumption. Bulk electricity usage by commercial businesses and industrial manufacturing has given way to increased household electricity consumption as the general population isolates at home. In turn, this economic slowdown has shifted electricity generation to rely more on the renewable energy sector. Both the  US Energy Information Administration (EIA)  and the  Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysts (IEEFA)  have revealed that, from March 25th through May 3rd, utility-scale solar, wind and hydropower collectively generated more electricity than coal! This record 40-day timespan has edged over 2019’s run of 38 days when U.S.  renewables  first beat coal last year. Last year marked the first time renewables outpaced coal-fired electricity generation. This led to  IEEFA forecasts  of renewables eclipsing coal by 2021. Unexpectedly, this year’s COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated  renewable energy ‘s first-quarter performance in producing electricity. Hence,  EIA forecasts  expect electric power generated by coal “will fall by 25% in 2020.” Related:  COVID-19 and its effects on the environment Interestingly,  Forbes  notes that “The electric power sector consistently sees its lowest  coal  demand in April,” owing to seasonal temperature adjustments when winter transitions into springtime. Because of the change in season,  natural gas  and coal generators often “schedule routine maintenance for the spring…and many coal plants spen[d] part of April offline for planned, temporary outages.” This illustrates why wind generation is typically relied upon most in springtime. As for  hydropower , snowmelt often feeds rivers, thus accounting for increased electricity generation downstream each spring as well, Forbes explains. Last year’s forecasts showed trends at play within the energy industry. Not only have upgrades expanded  solar , wind and hydro infrastructure capacities, but coal plant closures have likewise been commonplace, hinting at the changing energy landscape. Several factors have quickened the demise of coal reliance. As the  EIA  has shared, both investor-owned and publicly-owned municipal electric utilities began decommissioning coal-fired power plants a decade ago at the behest of local and state government public utilities commissions. Secondly, costs to construct  wind farms  have slid over 40%, whereas solar costs have sunk by over 80%, making both more appealing. Naturally, the decline of coal-fired power plants has positive implications for the environment and  climate , since coal produces excess  greenhouse gas emissions .  But another concern is alleviated, too. Back in 2008, a joint Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy (CIDRAP) and University of Minnesota  research report  raised alarms on critical infrastructure planning. This report warned that pandemics could adversely affect coal supply chains and thereby prompt shortages in generating electricity to the Midwest, a region that relied on coal for 75% of its power generation, as opposed to only 5% on the West Coast. Transitioning away from coal-generated electricity these past 12 years following this report has mitigated the risk of wide swathes of Middle America losing electricity during the 2020 pandemic. + US Energy Information Administration (EIA) + Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysts (IEEFA) Images via Pexels

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US renewables hit milestone in surpassing coal output

COVID-19 and its effects on the environment

April 20, 2020 by  
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As SARS-CoV-2, the novel  coronavirus  pathogen that causes the illness COVID-19, sweeps across the globe, social distancing measures are noticeably impacting the  environment . Consequently, both the preservation and restoration of environmental quality are experiencing a new normal as the pandemic continues. Coronavirus and climate change-related conservation COVID-19 has heightened wildlife conservation awareness. As  Scientific American  has cited, wildlife trade secured additional notoriety when the  CDC  broke the news of a zoonotic pathogen jumping from animals to humans, causing the current pandemic. Secondly, when the  American Veterinary Medical Association  announced the positive presence of COVID-19 in domestic animals, zoos and  BioTechniques Journal  likewise saw captive animals test positive with the new coronavirus. This elevated concerns for sources such as  UNESCO ,  Time ,  Nature  and  Smithsonian Magazine  about the future safety of already threatened species, like the great apes who are similar to humans. Additionally,  National Geographic  raised alarms on poaching proliferation in conservation reserves as rangers and keepers self-isolated. Related:  Discarded face masks now threatening wildlife habitats Should climate change run unabated, future zoonotic disease outbreaks may become the norm, asserts  Conservation International  and  Harvard University’s School of Public Health . Given that healthy animals living in healthy ecosystems are robust enough to resist diseases, by minimizing climate change and protecting habitats, we may be able to avoid future pandemics.   Social distancing has improved air quality The  COVID-19  crisis has forced activity freezes. Lockdowns and calls to shelter-in-place have closed schools and non-essential businesses. Minimal activity from industrial sites, factories and construction sectors has minimized the risks for toxins to escape, in turn improving  air quality . Travel bans have similarly restricted international flights. Canceled conferences, festivals, concerts and other public events have diminished interest in tourism, reports the  US Travel Association . Airline ridership has slumped, and airports are as near-empty as they were in the 2001 aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. As such, aviation emissions — which accounted for 2.4% of global  CO2 emissions  in 2018, according to the  Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI)  — have dropped significantly. Still, the  EPA  says vehicular activity contributes more to  greenhouse gas emissions  than airlines do. Presently, fewer people are commuting, not just in major cities, but all over the world. Traffic nowadays centers mainly around immediate household supply runs to nearby stores, trucking supply transports to retailers or wholesalers, plus commutes by those in essential industries. Both  Traffic Technology Today  and  The Guardian  have spotlighted the United Kingdom’s reduced traffic, which has plunged by 73% “to levels not seen since 1955.” And across the Atlantic Ocean, Canadian traffic has also declined,  GEOTAB  disclosed. As for the U.S., not only has road travel decreased, but congestion has all but disappeared, says  VentureBeat ,  Next City  and  USA Today . The decrease in congestion is critical, as idling  vehicles emit more pollution .  With substantially less vehicular movement, air quality has improved by leaps and bounds. Numerous sources have covered how air quality indices of the globe’s largest metropolitan areas have improved extensively since strict coronavirus lockdowns were issued. Even  NASA  satellites from outer-space show the significant reductions in air pollutants, which supports EcoWatch ‘s observation that the novel coronavirus  pandemic  has delivered the silver lining of decreased  air pollution .  The Guardian  added, “In China, the world’s biggest source of  carbon , emissions were down about 18% between early February and mid-March – a cut of 250m tonnes, equivalent to more than half the UK’s annual output. Europe is forecast to see a reduction of around 390m tonnes. Significant falls can also be expected in the US, where passenger vehicle traffic – its major source of CO2 – has fallen by nearly 40%. Even assuming a bounceback once the lockdown is lifted, the planet is expected to see its first fall in global  emissions  since the 2008-9 financial crisis.” Reduced carbon emissions and global warming Just last week,  Carbon Brief (CB)  published that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted  energy use  worldwide, which could cut carbon emissions by an estimated 5% of 2019’s global total. That means the coronavirus crisis is so far “trigger[ing] the largest ever annual fall in CO2 emissions in 2020, more than during any previous economic crisis or period of war.” While this is encouraging news, experts say it still may not be adequate for meeting  Paris Agreement  goals to keep global warming from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius. What’s happening with fossil fuels during the pandemic? When the pandemic called for lockdowns, paralyzing both air and ground travel, the demand for fuel was likewise decimated. An oil price war ensued with drastic shifts in global oil politics, thus destabilizing the fossil fuel sector, reported  Business Insider . Even  Fortune  magazine highlighted the worry about where to store the surplus oil. According to  Forbes , this pushed President Trump to broker a historic deal, whereby the planet’s top oil producers — namely Saudi Arabia and Russia — agreed to cut oil production. As Sandy Fielden, director of oil research firm Morningstar, said to the  BBC , “This is an unprecedented agreement because it’s not just between Opec and Opec+…but also the largest supplier in the world which is the US as well as other G-20 countries which have agreed to support the agreement both in reducing production and also in using up some of the surface supply by putting it into storage.” Effects on the renewable energy sector CNBC  showed the  renewables  industry suffering supply chain cuts and employee layoffs during the deepening COVID-19 recession. There are worries that clean energy investments appear less desirable. Construction and development projects have been delayed as lockdown periods extend. Renewables, therefore, seek slices of the stimulus package to waylay progress derailments, which even the  International Energy Agency (IEA)  has cautioned about. What’s happening to climate change policy during the coronavirus pandemic? COVID-19 could portend future pandemics, particularly if  global warming  unleashes unknown diseases trapped in ice. Ensuring that global warming and  climate change  do not disrupt our planet’s health is still of paramount importance.  Green Tech Media  emphasized this, saying, “Climate change didn’t stop as the world turned its attention to combating the coronavirus.” Climate activism continues, despite cancellations to large climate change-related summits, negotiations and conference meetings. Not all  climate  advocacy during this time is lost. Optimism reframes these economic stimulus measures as helpful nudges for climate policy and the renewables sector to evolve for the better. Indeed,  Clean Energy Wire  upholds that these federally-backed stimulus packages can be leveraged to provide investment opportunities in both the infrastructure that can reduce emissions as well as in  clean  technologies.  Science Alert , moreover, contends, “the coronavirus has forced new working-from-home habits that limit commuting, and a broader adoption of online meetings to reduce the need for long-haul business flights. This raises the prospect of long-term emissions reductions should these new work behaviours persist beyond the current global emergency.” Images via Pexels

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COVID-19 and its effects on the environment

Renewable energy surpasses fossil fuels in the UK

October 15, 2019 by  
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In a first for the United Kingdom, wind turbines, solar panels and other renewable energy sources have generated more electricity than their fossil fuel counterparts of coal and natural gas. This significant milestone confirms that since the Industrial Revolution began and the U.K.’s first power plant was established in 1882, zero-carbon energy has finally generated more clean terawatt hours. This is thanks to the decreasing cost of renewable energy, making alternative power sources a more feasible and desirable choice. Full decarbonization of the British electricity grid system now looks to be within reach. Related: Scientists find a way to produce renewable energy from snow For centuries, coal was king for the British energy industry. According to Carbon Brief , coal stoked British lighting from the 1810s, and it powered British railroads and ships from the 1840s and British centralized electricity generators from the 1880s. Then, a profound cultural shift began upon the enactment of the influential Clean Air Act of 1956 as a response to London’s Great Smog of 1952 . The Act steered both public and private sectors away from coal use. Even financial grants were issued to fund the transition to cleaner fuel sources. The ban to use coal for home heating and the restrictions against burning coal in urban areas notably contributed to a decline in British coal use. The 1980s saw the imminent dethroning of British coal, first with numerous pit closures occurring as a consequence of widespread strikes by miners. The closures heightened the importation of foreign coal, in turn producing supply uncertainty and geopolitical conflict. By the turn of the millennium, British environmentalists pushed for greener ambitions that swept out the U.K.’s reliance on coal. Now, only seven power plants powered by coal remain in the British isles. The last one is scheduled to close by 2025. As Carbon Brief reported, “In the third quarter of 2019, some 39 percent of U.K. electricity was from coal, oil and gas, including 38 percent from gas and less than 1 percent from coal and oil combined.” But just how much exactly comes from renewables ? Renewable energy now accounts for 40 percent: 20 percent wind power, 19 percent nuclear, 12 percent plant biomass, mainly from wood pellets, and 6 percent solar power. Wind power’s dominance among British renewable energy sources is by virtue of some newly constructed offshore windfarms. For instance, the world’s largest offshore windfarm, the Hornsea 1 , comprises wind turbines that dot more than 157 square miles of the North Sea. Secondly, the Beatrice Offshore Wind Farm , Scotland’s largest offshore wind farm off the Wick coast in the North Sea, likewise opened in July. Renewable clean energy has a bright future in the U.K. The British continue to build a smart energy system that offers resilience, reliability and sustainability . Via The Guardian Image via Stephen Gidley

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Renewable energy surpasses fossil fuels in the UK

Decarbonizing enterprise: The path to 100 percent corporate renewable energy

December 10, 2018 by  
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The best of live interviews from GreenBiz events. This episode: Energy and utilities execs and experts discuss expanding the renewables market.

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Decarbonizing enterprise: The path to 100 percent corporate renewable energy

Why companies should pay for biodiversity

December 10, 2018 by  
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It’s all a part of their bottom line.

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The CO2 intensity of the US power sector just hit a record low

April 9, 2018 by  
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Renewable energy is winning again. The Power Sector Carbon Index just revealed that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions intensity is the lowest on record. Thanks to government policy, market forces and new technologies, energy companies have moved away from carbon-intensive coal and towards cleaner, greener energy like renewables and natural gas. And the numbers aren’t insignificant – 13 years ago, carbon intensity was nearly 27% higher than it is now. Carbon emissions intensity is the rate of emissions produced relative to the amount of energy that we get from it. Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS) released their 2018 Carnegie Mellon Power Sector Carbon Index — which tracks power producers’ environmental performance in the United States, and compares today’s emissions to over 20 years of historical data. Assistant professor Costa Samaras said in a statement , “The Carnegie Mellon Power Sector Carbon Index provides a snapshot of critical data regarding energy production and environmental performance. We’ve found this index to provide significant insight into trends in power generation and emissions. In particular, the data have shown that emissions intensity has fallen to the lowest level on record, as a combination of natural gas and renewable power have displaced more carbon-intensive coal -fired power generation.” Related: 104% of Portugal’s electricity consumption in March came from renewable energy Specifically, emissions of power plants in America averaged 967 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour (MWh) last year. That figure is 3.1 percent lower than 2016, and 26.8 percent lower than in 2005, “often used as a benchmark year for measuring progress made in reducing emissions,” according to the university. The 2017 fourth quarter (Q4) update from the university, also posted in early April, offers more insight into how renewables are playing a role. In Q4, power plant emissions actually averaged 952 pounds of CO2 per MWh. And compared against 2016 Q4, in 2017 Q4 coal generation dropped six percent, natural gas was up four percent, nuclear up four percent, hydro up one percent, wind up 13 percent, and solar up 30 percent. MHPS Americas CEO Paul Browning said, “The power industry has made significant progress in reducing emissions for over a decade, as new technology, state and federal policies and market forces have increased power generation from natural gas and renewables, and decreased power generation from coal.” + Power Sector Carbon Index + Carnegie Mellon University College of Engineering + Power Sector Carbon Index — 2017 Q4 Update Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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In coal country, net zero energy nears cost parity

March 19, 2018 by  
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The results of a Siemens study are electrifying: Renewables can compete — and win — anywhere.

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In coal country, net zero energy nears cost parity

In coal country, net zero energy nears cost parity

March 19, 2018 by  
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The results of a Siemens study are electrifying: Renewables can compete — and win — anywhere.

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In coal country, net zero energy nears cost parity

In coal country, net zero energy nears cost parity

March 19, 2018 by  
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The results of a Siemens study are electrifying: Renewables can compete — and win — anywhere.

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In coal country, net zero energy nears cost parity

In coal country, net zero energy nears cost parity

March 19, 2018 by  
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The results of a Siemens study are electrifying: Renewables can compete — and win — anywhere.

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In coal country, net zero energy nears cost parity

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