Only one in 10 utility firms prioritise renewable electricity – global study

Vast majority of world’s electricity companies remain heavily invested in fossil fuels

Companies growing their coal-fired power capacity are dominated by those in China. Photograph: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

Only one in 10 of the world’s electric utility companies are prioritising investment in clean renewable energy over growing their capacity of fossil fuel power plants, according to research from the University of Oxford.

The study of more than 3,000 utilities found most remain heavily invested in fossil fuels despite international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and some are actively expanding their portfolio of polluting power plants.

The majority of the utility companies, many of which are state owned, have made little change to their generation portfolio in recent years.

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National Parks And Pebble Mine Reveal The Influence Of Competitive Elections And Conservative Celebrities

Donald Trump Jr. attends the 16th Annual Outdoor Sportsman Awards during the 2016 National Shooting ... [+] Sports Foundation's Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Getty Images

Is Trump administration turning green? It has halted the permitting of Alaska’s Pebble Mine. It has given 90 days to the Pebble Partnership to determine how they will mitigate the “significant adverse effects on the aquatic system or human environment.” Recently, it also supported new funding for National Parks via the enactment of the Great American Outdoors Act.

You might be scratching your head. After all, this administration has rolled back 68 environmental regulations with another 32 rollbacks in progress. It supports fracking and fossil fuel industry. It weakened the Regional Haze guidelines aimed at reducing air pollution in National Parks and wants to reduce the size of the Bears Ears National Monument by 85%.  How then to explain the modest pro-environment steps by this administration that has an anti-environment agenda?

The 2020 Great American Outdoors Act

Democrats typically support National Parks and wilderness protection. Republicans view such policies as federal land grabs that stifle economic growth and infringe on state rights. The Trump Administration wants to open protected lands for fossil fuel drilling, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

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California’s New Regulations On Heavy Duty Diesels Is Equivalent Of Removing 16 Million Cars From Road

California Air Resources Board unanimously approved new regulations on new heavy duty trucks sold in ... [+] the state that will reduce NOx emissions by 90 percent.

getty

It was a decision 10 years in the making. On Thursday the California Air Resources Board finally approved new regulations that will dramatically reduce Nitrogen Oxide emissions in the state.

The unanimous decision will phase in new regulations on heavy-duty diesel trucks and require manufacturers to comply with tougher emissions standards, overhaul engine testing procedures, and extend engine warranties.

Heavy duty diesel engines produce high levels of NOx during “low load” conditions, such as idling, moving slowing, or making frequent stops. Current regulations do not effectively control these pollutants. There are about 1 million heavy-duty trucks on road in California today, and sales of approximately 25,000 heavy duty trucks each year. 

Manufacturers of heavy-duty trucks have several engineering options to comply with the new rules, according to CARB. Strategies include better engine calibration, improvements to selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems, and new fuel-saving technologies like cylinder deactivation that also enable much lower NOx emissions.

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Amazon Expands Zero-Emission Fleet With Mercedes-Benz Electric Van Order

A Mercedes-Benz electric Vito van, manufactured by Daimler AG, stands on stage at the IAA Commercial ... [+] Vehicles Show in Hanover, Germany, on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. Volkswagen AG's truck unit is pushing to reduce its dependence on its main European market and lift profit margins in a challenge to commercial-vehicle industry leaders Daimler AG and Volvo AB. Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

© 2018 Bloomberg Finance LP

Amazo AMZN n has ordered 1,800 Mercedes-Benz electric vans, a significant step toward its goal of carbon neutrality by 2040, the online retailer said Friday.

Most of the new EVs will be deployed in Europe by the end of 2020, according to Amazon. Two-thirds, or 1,200 of the vehicles will be Mercedes-Benz’s eSprinter, while 600 will be the midsize eVitos.

About two years ago Amazon agreed to buy 20,000 of Mercedes-Benz’s non-electric Sprinter vans.

The new order is not the online retail giant’s largest EV purchase.

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5 Tips To Build The Best Network For Your Greentech Enterprise

Irina Fedorenko, award-winning activist and serial greentech entrepreneur

Irina Fedorenko

From launching an award-winning environmental movement to co-founding a startup for tree-planting drones, Irina Fedorenko is a serial entrepreneur with the ability to inspire others to participate in galvanising change.

As a student of marketing in Vladivostock, Russia, Irina poured her time and energy into creating an environmental movement, Greenlight: "The timing was just so right, the city was going through a lot of transformation, and we could influence urban planning decisions and policies. We rolled out a huge environmental education campaign for students and teenagers. There was this huge window of opportunity."

Greenlight impacted around 5,000 people and in 2010, won a WHO award for being the Best Youth Environmental Education Project in Europe.

Irina was awarded an Oxford scholarship, and she soon joined forces with a team of co-founders and a former NASA scientist to launch Biocarbon, a startup that uses drones to plant trees and grass.

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Three Greentech Startups To Watch In 2020 And Beyond: Bringing Innovative Solutions To Food Waste

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 6 : Robot waiters serve food to customers at the Robot theme restaurant ... [+] in Istanbul, Turkey on November 6, 2019. (Photo by Islam Yakut/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Few industries are as inefficient and exploitative as the food industry. The ferocious demand to feed the 7.8 billion human population is wiping out life as species become functionally extinct on land and in the ocean: 60% of global biodiversity loss is due to land being used to produce farm animal feed. Marine bycatch, or fish waste, (fish hauled that are too small or not the target species and are sold to factory farms), accounts for 60% of the total global catch. And while species are driven to extinction to quench the human appetite, we throw away one-third of all food produced for our consumption. 1.3 billion tons goes to waste each year, releasing an estimated 3.3 billion tons of CO2 equivalent as it decomposes in landfill.

The planet is paying an astronomical price for our broken food chain, but an industry plagued with problems is one that’s ripe for disruption. 

Digitization and new technical capabilities are blurring boundaries between once segregated, traditional industries. Mckenzie made a projection that 25% or more of revenue across sectors has come from cross-selling and merging several sectors, and this business model is set to grow. Add to this the drive to transition to a circular economy and the urgency of the climate crisis, and signs of a future food industry that’s significantly different from common practice today start to appear on the horizon.

Here are three disruptive greentech startups worth keeping an eye on:

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Electric Busmaker Proterra Unveils Battery Pack For Heavy-Duty Commercial Trucks

The city of Edmonton, Alberta began operating 21 of Proterra buses in its transit system earlier ... [+] this year.

Proterra photo

Proterra, a Burlingame, California-based manufacturer of electric buses and battery packs for transportation, has developed a new battery pack that can be customized for heavy-duty commercial vehicles.

The Series H pack is narrower (620 millimeters wide) than Proterra’s current Series S battery packs (860 millimeters), which the company uses in its electric transit buses.

The new packs can hold between 25 and 75 kilowatt-hours of energy storage, compared with the Series S’s capacity of up to 113 kWh. Its more compact dimensions enable the Series H to fit into standard truck frame rails and improve packaging flexibility.

“Proterra’s safe, reliable battery technology has been proven in hundreds of vehicles that are on the road today,” said Proterra CEO and Chairman Jack Allen, in a statement. “That’s why world-class manufacturers are choosing Proterra to power their school buses, coach buses, delivery vans, and other electric vehicles. Now, we are excited to extend our best-in-class battery platform to help power even more commercial vehicles and accelerate the transition to clean, quiet transportation for all.”

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'The aliens to watch': how the humble earthworm is altering the Arctic

They are a gardener’s best friend, good for the soil and a treat for birds. But the humble earthworm may not always be good news, according to a study that suggests invasive earthworms could be making Arctic soils too fertile.

The earthworm is not typically thought of as an invasive species. “Most parts of Europe have earthworms so we never really saw them as a problem,” says lead researcher Dr Gesche Blume-Werry, an ecologist from the University of Greifswald in Germany. But Blume-Werry and her colleagues realised that “more and more spots in the Arctic have worms because humans brought them there”.

Earthworms move at around five to 10 metres a year in the Arctic, but human mobility means they can jump from the UK to Svalbard in a single move. They are reaching remote areas by hitchhiking in the treads of people’s shoes, from being used as bait for fishing and in imported soils for gardening. As the Arctic warms, they are able to colonise more areas.

Early research indicates that the earthworms could have the same effect on Arctic plant productivity as a 3C rise in temperature.

Show Hide

Invasive plant and animal species are non-native organisms that disrupt the natural balance of ecosystems, often outcompeting native wildlife, which causes their own populations to explode. A minority of non-native species become invasive but common traits include rapid growth, fast reproduction and high resilience to new environments. 

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'The aliens to watch': how the humble earthworm is altering the Arctic

They are a gardener’s best friend, good for the soil and a treat for birds. But the humble earthworm may not always be good news, according to a study that suggests invasive earthworms could be making Arctic soils too fertile.

The earthworm is not typically thought of as an invasive species. “Most parts of Europe have earthworms so we never really saw them as a problem,” says lead researcher Dr Gesche Blume-Werry, an ecologist from the University of Greifswald in Germany. But Blume-Werry and her colleagues realised that “more and more spots in the Arctic have worms because humans brought them there”.

Earthworms move at around five to 10 metres a year in the Arctic, but human mobility means they can jump from the UK to Svalbard in a single move. They are reaching remote areas by hitchhiking in the treads of people’s shoes, from being used as bait for fishing and in imported soils for gardening. As the Arctic warms, they are able to colonise more areas.

Early research indicates that the earthworms could have the same effect on Arctic plant productivity as a 3C rise in temperature.

Q&A

What are invasive species?

Show

Invasive plant and animal species are non-native organisms that disrupt the natural balance of ecosystems, often outcompeting native wildlife, which causes their own populations to explode. A minority of non-native species become invasive but common traits include rapid growth, fast reproduction and high resilience to new environments. 

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Over 60 million chickens in England and Wales rejected over disease and defects

More than 61 million chickens were rejected because of diseases and defects at slaughterhouses in England and Wales over a three-year period, according to figures analysed by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and the Guardian.

Broilers, chickens raised for meat, were the worst affected with almost 59 million defects recorded. More than 39 million broilers arrived and were rejected at slaughter due to disease – approximately 35,000 every day.

The inspection findings, compiled from Food Standards Agency (FSA) data, resulted in either part of a bird or a whole bird being condemned and rejected for human consumption.

New data shows that between July 2016 and June 2019, 61,008,212 defects in chickens were identified by inspection staff at various points in the meat production process after arrival at slaughter. This figure includes spent laying hens as well as hens and cockerels used for breeding, which may be sold as meat.

There were a further 1.7 million diseases and 2.5 million full condemnations in Scotland during a three-year period between 2016 and the end of 2018.

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Special branches: the nominations to be England's tree of the year – in pictures

Special branches: the nominations to be England's tree of the year – in pictures | Environment | The Guardian

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‘Next fire season is already upon us’: NSW to adopt all recommendations of bushfire inquiry report

Last summer’s bushfire disaster was so unusual that traditional firefighting methods, such as hazard reduction burning, failed in some instances, an inquiry into the crisis heard.

The final report of the New South Wales bushfire inquiry, published on Tuesday, said the 2019-20 bushfire season brought fires in forested regions on a scale not seen in recorded history in Australia.

“The season showed us what damage megafires can do, and how dangerous they can be for our communities and firefighters,” the inquiry chairs, former NSW police deputy commissioner Dave Owens and former NSW chief scientist Mary O’Kane, said in their opening summary.’

“And it is clear that we should expect fire seasons like 2019-20 or potentially worse to happen again.”

The NSW government said on Tuesday it would be adopting all of the report’s 76 recommendations, which include the establishment of a major new centre for bushfire research and technology, new training to increase the capacity of fire authorities to deal with disasters of the scale seen in 2019-20, and examination of existing preparedness strategies to determine the best approach to increasingly frequent, extreme fire seasons.

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Weatherwatch: Danube's ice cover changes are a warning in Hungary

As a landlocked country in the heart of Europe, Hungary has a typically continental climate, with little or no influence from the sea. As a result, the climate is far more extreme than another European country on the same latitude, France.

The difference between typical temperatures in summer and winter can be as much as 30C, compared with a range of about 20 degrees in western France, and less than 10 degrees in the west of Ireland.

In July and August, temperatures regularly peak in the high 30s; while those in January and February often stay well below freezing. Rainfall is fairly evenly spread throughout the year, though with a slight peak in the late spring and summer months.

Snow often lies on the ground in winter, and the Danube, in the capital Budapest, used to freeze over regularly. However, during the past few decades this has happened far less often, as regional temperatures have risen due to the effects of the global climate crisis. Scientists are now using the changes in the ice cover on the Danube to track rising temperatures; and warn that although the lack of ice may be good news for the operators of river cruises, it sounds a timely warning for the rest of us.

Original author: Stephen Moss
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Stop Blaming Climate Change For California’s Fires. Many Forests, Including The Redwoods, Need Them.

Forests, including the redwoods, need periodic fires to create new life.

Getty

Fires have burned 1.3 million acres of California’s forests over the last month. That’s one million acres more than burned last year, and is an unusually high number for this early in the fire season.

California political leaders including Governor Gavin Newsom and Senator Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential candidate, blame climate change.

“If you are in denial about climate change, come to California,” Governor Gavin Newsom told the Democratic National Convention. “11,000 dry lightning strikes we had over a 72 hour period [led] to this unprecedented challenge with these wildfires.”

The New York Times NYT , CBS News, and other news outlets have reported that the wildfires destroyed a forest of ancient redwood trees in Big Basin state park.

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Last Saturday, The Earth Ran Out Of Resources (Again). Here’s What That Means

Orchestra for the Earth performs at Delabole Wind Farm in Cornwall to mark Earth Overshoot Day, ... [+] which this year fell on August 22.

Emily Whitfield-Wicks

The planet ran out of resources last Saturday, August 22.

At least, that’s one way to regard Earth Overshoot Day, the date that represents the point at which human demand for natural resources outstrips what the planet is able to provide.

Each year the date is slightly different, because it is determined by the think tank Global Footprint Network, which has formulated an ecological footprint calculator to measure natural resource use. Based on those calculations, the organization says humanity currently uses 1.6 times what the Earth is able to regenerate in a single year, meaning that over the past few years, Overshoot Day has fallen at some point in the summer.

In other words, humans use one whole year’s worth of resources in less than nine months.

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Last Saturday, The Earth Ran Out Of Resources (Again). Here’s What That Means

Orchestra for the Earth performs at Delabole Wind Farm in Cornwall to mark Earth Overshoot Day, ... [+] which this year fell on August 22.

Emily Whitfield-Wicks

The planet ran out of resources last Saturday, August 22.

At least, that’s one way to regard Earth Overshoot Day, the date that represents the point at which human demand for natural resources outstrips what the planet is able to provide.

Each year the date is slightly different, because it is determined by the think tank Global Footprint Network, which has formulated an ecological footprint calculator to measure natural resource use. Based on those calculations, the organization says humanity currently uses 1.6 times what the Earth is able to regenerate in a single year, meaning that over the past few years, Overshoot Day has fallen at some point in the summer.

In other words, humans use one whole year’s worth of resources in less than nine months.

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Investing in jobs and climate is key | Letter

Your editorial (19 August) correctly points to the fact that the “money no problem” approach to tackling the short-term upheavals caused by coronavirus must now shift to tackling the climate crisis. If not, it risks the further alienation of young climate protesters, the exceptional Greta Thunberg and the countless environmental campaigners active over the past few decades. The catalyst for this is the need for new jobs in every community to counter the political, economic and personal trauma that will come in the wake of the coming tsunami of lost livelihoods across the country.

An answer to the inevitable question of how to pay for such a transformation was provide by Larry Elliott’s observation (18 August) that the government’s money-printing programme of quantitative easing (QE) inflates the assets of the already rich, rather than helping rebuild the real economy. Given rising unemployment, it’s likely that QE is going to be required for some time to come. In that case, the government’s e-money printing presses must be used to help fund the employment of the millions of increased staff needed across all social sectors, from more care and health workers to teachers and police, while also funding investment in new climate-friendly infrastructure projects, such as making the UK’s 30m buildings carbon neutral and adapting existing infrastructure to deal with future heatwaves and flooding. This would be a serious start to healing the damage currently being inflicted on people as well as the planet.
Richard Murphy Visiting professor, University of Sheffield
Colin Hines Convener, UK Green New Deal Group

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• Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters

Original author: Letters
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Where Does Tesla Go From Here?

Photo by Alexander Pohl -

NurPhoto via Getty Images

With Tesla’s share price now above $2,000, those who claimed just about half a year ago that the company was overvalued when it rose to $420 will probably have irritated eyes after so much rubbing them in ever-mounting disbelief. If they were also engaged in short selling, all they have left to do is to buy a pair of red shorts, a hat with donkey ears, and sit facing the wall, because rarely have a bunch of smartasses made such fools of themselves on the stock market.

Tesla’s improved share price is not just based on the company’s outstanding performance; it reflects the markets’ growing interest in electric vehicles, to the point that a company like GM is considering spinning off its electric division. Meanwhile, awash with cash, Tesla is preparing to enter its next phase. What does it consist of? Over the last few years, Tesla has proven itself capable of carrying out its first mission: to design attractive electric vehicles, manufacture them on a large scale, make money from them, and consequently, revolutionize the automotive market and force other brands to change their strategy and go electric. The industry wanted to delay this transition for as long as possible, but Tesla has managed to accelerate it by making electric vehicles not just a more conscious, mature and economically sensible alternative, but more attractive in all senses.

The problem, of course, is that the major motor manufacturers have been asleep at the wheel for some time, and are now between five to ten years behind Tesla. They face a stark choice: either devote significant resources to try to catch up with the company, or simply consider licensing Tesla’s technology, something Elon Musk is perfectly willing to facilitate since the mission of his company, as I wrote about several years ago, was never to manufacture vehicles, but to accelerate the transition to renewable energy.

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What impact would the announcement that one or more major motor manufacturers — experts in large-scale production but anchored in an obsolete technology called the internal combustion engine — were licensing Tesla’s technology have on the market? On the one hand, these brands would focus on what they know how to do: manufacture and sell cars. On the other hand, Tesla would receive significant revenue and could continue to be a good technology company that, incidentally, makes cars. And as a third spin-off, but no less important, the world would benefit from a reduction in emissions and a much more sustainable approach.

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Is Paper A More Sustainable Flexible Packaging Material Than Plastic?

paper vs plastic

Wood Mackenzie

By Mariana Santos Moreira, Wood Mackenzie Senior Research Analyst

Like many other major plastics applications, plastics use in flexible packaging has come under deep scrutiny in recent years as sustainability concerns rise and spread globally.

Paper is often lauded as a far more environmentally friendly alternative but how do the two materials really compare? And what is the most sustainable solution?

Historically, papers have been used in flexible packaging for many applications, including confectionery, pet food and dried food. By the early-2000s, however, paper demand as a flexible packaging substrate began to decline due to competition from down-gauging and the rise of plastic alternatives.

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Azerbaijan’s President Calls For Privatization Of State Oil Company SOCAR: A Hope For Petrostates?

SOCAR's Bulla-Deniz 12 platform in the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea. December 24, 2018.

azerinews.az

Like other commodity export dependent nations around the world, Azerbaijan has seen its economy suffer from the lockdown effects of the global coronavirus pandemic, particularly its oil and gas sector. The World Bank now forecasts the country’s economy to contract by 2.6% this year - a figure revised from the original estimate of 2.3% predicted growth. Despite the fact that Azerbaijan is expected to rebound slightly in 2021 with 2.2% growth in GDP, this may be the time for the government to act swiftly in restructuring the economy.

Azerbaijan derives 40% of its total gross domestic product from oil and gas, which accounts for two-thirds of the government’s budget revenues and over 80% of export revenues. Earlier this month the government was forced to redraft its budget to reflect oil prices of $35 per barrel, down from $55.

During an August 6 government session adjourned to discuss the country’s declining economic situation, the country’s President Ilham Aliyev criticized the state-owned oil and gas giant SOCAR for wasteful spending and for tapping the state budget rather than its own revenues to implement projects saying:

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“Even extending gas lines to homes is financed from the state budget in our country. However, this is a direct responsibility of the State Oil Company [SOCAR]. This year, we have envisaged 100 million manats [$58.8 million] in the state budget for [gas lines to be extended to] villages. If the state does all this, then what is the state company doing? After all, this is its job and its duty.”

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