European Union increases its renewable energy target to 32% by year 2030

In the wake of the Paris Agreement, the world is ramping up its drive to achieve 100% renewable energy. By decreasing, and eventually eliminating, our dependency on fossil fuels, we will leave the planet in a better state for our children and grandchildren.

The EU is taking a proactive approach to ensuring its member states do their bit in the global war on climate change. It originally set a renewable energy target of 27% by 2030. This was met with disapproval by the UK, whose green groups claimed that the target was not high enough to make a real impact.

Now, the target sits at 32%. This is target for the amount of energy consumed by the EU that will come from renewable sources. The climate chief of the EU has praised the decision to raise the target and believes it is a big win for the bloc. It also shows how serious countries are taking the switch over to clean energy.

Energy ministers have made the new target of 32% renewable energy by 2030 binding. While this is seen as a positive move by a number of member states, some are still disappointed and believe that the target does not go far enough. Other nations hoped for a more ambitious target.

The decision was made after 18 months of negotiations within the EU Council. Since announcing the figure, the new target has been warmly welcomed by the renewables industry. Furter to this, the trade body for European energy utilities was also happy with the result, calling it a decent compromise.

Throughout the talks, different countries put forward what they believed the target should be. The UK suggested a modest 30%, 2% less than France’s recommendation of 32%. This comes in the wake of France’s new pro-renewables attitude. Meanwhile, Spain and Italy were calling for 35%.

Referring to the new target, Miguel Arias Cañete, the climate commissioner for the EU said “This new ambition will help us meet our Paris agreement goals and will translate into more jobs, lower energy bills for consumers and less energy imports.”

What’s more, the fact that the target is binding will provide certainty for investors. And, the plan to increase the target includes a provision that the figure will be reviewed in 2023 and could well be raised further after review.

Of course, Brexit is also a consideration. It is unclear whether the UK will be bound by the target once it leaves the EU. This will depend on the type of exit deal reached by the powers that be.

In 2016, around 17% of EU energy consumption came from renewable sources. The UK, meanwhile, was on 9%.

However, other member states have much more impressive figures, with Sweden using well over 50%. This has led green energy advocates to complain that the figure is not ambitious enough given that a number of countries are already well on track to reach or beat it. There has also been criticism by environmental groups of biomass being considered a renewable energy source.

Critics have called the new target paltry and said it will not suffice to ensure a climate-safe, fossil fuel free future. They believe it does not recognise the shift in renewable landscape nor does it take into account the falling costs of solar and wind power.

 

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6 Environment Stories That Will Continue to Make Headlines in 2018

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  1. Coral reefs

Today, 75% of the world’s coral reefs are in danger. This danger comes from a range of different threats, including invasive species destroying the reefs, sunscreen pollution in the water from bathers, and the acidification of the ocean. Now is the time to act if we want to keep the coral reefs alive for our children to admire. 2018 has been dubbed the International Year of the Reef by the Coral Reef Initiative. Fiji has already stepped up to the helm thanks to an announcement by its government of a new protected reef site. Elsewhere, UN Environment has started a detailed analysis of coral reefs and their status in the Pacific Ocean. It will be interesting to watch the development in this sector as the year goes on.

  1. Plastic pollution

The world is finally starting to realise the incredibly damaging effects plastic has on the environment. Since the 2017 UN Environment Assembly, there has been a solid focus on reducing plastic pollution. Various initiatives have already been rolled out, including the banning of microbeads in cosmetics and the phasing out of single-use shopping bags. Expect to see more multinational companies chime in to the debate and bring in new policies to minimise plastic usage.

  1. Greening the world of sport

Sustainability in the sporting world has already been a big focus in 2018. This year we are going to see the World Cup in Russia, the Youth Olympics in Argentina and we saw the Winter Olympics in South Korea. All of these events have taken in to account sustainability targets from the world at large and it will be interesting to see the impact this will have on the environment.

  1. Environment and migration

There has been upset in a number of global communities over the past few years as refugee and migrant crises have struck countries throughout the world. In December, leaders will meet in Morocco to strike a new global deal for migrants and refugees. This international community has already recognised factors such as climate change, climate-related disasters, and environmental degradation as reasons why populations are shifting.

  1. Cities and climate change

In 2018 there is going to be a focus on what cities can do to combat climate change. Given that cities are responsible for a huge amount of pollution, it makes sense that they spearhead national campaigns to reduce emissions and develop new ways to tackle the issues at hand. The Resilient Cities Conference and the Global Climate Action Summit have proven and will prove to be landmark moments in the world’s continued fight against the destruction of our planet.

  1. Big cats

In the past hundreds years the planet has lost 95 per cent of its tiger population. These magnificent creatures are so few in number now that they could well become extinct if the world doesn’t take action and implement effective conservation programs. On top of that, the population of lions in Africa has declined over 40% and snow leopards, jaguars and other large cats seem destined to the same fate. Habitat loss, poaching and climate change are all driving these animals to extinction. Expect to see a big push for the salvation of our big cats in 2018.

 

The 4 Most Powerful People in Clean Energy

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The 4 Most Powerful People in Clean Energy.

The world of energy is changing at an incredible rate. Every day more and more technology is developed that will aid the world transition away from traditional fossil fuels and over to renewable energy. It is a huge shift that needs to be undergone but it is happening, slowly but surely. Electric vehicles are becoming more mainstream, huge amounts of money are being invested into clean energy, and countries are setting ambitious emissions targets. The ball is rolling.

 

But, no revolution can gain momentum without some leaders at its helm, guiding the way. The renewable revolution is no different. It has some seriously impressive people at its helm. Various scientists, innovators and politicians have all come forward to show their support for the movement, but some are making more of an effort than others. Here are the most powerful people in clean energy right now and what they are doing to help the world fight climate change.

 

Elon Musk

 

Elon Musk is not just one of the most powerful people in renewable energy but he is one of the most impressive individuals on the planet. The brains behind Tesla, SpaceX and Solar City, it seems like everything the man touches turns to gold – and the clean energy space is no exception. Musk has been a key player in the development of electric vehicles. In fact, Tesla’s model 3 is one of the most affordable electric vehicles on the market right now. He has huge plans for the future and could be pivotal to the renewables revolution.

 

Bill Gates

 

You might associate Bill Gates more with technology than energy, but the truth is that these two sectors are interlinked and the uber-successful philanthropist has his hands in both pies. In recent years, Gates has made it clear that he is willing to pour his fortune into making the world more sustainable. He is part of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, along with Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson. He is also behind Mission Innovation, a pact between ten countries to pump more money into clean energy projects.

 

James Dehlsen

 

Compared with the first two behemoths on this list, Dehlsen might seem somewhat out of place. In fact, you’ve probably never even heard of him. But, Dehlsen has done incredible things for the renewable energy sector and has made an impact on the wind power scene. In 1980 he created Zond, a wind power developer that is now GE Wind Energy. His contributions to the US energy sector did not go unnoticed as he was inducted into the National Environmental Hall of Fame in 2008.

 

Steven Chu

 

You might remember Chu from his days as the U.S. Secretary of Energy under the Obama administration. If not, you might know him as the guy who co-won the Nobel Prize for physics. Either way, you really should know who he is. Chu has long been a very vocal advocate of renewable energy and his research has made him one of the preeminent figures in this arena. Since resigning as Secretary of Energy, Chu has worked on various renewable energy projects and continues to do his bit in the battle against climate change.

Trump Demands Immediate Action to Prevent Closure of Coal and Nuclear Power Plants

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The President of the United States has repeatedly made it clear that his priority for the energy sector is to keep coal and nuclear power plants up and running. Trump has ordered ‘immediate steps’ to prevent the closure of coal and nuclear power plants. The administration is now reviewing a plan to step in and manipulate the US electricity markets in order to support generators that are unprofitable.

 

A number of power industry groups have criticised the decision, saying that there is no need to interfere with the market and that doing so would inevitably raise prices for consumers.
The White House spoke on the topic, explaining that the impending retirement of coal and nuclear plants will have a serious impact on the resilience of the power grid. It said that coal and nuclear formed a critical part of the energy mix of the US.

 

This came in the wake of a leaked memo, which outlined arguments in favour of supporting coal and nuclear plants. It stated that an increase in gas-fired plants and renewable energy would jeopardise the resilience and security of the country’s energy supply.

 

The memo continued to highlight the importance of promoting national defence and would persuade the energy department to exercise its powers under the Defense Production Act of 1950. The powers would allow the department to delay retirements of fuel-secure electric generation resources.

 

For two years, grid operators would have to purchase their power for a specified list of coal and nuclear plants, created by the government. This would have the effect of keeping the plants in business.

 

This proposal has sparked outrage among activist groups representing renewable energy and natural gas. It was also criticised by PJM, the operator of the largest power grid in the country.

 

Thanks to the rise in shale gas and the decreasing costs of solar and wind, gas-fired plants and renewable energy sources have dominated investment in power generation in the US. Coal plants are finding it hard to compete with these modern and more sustainable energy sources.

 

Despite Trump’s pledge to reignite the coal industry, there has been little success. There are over 2,000 more employees in the sector now, since November 2016, but the industry is far from safe. In 2017, coal-fired plants provided 30% of US electricity. This year they are expected to supply 29%, showing that Trump’s plan to increase coal supply has not yet come to fruition.

 

Furthermore, planned closures of coal-fired plants will reach their peak this year, since 2015. The energy secretary, Rick Perry, put forward a plan last year to intervene in electricity markets to prop up coal and nuclear plants. However, this notion was rejected by the FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission).

 

The statement released from the White House shows Trump telling Perry to prepare for immediate action to prevent the loss of these resources. But, the plans have not gone down well, with several high-up officials noting that the proposals are going to cost more for consumers and businesses alike.

 

Experts have said that there is no current threat to system reliability and therefore no justification for government intervention in the electricity markets. If the government did intervene and compel customers to exclusively purchase power from specified companies, the damage to the market would be severe and costly.

Coal stocks rise in the wake of Trumps order to Perry to stop closures of coal and nuclear power plants

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It has become very clear over the past year just how much President Donald Trump loves coal. He has pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord and scrapped Obama’s Clean Power Plan all to give coal and nuclear a boost.

 

On Friday, news hit the world that Trump is planning on using his executive powers to prevent ailing coal and nuclear power plants from closing. This resulted in coal mining stocks jumping up.

 

Rick Perry, Trump’s energy Secretary, has been given the task of using emergency measures to save the plants at risk of closing. This report has come from Reuters, citing the White House. It has been revealed that the administration has written a draft proposal suggesting the use of two powers that are rarely used in order to keep plants online. The reason given for using the powers was national security.

 

The stock market had a field day with this news. Peabody Energy shares rose 9% ($1.95) to $45.22 while Arch Coal went up 2.2% ($1.84) and capped at $84. This trend could certainly continue if Trump carries on showing such a vested interest in the wellbeing of the nation’s coal and nuclear plants.

 

The current status of coal and nuclear power plants in the U.S is that many are closing ahead of schedule. Solar, wind and other renewable energy sources are providing strong competition for a place in the energy mix and putting pressure on fossil fuels to die out.

 

However, coal miners are going to be severely affected by further closures as the majority sell coal to domestic plants. They have already taken a beating over recent years as they work through oversupply.

 

The power Trump is suggesting be used would allow the executive branch to force the electric grid operators to purchase their power from a specified list of plants. This list will contain plants that are uncompetitive or risk closing in the near future.

This power is authorised by Section 202 of the Federal Power Act. It allows the Secretary of Energy to do whatever he needs to keep plants running in a time of war or emergency. It does not seem like the U.S is facing either of those scenarios at the moment, but the power is being considered nonetheless.

The Defence Production Act has also been cited. This act gives the president the power to “influence domestic industry in the interest of national defence”. The power touches many different areas.

If the scheme is to go ahead, it is likely to be in place for two years. This gives it time to keep any deactivations, decommissions or retirements or plants at bay until there has been sufficient time to conduct a study on the U.S grid reliability.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a spokeswoman for the White House, explained, “unfortunately, impending retirements of fuel-secure power facilities are leading to a rapid depletion of a critical part of our nation’s energy mix, and impacting the resilience of our power grid.”

What we are seeing with the attempt to use these powers is the U.S once again trying to bail out coal and nuclear plants that do not deserve another chance. Last year, Perry even proposed a scheme that would compel regional markets to compensate coal and nuclear plants for giving the grid such reliability. However, this plan was unanimously rejected.

 

Trump is Losing Money and Support by Continuing to Deny Climate Change

denying global warming.jpgThere is no doubt that smart climate change policies will make a huge impact on both a nation and the world. But, did you know that a smart climate policy in the US could save the country tens of trillions of dollars?

A recent internal memo in the White House showed the President’s dismal stance on climate change. Faced with strong evidence indicating both the existence and level of damage caused by climate change, the memo suggested three options for dealing with these reports. The first was to debate the findings, the second to cast doubt on the conclusions and the third was simply to ignore the findings altogether. Nowhere in the memo is there an option of accepting the reports and acting upon the findings.

Yet, more and more evidence is being pushed out into the public sphere showing how global warming is going to cost more than just the environment. A paper published in Nature showed that if the global warming limit was capped at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures, the financial savings would be over $20 trillion. This is compared with the original target of 2 degrees.

The flip side to this, however, is that the cost of the effort needed to reduce the global temperature by that extra half degree would cost around $300 billion more than what it would take to meet 2 degrees. Although the lower target would outweigh its costs by a factor of around 70 to 1, nothing is being done to make this a reality.

There is currently nothing coming from the Trump administration that indicates a desire to reduce carbon pollution. In fact, Trump has been doing everything in his power to undo climate change policies and give new life to the coal and oil industries despite the fact that this will particularly hurt what is known as ‘Trump country’.

Unfortunately for the American people, what Trump prizes above all else, including the lives and welfare of humans, is short-term corporate profit. This means that the sensible solution of taking aggressive action to reduce global warming is not an option and it is the economies of the southern, conservative states that are going to suffer because of this.

97% of scientists agree that humans are the cause of global warming. What’s more, that same number of people agrees that a continued climate change at the rate we are going now will have devastating effects on the world and all of the species on planet Earth. Gambling on the possibility of 3% of scientists being right is a bad idea, especially when the stakes are as high as they are. Humans naturally want to cover themselves for risk – this is why we buy insurance and eat healthily where possible. So, why is the President of the most powerful country on earth gambling with the lives of its citizens?

Not only is denying global warming bad for the world, but it is bad for the Republican party. Young conservatives are not as blinded to the truth as their predecessors and most of them want to see action being taken to remedy our environmental wrongs. The youth of today knows that they will be the ones picking up the mess of their elders in the future and that it is up to them to make sure something is done about it now rather than waiting until it is too late.

 

5 Energy Stories That Made Headlines in 2017

2017 was an interesting year for the energy world. We saw WTI shoot from $50 to over $60 a barrel and Brent hit $65, much to OPEC’s delight. But, 2017 bore witness to more than just oil price fluctuations – here are the most popular stories from 2017.

The Oil War Is Definitely Not Over Yet

When OPEC and Russia announced their pact to cut oil production, it made headlines all over the world. However, after the initial glory and accompanying price spike, doubters began to emerge wondering whether some members of the pact might cheat. This was soon overshadowed by a much bigger concern – U.S. shale gas production was on the rise and rising rapidly. Although OPEC publicly denounced the hype around shale production, by the end of the year it was obvious that it was going to threaten the success of the production agreement.

The USA’s Next Big Shale Play

The Permian held the spotlight for the majority of 2017 but in June, drilling productivity reported by the EIA showed that the Powder River Basin may well knock the Permian off the top spot. Given that shale was a huge focus of 2017, anything that concerned it was top news. By the end of 2017 the Bakken was lagging way behind the Permian in terms of production growth despite forecasts by the EIA that it would become the largest tight oil and gas source in the United States.

Oil Prices Could be Affected by Continuing Arab Gulf Tension

The first half of 2017 was markedly quiet in terms of geopolitics. However, this all ended in June when the Qatar blockade occurred. This happened because some of Qatar’s neighbours decided that the nation was too cosy with Iran and that it had funded terrorism. Qatar stood its ground and refused to bend to Saudi Arabia and its cronies and so the blockade continues. Fortunately, no further demands have been made by the hostile countries and the emirate has managed to evade the restrictions.

For many, the blockade was an attempt by Saudi Arabia to ignite another regional conflict in order to reassert its dominance. If that theory is true then the attempt was a failure. Nevertheless, the price of oil went up consistently.

China Has More Control Over Oil Prices Than OPEC

The price of oil was going up, but OPEC wanted it to rise faster. Meanwhile China became the number one consumer of crude oil and broke records in how much it imported. Analysts suggest that a lot of this oil was being pumped into the country’s underground oil reserves. China doesn’t publish figures for its oil reserves so those interested need to estimate based on satellite images of oil tanks.

Oil Has Underlying Problems, Hidden By Shale

Not everything is as rosy-coloured as the shale industry would like us to believe. Experts warn that all of this positive coverage is hiding some underlying problems. First, it has been noted that the production figures that put shale in the spotlight were initial production rates, destined to decline quickly. Second, there are reports that some of the wells are becoming too long, making it difficult for pumps to extract enough oil. Finally, shareholders in shale companies have been getting annoyed about the lack of profits from their investments.