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TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES

Briefing date 18.01.2022
Big boost to UK offshore wind capacity from Scottish auction

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News.

Big boost to UK offshore wind capacity from Scottish auction
Financial Times Read Article

The Scottish government has approved 25GW of offshore wind project development rights in “one of the biggest auctions of its kind in the world”, the Financial Times reports. According to the newspaper, the projects could “more than double” the UK’s existing offshore wind capacity. It continues: “More than half the projects, with a total capacity of 13GW, will use ‘floating’ wind turbines, the first time that this technology, which is tethered to the seabed, will be deployed commercially at a large scale.” The auction has leased “thousands of kilometres of its seabed to new projects” and will bring in £700m in rental fees for the government, the Independent reports. The Guardian adds: “Crown Estate Scotland has awarded oil companies including BP and Shell, and renewable energy veterans Scottish Power and SSE, permission to lease the Scottish seabed where they plan to build enough windfarms to power the equivalent of 23m UK homes a year.” The Times says that “tens of billions of pounds” will be invested in Scotland, creating “thousands of jobs”. It adds that of the 74 applications, only 17 were successful at the auction. Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph says that projects “now face the often lengthy processes of securing planning permission and grid connections”, adding that “such ‘non-financial’ barriers are among the biggest barriers to rolling-out offshore wind”. The auction is also covered in Reuters and Bloomberg.

Separately, the Times says the auction is “strengthening Britain’s position as Europe’s offshore wind leader”. Similarly, the Independent quotes the ScottishPower chief executive, who says the UK and Scotland could “become a leader in floating offshore wind farms”. The New York Times adds that “in awarding the leases, the Scottish government is also trying to persuade the oil companies, which have been laying off workers as investment in oil and gas plummets, to retain a substantial presence in Scotland.” According to BusinessGreen, Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has called the projects a “truly historic” opportunity, adding: “ScotWind represents one of the country’s biggest ever steps towards net zero.” However, the Scotsman says the government “has been accused of selling off lucrative seabed plots ‘for a pittance’”.

Meanwhile, the Independent highlights one floating wind farm project called “Gwynt Glas”, which will be 20 times larger than the biggest floating wind farm currently in existence. According to the online paper, the project will generate 1GW of power, providing enough energy for roughly 927,400 homes.

UK looks at payments to energy suppliers to shield consumers from high bills
Financial Times Read Article

Amid continuing coverage of the energy price crisis, the Financial Times reports on its frontpage that the UK is “exploring a radical intervention in the power market”, whereby “energy suppliers would receive payments from government when wholesale gas prices exceeded a certain threshold so they would not then have to pass the increase on to consumers”. Elsewhere, the Guardian reports that the price cap on energy will rise to £1,929 from 1 April and again in October. This could cause millions of households to face a £2,255 increase in their average gas and electricity bills from October, according to the paper. It continues: “Energy bills are expected to soar to almost £2,000 a year from April under the regulator’s energy price cap, and industry analysts have warned that a second surge in October could drive bills more than 75% above today’s prices.” Bloomberg covers analysis from thinktank Resolution Foundation, which finds that the price cap rise in April could cause the number of homes facing “fuel stress” could triple to 1.3m households. Reuters covers a warning from Resolution Foundation that the UK’s government “will need to spend more than £7bn pounds this year if it wants to offset the effect of soaring energy prices for households”. Meanwhile, the Guardian covers new research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which finds that “poor UK households may have to spend half their income on energy”. Elsewhere, the Times reports that Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak “will not be hit by the expected sharp rise in energy bills in April because of a cap on the contributions they have to make towards their Downing Street flats”. And Reuters reports that Russia’s Gazprom has no gas exports to Europe planned in February via the Yamal pipeline.

In related news, a Reuters “exclusive” reveals that the CEO of energy company EDF has criticised the French government’s handling of the energy crisis in a memo. In the memo, Jean-Bernard Levy reportedly “said he had tried to persuade ministers to adopt a different course, and was now looking at steps to defend EDF’s interests”. This breaks from the convention that bosses of French state companies don’t criticise the government, the newswire says. And Bloomberg reports that EDF has “plunged” after a move by the French President last week to limit increases in electricity bills for households and small businesses, which could cost EDF up to 8.4bn euros.

Renewable energy to meet over 70% of China’s additional power needs in next three years, says IEA
South China Morning Post Read Article

The South China Morning Post covers a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA). The newspaper highlights that – according to the report – renewable energy will meet more than 70% of China’s “additional” electricity demand in the next three years. It also says that the role played by coal in “powering” the nation “continues to decline”, per the report. In a separate article, the South China Morning Post analyses the emission-reduction plans by various Chinese provinces to help the country achieve its climate change goals. Meanwhile, Reuters reports findings from environment group Greenpeace that China’s car sector “is on track to bring its climate-warming carbon dioxide emissions to a peak by 2027, but, on current trends, it is unlikely to meet the country’s 2060 “net zero” target”.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that “China’s oil processing volumes rose more than 4% to a record last year as state-owned refiners boosted output and new integrated plants came online”. The outlet cites China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and its own calculations. Also quoting statistics from the NBS, Mysteel – a Shanghai-based website publishing commodity news, data and analyses – reports that China’s coke output declined 2.2% year-on-year to 464m tonnes in 2021.

In addition, Reuters reports that China “may triple electricity generation to supply 60% of the country’s total energy”, according to Shell. It writes: “In a rare assessment of the country’s energy sector by an international oil major, Shell said China needed to take quick action this decade to stay on track to reach the carbon-neutrality goal.” Elsewhere, US electric carmaker Tesla is turning away from China – to Mozambique – for a “key component” in its electric car batteries, AP reports. The Guardian notes that China’s coal production “hit record levels in 2021” due to a nationwide production drive to ensure energy supply.

In Chinese state media, China News Service reports that Shanxi Province – the country’s largest coal-producing region – is “continuing to ensure [the country’s] energy supply” in the lead up to the Lunar New Year. Its reporter visited the county of Baode in an area known as the “golden triangle of coal”. A local driver recalled how vehicles “queued for 24 hours to transport coal” at the end of 2021 before explaining that his work pressure had eased recently, but he was “still busy”.

UK faces annual climate damage bill of billions – government analysis
The Independent Read Article

The government has released its third five-yearly climate change risk assessment. This report is “part of the government’s legal requirements on tackling climate change”, and “looks at 61 potential risks – and opportunities – across business, infrastructure, health, nature and international issues at 2C and 4C of warming this century”, the Independent reports. It continues: “New and stronger government action is needed in the next five years to deal with risks in more than half the areas assessed, such as climate threats to water, energy and transport networks and impacts on crops, the analysis says.” The Times highlights that, according to the report, “climate change will cost the UK economy up to £20 billion a year by 2050 on the present trajectory of global warming”. However, the paper adds that according to the report, “‘early adaptation investments’ can reap up to £10 in economic benefits for every £1 spent”. Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that “the climate crisis will wipe at least 1% a year off the UK’s economy by 2045 if global temperatures are allowed to rise by 2C”. BBC News says that following publication of the report, the government “has admitted that its efforts to insulate the UK from climate change impacts have been inadequate”. It continues: “Ministers say they’ll have to go much further and faster to curb the worst impacts…The government has also accepted that it must consider low-probability but high-impact events arising from a heating climate.”

Meanwhile, the i newspaper covers analysis from the UK Met Office and University of Exeter, which informed the risk assessment. The study finds that current global policies to cut emissions could still result in 4C warming by 2100. The study “concluded that global warming is already bringing substantial risks to the UK’s natural environment, infrastructure, human health, communities and businesses”, the paper says. Sky News adds that, according to the study, if global warming reaches 4C, “the number of heat-related deaths in the UK is projected to increase from 2,000 a year at the moment to 7,200 by the 2050s and 12,800 by the 2080s”.

And in another report released yesterday, the World Economic Forum found, “[m]ore than 70% of the 576 biggest urban centres worldwide, comprising more than 1.4 billion people, are at elevated or extreme risk from environmental hazards like pollution, water contamination or extreme heat”, according to the Hill. “About $31 trillion of their [cities’] GDP, or 44 percent, is at risk from these losses”, the publication writes.

EU advisers concerned about plan for green labels on gas, nuclear investments
Reuters Read Article

Experts are “concerned” that the EU’s sustainable finance taxonomy relies too heavily on promises to make gas and nuclear green in future, rather than assessing their “real impact today”, Reuters reports. It continues: “Nathan Fabian, who chairs the expert group, said some advisers were concerned the draft risked hurting the taxonomy’s mission to provide clarity to investors about the environmental impact of investments…Under the draft plan, seen by Reuters, gas plants can earn a green label if they meet criteria including an emissions limit of 270g of CO2 equivalent per kWh, or if their annual emissions average 550kg CO2e per kW or less over 20 years. That would judge the environmental performance of a gas plant over 20 years, with no guarantee that its emissions would drop over time, said Fabian.” BusinessGreen adds: “Major investors have urged the EU to amend its draft green investment rulebook to ensure that no fossil gas investments can be labelled sustainable, arguing their inclusion will hinder financiers’ ability to deliver net zero portfolios, undermine the credibility of the green taxonomy, and could result in reduced climate ambition around the world.”

Tonga volcano: Blast was violent and vast, but may not disrupt global warming
The Sydney Morning Herald Read Article

Following the volcanic eruption in Tonga, the Sydney Morning Herald reports that major volcanic eruptions can inject sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere, with a cooling effect on the planet. It goes on to quote Carbon Brief’s Zeke Hausfather, who explains that not enough sulphur dioxide was released to have a measurable effect: “‘[The plume] did reach the requisite height as far as we can tell,’ Dr Hausfather said. ‘But based on the latest satellite measurements, there wasn’t actually that much sulphur dioxide in the gases that came all the way up to the stratosphere. Our latest measurement is that about half a million tonnes of sulphur dioxide ended up going into the stratosphere from this volcano. And that compares to about 20 million tonnes that came out in Pinatubo [in the early 1990s which caused a temporary 0.5C drop in average global temperature].’”

Meanwhile, New Scientist reports that the blast was a “once-in-a-millennium event”, adding that it “has already triggered a tsunami, a sonic boom and thousands of lightning bolts, and could now lead to acid rain”. Elsewhere, the i newspaper has mapped the areas most affected by the subsequent tsunami waves, while Reuters says that scientists are “struggling to monitor” the volcano, as it has been obscured from satellites. Separately, the newswire says that the underwater eruption “could deliver long-lasting damage to coral reefs, erode coastlines and disrupt fisheries”. And it adds that in Tonga’s small outer islands, an entire village was destroyed and many buildings are missing.

UK: London mayor looks to cut car journeys in push for net zero
Financial Times Read Article

A new net-zero report, commissioned by London mayor Sadiq Khan, outlines several “radical new policies to reduce air pollution and meet climate targets, including a huge expansion of the city’s low emission zone for vehicles or pay-as-you-drive road charging”, according to the Financial Times. “Possible options include a daily clean air charge for all car journeys throughout Greater London, or applying the ultra-low emission zone (Ulez) £12.50 daily charge to all petrol and diesel cars rather than just older models”, reports the Guardian. The report also states that “[m]otor traffic must be reduced by at least 27% by the end of the decade”, writes Forbes. The outlet quotes Khan, who said: “This new report must act as a stark wake-up call for the government on the need to provide much greater support to reduce carbon emissions in London”.

UK: 27,000 fewer deaths each year from cold as climate warms, ONS estimates
Press Association via the Independent Read Article

Analysis from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) suggests that “climate change has led to more than half a million fewer deaths over the past 20 years”, reports the Press Association. According to BBC News: “Hot days saw more injuries, violence and suicide, but the relatively small rise in deaths was offset by warmer winter temperatures resulting in fewer”. However, this mortality impact is “limited”, writes the Daily Mail, as “[w]armer weather can lead to more deaths due to heat strokes, heat exhaustion and complications in vulnerable people taking medication, the World Health Organization says”. In a separate piece, the Independent also quotes Myers Glickerman, senior health statistician at the ONS, who says: “Climate change is the greatest long-term health threat globally and is expected to impact the UK increasingly over the coming years.” The Daily Telegraph has the story under the headline: “Death warmed up: How Britain’s milder winters have ‘saved’ half a million lives”. (Carbon Brief published an explainer on this topic in 2015.)

Comment.

ScotWind offshore wind farms: Scotland has a 'historic opportunity' but there's real concern we could miss it
Editorial, The Scotsman Read Article

The Scotsman carries an editorial on the recent auction of licences in Scotland for offshore wind farm projects. The auction was “met by a chorus of criticism and concern from some”, with some calling the £700m raised a “pittance”, the editorial says. However, it goes on to quote Nicola Sturgeon: “The scale of opportunity here is truly historic.” It continues: “The key question is whether or not Scotland will seize that opportunity, transforming our economy and making Scotland a major player in the new industrial revolution taking place all over the world.” It says that Scotland’s successful oil industry “shows what can be done”, but adds that “Scotland has not been doing well in creating a major domestic renewables industry to date”. The editorial concludes: “The Scottish government needs to be working hard to make sure it is doing absolutely everything in its power to realise the truly astonishing potential of renewables in Scotland. If not, then we in Scotland may find ourselves rueing a historic missed opportunity on an epic scale as the wind, and the economic benefits, passes over our heads.”

In other UK comment, Times columnist Hugo Rifkind has penned an opinion piece under the subheading: “If the reality is to match the ministerial rhetoric we’d concentrate on insulating Britain and not a VAT cut on energy bills.” Rifkind highlights the recent controversial email from Ovo energy, which advised people to stay warm by doing star jumps and wearing warm socks, and outlines the main reasons for the energy crisis. However, he says the bigger problem is “a government which talks tough on the environment, yet which brings no real conviction to the fight”. For example, he points to “the mad fiasco of the £1.5bn 2020 green homes grant”. He says that the UK is “actually quite good at the big stuff”, such a renewable energy infrastructure, but continues: “When it comes to individual households, though, you might almost think that the government has a deliberate policy of making schemes as weird and unattractive as possible. A £5,000 grant for a £10,000 heat pump which will hardly work unless you’ve got a fantastically insulated home already?…My hunch is that the last green scheme went wrong because the government actually saw it more as a way of motivating construction, with a nice green spin on the side.”

We put solar panels on 1m roofs in California. That win is now under threat.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, The New York Times Read Article

Former governor of California and actor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has penned a comment piece in the New York Time, arguing that a proposal from the state’s public utility commission “would make it too costly for many Californians to embrace solar power” and should be “stopped in its tracks”. Schwarzenegger says that California currently has 1.3m solar rooftops generating roughly 10,000 megawatts of electricity – more than any other US state. However, he continues: “The California Public Utilities Commission is considering a plan that would make it too costly for many Californians to embrace solar power. A decision could come as soon as 27 January. The plan is complicated and has some good features, like creating funds to encourage homeowners and businesses with solar to add batteries for storage and to help bring solar power to poor and polluted communities. But it would also include a new monthly ‘grid participation charge’ that would average an estimated $57 a month for solar customers. People who power their homes with fossil fuels wouldn’t pay this. So let’s call it what it is: a solar tax.” Schwarzenegger goes on to outline the benefits of solar power, and concludes: “Governor Gavin Newsom can sustain the state’s record of environmental success and keep California forging ahead on a path to 100% clean energy…He and his commission must stand up to the monopolistic utilities and protect California’s solar power programs, for the state’s future and the planet’s.”

Science.

Techno-economic analysis of renewable fuels for ships carrying bulk cargo in Europe
Nature Energy Read Article

A new study compares the “techno-economic suitability” of potential renewable fuels for cargo shipping in Europe. The researchers consider hydrogen, ammonia, methane, methanol and diesel – all produced from renewable electricity. They find that more than “93% of the transport work can be covered with all fuel options when a reduced cargo capacity of less than 3% is allowed for”. The authors add that “compared with Europe’s electricity consumption in 2019, carbon-neutral bulk shipping demands an additional 4–8% thereof”.

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