Today's climate and energy headlines:
- 'Bring on more renewables,' U.S. regulator says as grid study looms
- UK's new climate change minister: Clean Growth Plan coming this autumn
- World's first floating windfarm to take shape off coast of Scotland
- Chinese province runs on 100% renewable energy for a week to test whether grid can cope
- Modi and Trump avoid climate change tension on state visit
- Rick Perry has not 'talked to Trump about climate change'
- Boaty McBoatface has gathered 'unprecedented data' from its first expedition to Antarctica that could help tackle climate change
- Modi and Adani: the old friends laying waste to India’s environment
- Calling China's carbon market 'ambitious' shows how low the bar has fallen
- Rapid warming of lake surface waters
Wind and solar power does not make the US electricity grid less stable, an outgoing federal regulator has said, as the Trump administration prepares to publish study that will examine whether renewable energy has had a harmful effect on the grid. Colette Honorable, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said at a conference that renewables have different attributes than base load power, which includes coal and nuclear energy, and that those difference need to be overcome. However, she stressed that record amounts of wind and solar power had been generated recently without harming the grid. “I don’t see any problems with reliability, and I say bring on more renewables,” said Honorable, whose remarks generated warm applause at a conference of the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration arm. Meanwhile, the Hill reports that Rick Perry, Trump’s energy secretary, has defended his department’s study saying the research will ensure the grid ““isn’t tossed aside in favour of some political favourites”. Perry said his goal is to roll back the “political” goals of the Obama administration that he claims prioritised renewable energy to such an extent that it put the electric grid at risk. Separately, the Hill reports that the House Natural Resources Committee easily approved a bill yesterday to help revitalise coal communities affected by the industry’s downturn: “The bill would pump $1 billion in mine cleanup funding into Appalachian communities over the next five years.” Bloomberg reports that the biggest coal-fired power plant in the US West – the Navajo station in Arizona – will “live to see another two years” following the approval of a lease extension by the Navajo Nation leaders.
The government’s long-awaited “Clean Growth Plan” will finally be made public after the summer recess, according to newly appointed climate change minister Claire Perry. Perry, who replaced Nick Hurd at the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) earlier this month, told Parliament yesterday the plan will be released after 5 September. She suggested that between now and the publication date she will explore whether the draft plan can be made more ambitious: “I want the Clean Growth Plan to be as ambitious, robust and clear blueprint as it can be, so that we can actually continue to deliver on this hugely vital piece of domestic and international policy.” The plan, which covers the period up to 2032, is long overdue and yet is a requirement of the Climate Change Act. The Financial Times reports the view of Richard Harrington, the new energy minister, who says nuclear power still has a “key role” in keeping Britain’s lights on and reducing carbon emissions. He has rejected suggestions that the government is cooling on plans for a new generation of reactors. Separately, Reuters reports that the UK government has said it will continue to fund a collaborative nuclear fusion project with the European Union up to 2020 if the bloc extends Britain’s contract to host the facility beyond 2018. The Joint European Torus (JET) project, located at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy near Oxford, studies the potential of fusion power as a low-carbon energy source for future generations. It is currently the only operational fusion experiment which is capable of producing fusion energy and is collectively used by more than 40 European laboratories.
The Guardian reports from Norway that the “world’s first floating windfarm has taken to the seas in a sign that a technology once confined to research and development drawing boards is finally ready to unlock expanses of ocean for generating renewable power”. Two giant turbines, developed by Statoil, were floated earlier this week and are now ready to be towed across the North Sea to Scottish waters. Irene Rummelhoff, head of the oil firm’s low-carbon division, says the technology opened up an enormous new resource of wind power: “It’s almost unlimited. Currently we are saying [floating windfarms will work in] water depths of between 100 and 700 metres, but I think we can go deeper than that. It opens up ocean that was unavailable.” Reuters has a story about the wind industry’s big bet: “turbines taller than skyscrapers”. Meanwhile, BusinessGreen and Energy Live News both report a new study by Marine Power Systems which claims that 10% of global electricity demand by be met by wave power by 2050.
A Chinese province with a population of 5.8 million has run entirely on renewable energy for seven days in a row as part of a test to show if the electricity grid can cope without fossil fuels. Hydro-electric schemes provided more than 72 per cent of the electricity in Qinghai between 17 and 23 June, with wind and solar supplying most of the rest, according to Climate Action, a group which works with the United Nations Environment Programme to share knowledge about new technologies that can help combat climate change.
India prime minister Narendra Modi and US president Donald Trump were silent on climate change after their meeting at the White House, says Climate Home: “Sidestepping the two leaders’ divergent positions on the Paris climate deal, the state visit focused on trade, migration and military cooperation. Modi and Trump gave every appearance of friendship, sharing several hugs and handshakes during the visit…A comment by Modi placed in the Wall Street Journal ahead of Monday’s summit made no reference to Paris. Renewable energy was mentioned as an area for cooperation alongside gas, nuclear and ‘clean coal’ to meet India’s growing energy demand.” Manish Bapna of the World Resources Institute said the omission of climate change “signifies discord, not apathy, on climate, and lies in stark contrast to the productive US-India talks of recent years”.
Rick Perry, the US energy secretary, could not say what Donald Trump’s position is on human-caused climate change, claiming at a White House news conference that he had not asked him about it. “I have not had that conversation with him,” Perry told reporters during a televised question-and-answer session. The Mail says Perry is the latest in a string of senior administration officials to claim they have not discussed the subject with Trump. Mother Jones dismisses Perry responses, arguing that “the henchmen in Trump’s climate denial army are well-trained and on-message”: “Perry was asked about Trump’s efforts to pursue a ‘better’ Paris climate deal — after the administration’s withdrawal from the international agreement in June — and admitted, ‘I’ve never asked the president what a better deal is’…He was able explain his own views, and, not surprisingly, they are in lockstep with this administration. ‘The science isn’t settled yet,’ Perry said, claiming that there’s still too much confusion to have a debate on policy, but he’d welcome more debate on the science. ‘This is America. Have a conversation,’ he said. ‘Let’s come out of the shadows of hiding behind your political conversations and let’s talk about it! I can full-well be convinced but why not let’s talk about it?'” Mashable says that “Rick Perry wants to hold a dangerous, totally BS debate on global warming”. Meanwhile, the Hill reports that House appropriators have introduced a spending bill for federal energy and water departments that spends $3.65bn more in 2018 than Trump requested for the agencies: “The measure is a rejection of Trump’s budget proposal, which looked to deeply slash spending for the initiatives funded by the legislation.”
Boaty McBoatface has gathered ‘unprecedented data’ from its first expedition to Antarctica, scientists say. The submersible, which was controversially named by a public vote, dived to depths of up to 4,000 metres to gather key information about temperature, water flow speed and turbulence. The data will help scientists to understand the complex way mixing ocean waters affect climate change. “Our goal is to learn enough about these convoluted processes to represent them in the models that scientists use to predict how our climate will evolve over the 21st century and beyond,” says Professor Alberto Naveira Garabato from the University of Southampton. The Guardian is among the other publications covering the story.
A special report by Climate Home to mark the meeting this week of Narendra Modi and Donald Trump, in which the website digs deep into the Indian prime minister’s connections with fellow Gujarati and trader-turned-tycoon Gautam Adani, who owns one of the world’s largest coal mines: “India’s environment has been subjugated to the whims of the prime minister’s industrial cronies. How can the world believe him on climate change?”
Dimantchev, a climate policy researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says their is “much hype” surrounding China’s national carbon market, which is expected to start later this year: “China has released limited information about the market’s most essential design features. It is an open question whether its carbon market will rectify or repeat the failures of similar policies around the world…Virtually all carbon market architects around the world have issued too many pollution permits. The carbon prices generated by these markets have been too low, and sometimes volatile, to drive decarbonisation. This was in part due to poor design. But best practices have emerged. For example, California and the UK built robust carbon markets by adding carbon price floors.”
A global group of 64 researchers has put together a synthesis of measurements of lake temperature changes all around the world between 1985 and 2009. They used a combination of direct measurements and remote sensing from satellites. They find on average lakes have warmed by around 0.34C per decade. However, the rate of warming varied widely in different lakes, even within the same region. The most rapid warming lakes are those in seasonally ice covered areas (warming 0.72C per decade), though others in ice-free regions are also warming quickly. The authors suggest that changes in lake temperatures need to be incorporated into vulnerability assessments and adaptation efforts for lakes going forward. For example, with the rate of warming seen researchers expect an increase of algal blooms of around 20% over the next century, as well as other forms ecosystem stress.
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