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Daily Briefing

19.12.2018
Today's climate and energy headlines
Carbon Brief Staff

Carbon Brief Staff

19.12.2018 | 9:30am
DAILY BRIEFING Solar households expected to give away power to energy firms
Solar households expected to give away power to energy firms

News.

Solar households expected to give away power to energy firms

The UK government has confirmed plans to end “feed-in” tariff payments for new installations of household solar from next year. The scheme will close on 31 March 2019, says the Guardian, meaning “anyone who adds solar from April 2019 will not be paid for any excess power they export to the grid”. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said it was ending the “export tariff”, which provides a guaranteed price for all unused solar electricity, to minimise costs to all consumers. The change will not affect the 800,000 homes that already have solar panels, notes the Daily Mail. More than 91% of respondents to a consultation over the move disagreed with proposals to axe the tariff, says BusinessGreen, and the campaign to save it has been backed by the Mayor of London, MPs and many large and small energy firms. BEIS says it will “consult shortly on a future framework for small-scale renewable energy generation”. This would lay out new rules for how energy suppliers could buy excess power, though they would not be mandated to do so.

In other UK energy news, the Financial Times reports that investor returns on electricity and gas network companies in the UK are to be cut under new price control proposals announced yesterday. Ofgem, the energy regulator, has proposed setting baseline rate of returns at 4% from 2021, which is around half compared to current levels. The new plans would save households £30 a year from 2021 or £6.5bn in total, says the Times. And finally, Reuters reports that EDF Energy is keeping two reactors at its Hunterston nuclear plant in Scotland offline for several more weeks in an effort to prove they are safe after cracks were found during routine inspections at the plant.

The Guardian Read Article
EU hammers deal on coal phase out, with special Polish clause

In the early hours of this morning, European Union legislators reached agreement over a proposed reform of electricity market rules that includes a 2025 cut-off date for coal subsidies, reports EurActiv. The deal wraps up the adoption of a “clean energy package” of laws that was presented by the European Commission more than two years ago. The new electricity market design for the first time places a limit on coal subsidies by introducing a CO2 emissions performance standard of 550g per kilowatt hour on all new power plants, which “effectively rules out state aid for coal”. Previous attempts to agree a deal has been thwarted by Poland, the article notes, although they have won a “grandfathering clause” that protects existing contracts to pay coal-power plants for being ready on stand-by for periods of peak electricity demand.

In other coal news, the Financial Times reports from the last coal mine to close in Germany, while Bloomberg has a piece on the “world’s most contentious coal project” at Carmichael in Australia, which is “edging closer toward development”.

EurActiv Read Article
That global warming hiatus? It never happened. Two new studies explain why.

Two new research papers have concluded that there is “no statistical evidence” for the much-discussed slowdown in global average surface temperature rise in the early 21st century – often called the “hiatus”. The studies, published in Environmental Research Letters, reassessed and reanalysed existing data and studies for the 1998 to 2012 period, finding that the slowdown was largely a function of incomplete data and problems with statistical methods employed in earlier studies. “We simply didn’t have all the information available at the time,” says co-author Stephan Lewandowsky from the University of Bristol. The new results show ‘there was a natural slowdown in the rate of warming…due to a combination of volcanic influences and internal climate variability”, says co-author Prof Michael Mann of Penn State University, “but there was no actual ‘hiatus’ or ‘pause’ in warming”. The Sun quotes another co-author – Dr James Risbey from CSIRO in Australia – who says that “the climate-research community’s acceptance of a ‘pause’ in global warming caused confusion for the public and policy system about the pace and urgency of climate change”. He adds: “That confusion in turn might have contributed to reduced impetus for action to prevent greenhouse climate change.”

InsideClimate News Read Article
World first: Coca-Cola HBC to use captured CO2 to add the fizz in soft drinks

A Swiss subsidiary of Coca-Cola announced yesterday that it has teamed up with a carbon capture plant to provide CO2 sucked from the air in its drinks. The deal will see the Climeworks direct air capture plant provide purified CO2 to Coca-Cola HBC Switzerland. “By entering the beverage market with Coca-Cola HBC as a global key player, we are continuing our path of commercialising our Direct Air Capture technology,” said Climeworks co-founder Jan Wurzbacher. The plant is the world’s first commercial direct air capture facility. Carbon Brief visited the plant when it opened last year.

BusinessGreen Read Article

Comment.

Banks should recognise the risks of climate change

The suggestion from Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, that climate change risks should form part of its annual stress tests for banks from next year is “timely” and “uncontroversial”, says an FT editorial. The idea comes just days after the end of the latest UN climate talks, and implementing it would not require a change to the regulatory framework, rather “simply add[ing] a risk to the list that banks are already meant to measure”. The measure “should at least help to convince financial sector actors of the potential impact they face from climate issues”, says the FT, including their exposure to “stranded [fossil fuel] assets worth billions”. “Any move by the Bank of England to incorporate climate risks in stress tests would be the first by a central bank of a major financial centre,” the editorial notes. Taking a different view, Katherine Griffiths, banking editor of the Times, argues that the Bank should apply any new stress to “a more immediate challenge” than climate change. “There are plenty of other meaty topics the committee could choose this time, such as cybersecurity, how companies use customers’ data or the risk of outsourcing key services to third parties,” she writes. In contrast, focusing on the risks to banking from climate change “runs the risk of the Bank, and Mr Carney in particular, again veering into political clashes with prominent sceptics such as the US president”, Griffiths says, “while at the same time struggling to gain credibility for trying to measure something that as yet cannot be easily measured”.

Editorial, Financial Times Read Article
The UN’s latest climate meeting ends positively

“It came as a relief when nearly 14,000 delegates from 195 countries managed – more or less, and a day late – to achieve the gathering’s main objective: a “rulebook” for putting into practice the Paris agreement of 2015,” writes the Economist about the UN climate talks in Katowice in Poland. “This outcome was far from assured,” the article notes, but despite early setbacks, “negotiators resolved most of 2,800-odd points of contention in the rule book’s pre-summit draft”. However, predictably, “no one leaves Katowice entirely happy”, the Economist says, and “the 2C goal (let alone the 1.5°C aspiration) still remains a distant prospect”. “The rulebook is itself no nostrum for the planet’s man-made fever. The only real medicine would be firmer commitment to decarbonising economies,” the piece concludes. Elsewhere, Leslie Hook, environment and clean energy correspondent at the Financial Times, strikes a similarly cautious tone. She notes that “an uncomfortable truth cast a pall over the agreement [set out in Poland]: the world is probably going to keep getting warmer anyway”.

The Economist Read Article
Climate change deniers are a danger to our security

Scepticism of climate change has become “a must for those who want to remain in the Trump fold”, says opinion writer Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post. “Climate-change denial has become as necessary to one’s right-wing identity as aversion to immigration, opposition to most abortions and a disbelief that sexual harassment and assault are widespread,” she argues. While many on the political right “seek refuge in the fantasy that there is reasonable doubt as to the existence of climate change or the severity of the problem”, those “who know better or suspect climate-change denial is irrational (but are too cowardly to confront know-nothings who dominate the party) are willing to string along with the mob”. With recent polling showing that two-thirds of Americans say there is enough evidence to justify action on climate change, Rubin wonders “how long Americans are going to put up with the dangerous campaign of denial on the right”.

Jennifer Rubin, The Washington Post Read Article

Science.

A fluctuation in surface temperature in historical context: reassessment and retrospective on the evidence

There is no “statistical evidence” for the so-called “global warming hiatus” – a proposed slowdown in global temperature rise at the start of this century, according to two new review papers. The first paper reviews the literature to determine how scientists had previously defined the “hiatus” (in terms of length and time) and then “tests” whether a pause happened in these time periods using climate models. “There is little or no statistical evidence for a lack of trend or slower trend in [models] using either the historical data or the current data,” the authors say. “The perception that there was a ‘pause’ in [models] was bolstered by earlier biases in the data in combination with incomplete statistical testing.” A second paper uses climate models to makes comparisons between actual temperature rise in the early 2000s and projections. “The comparisons are conducted with a variety of statistical techniques that correct for problems in previous work,” the authors say. “The results show that there is no robust statistical evidence for a divergence between models and observations.”

Environmental Research Letters Read Article

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