Report reveals record levels of carbon dioxide

The amount of carbon dioxide in the air is at its highest ever recorded level, according to US-based scientists.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) weather station in Hawaii recorded carbon dioxide at about 419 parts per million last month, more than at any time since measurements began in 1958.

Pieter Tans, a scientist with NOAA’s Global Monitoring Laboratory warned there would be catastrophic results if more action was not taken to combat carbon dioxide emissions – a key driver in climate change.

One way businesses can play their part is through green energy procurement and behavioural change in the workplace. A reduction in the use of energy sourced from fossil fuel is one of the key ways in tackling the problem.

“We are adding roughly 40 billion metric tons of CO2 pollution to the atmosphere per year,” Tans wrote in the report. “That is a mountain of carbon that we dig up out of the Earth, burn, and release into the atmosphere as CO2 – year after year.”

The amount of carbon in the air now is as much as it was about 4 million years ago, a time when sea level was 78 feet (24 metres) higher than it is today and the average temperature was 7 degrees Fahrenheit higher than it was before the Industrial Revolution, the report said.

Despite the pandemic lockdown resulting in a significant reduction in road use and energy consumption, scientists could not see a drop in the overall amount of carbon in the atmosphere. This was partly attributed to the prevalence of wildfires, which release carbon into the atmosphere.

International Energy Agency unveils Net Zero Roadmap

The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) has announced the world’s first comprehensive study on how to transition to a net-zero energy system by 2050.

And the message to governments around the world is that they need to up their game to achieve that target and slow down the rate of global warming.

With a focus on renewably sourced energy, the study – Net Zero by 2050: a Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector – sets out a cost-effective and economically productive pathway to get to a clean energy economy.

It examines the roles of bioenergy, carbon capture, and behavioural changes in reaching net zero in helping the world gets to where it needs to be.

By 2050, the aim is to have almost 90 per cent of electricity generation from renewable sources, with wind and solar PV together accounting for almost 70 per cent. Most of the remainder comes from nuclear power.

The greatest challenge

“Our Roadmap shows the priority actions that are needed today to ensure the opportunity of net-zero emissions by 2050 – narrow but still achievable – is not lost,” said IEA executive director Fatih Birol.

“The scale and speed of the efforts demanded by this critical and formidable goal – our best chance of tackling climate change and limiting global warming to 1.5 °C – make this perhaps the greatest challenge humankind has ever faced.

“The IEA’s pathway to this brighter future brings a historic surge in clean energy investment that creates millions of new jobs and lifts global economic growth. Moving the world onto that pathway requires strong and credible policy actions from governments, underpinned by much greater international cooperation”.

The roadmap includes a call for an immediate end to all investment in new fossil fuel supplies and states that further investment is needed in the research and development of new technologies.

Progress in the areas of advanced batteries, electrolysers for hydrogen, and direct air capture and storage could be particularly impactful, it outlines.

“The transition must be fair and inclusive, leaving nobody behind. We have to ensure that developing economies receive the financing and technological know-how they need to build out their energy systems to meet the needs of their expanding populations and economies sustainably”, Birol added.

New green energy record set as a strong wind blows

Wind accounted for 15% of all electricity generated in April and this form of renewable energy has also enjoyed a very strong start to the month of May.

Buoyed by blustery conditions, the UK’s wind farms helped the UK to establish a new clean energy record on Monday, May 3rd.

More than 17.6 gigawatts (GW) – was generated by onshore and offshore wind turbines, eclipsing the amount of electricity generated by nuclear, biomass and gas combined.

That represented nearly half (48.5%) of the electricity grid in England, Scotland and Wales, according to data from operator National Grid ESO, and beat the previous record of 17.5GW set on 13 February.

“The fact that wind is generating nearly half the country’s electricity shows how central it has become in our modern energy system,” acknowledged Industry body Renewable UK’s deputy chief executive Melanie Onn.

Landmark day

Last month, April showers may have been conspicuous by their absence but windy and sunny conditions combined to make Easter Monday a landmark day for green energy.

Over 80% of our electricity was produced by either wind, solar, nuclear or hydro, making the grid the greenest it’s ever been.

The carbon intensity – the measure of CO2 emissions per unit of electricity consumed – dropped to an all-time low of 39 gCO2/kWh.

While the rollout of green energy projects are being held back by an antiquated electricity network according to some industry experts, nature is at least playing its part in the drive towards achieving a net-zero future.

Graphic source: nationalgridESO

Network reform needed to help UK achieve net-zero targets

The UK’s drive towards net-zero carbon emissions is being hampered by an out-of-date and inflexible network, renewable energy developers and industry figures have said.

They argue that the energy grid was designed for fossil fuel generation and fails to embrace the planned rollout of green power.

Small-scale renewable energy projects are faced with high and sometimes prohibitive costs of connecting to the grid in certain parts of the country, due to the withdrawal of certain government subsidies.

Speaking to The Independent, Philip Dunne of the Environmental Audit Committee called for a reform to planning legislation to enable local renewable green projects to get off the ground and help in the drive towards net-zero emissions.

“Grid connection costs and access charges can be too high for small groups and do not account for the wider decarbonisation benefits – including education and social support – that the projects bring to their communities compared to commercial renewable projects,” said Mr Dunne.

Out of touch

Commercial energy developers also believe that the current system is out of sync with the needs of the UK whose growth in renewable energy output lags behind a number of other European countries.

They want to make it cheaper to connect green power to the grid which would make green energy tariffs more competitive.

Many wind and solar developers are tied to contracts that allow network operators to turn their supply down when there is excess energy being generated.

Typically this occurs when it is sunny and windy – conditions that are favourable from both a power generation and financial perspective.

Also, investors in new energy supply are sometimes disincentivised by the fact they have to pay companies that operate the network for upgrading local infrastructure because the existing capacity is taken up by fossil fuel suppliers.

Campaigners want older agreements, which typically date back to the 1990s when gas and coal-fire generation held sway, to be renegotiated and for more flexible arrangements around connectivity which allow for extra supply to be added more cheaply and faster.

Flexible connections make more efficient use of the existing network, meaning developers do not have to pay as much for infrastructure upgrades.

Ambitious net-zero emissions target on the menu for Food and Drink sector

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF), which represents more than 300 companies, would like the energy-intensive sector to reach net-zero emissions by 2040.

To help them shave 10 years off the national target, the FDF is in discussions with stakeholders and members across the entire food and drink supply chain in order to identify the steps needed to be taken.

There will be a focus on the type of ingredients, packaging, types of distribution and storage as well as customer behaviour with a net-zero guide made available to businesses in November.

Championing net-zero

The FDF’s head of climate change and energy policy, Emma Piercy, said: “We are delighted to announce the FDF’s Net-Zero by 2040 ambition. Leading the sectors’ progress in decarbonisation requires essential collaboration across the supply chain, and together we are driving the delivery of Net Zero food and drink products on supermarket shelves by 2040.

“In food and drink manufacturing, the programme of support provided by Government and industry associations are key drivers to building momentum on Net-Zero. We thank Andrew Griffith MP in his role as Net Zero Business Champion on driving this forward and his work on the SME Climate Hub.”

The overwhelming majority of the sector’s carbon emissions are currently attributable to national gas (97 per cent), with the remainder down to electricity.

Of the natural gas sourced by the sector in the eight-year period between 2012 and 2020, 80 per cent was used in boilers and direct-fired ovens.

Strong progress

The net-zero ambition comes on the back of strong progress in the sector to date. Carbon emissions have already been cut by 55 per cent since 1990, surpassing a target set for 2025.

The Government’s Net Zero Business Champion, Andrew Griffith MP, said: “I welcome the ambitious steps being taken by the Food and Drink Federation in launching their 2021 work programme on Net Zero and the commitment to being net-zero by 2040. This pioneering target in such an important sector of the economy will strengthen the UK’s position as a global climate leader in this year of COP26.”

Thirty-Party Costs Focus: Contracts for Difference Feed-in-Tariff (CfD FiT)

The Contracts for Difference Feed-in-Tariff is a scheme to help the UK meet its net zero targets and ensure an interrupted supply of electricity feeds into the network.

It has replaced the Renewables Obligation as a reward to suppliers who generate low-carbon electricity.

Renewable generators are awarded contracts where a strike price is agreed. If the strike price is less than the wholesale price then a top-up payment is made. If the market price is higher than the “strike price”, suppliers receive a payment

CfD costs will vary annually due to wholesale price fluctuations and the amount of CfD generation produced each year. They are met by a levy applied to energy suppliers, which are then passed on to their customers, as a Third-Party Cost..

USA set to undergo climate change U-turn under President Biden

For so long carbon has been relied upon as the main energy source to fuel the US economy. But under new US President Joe Biden, who is officially inaugurated into the position on Wednesday, an eye-watering $2trillion will be invested in green initiatives including renewable energy.

While his predecessor Donald Trump ignored the experts and failed to address climate change issues and knocked back green legislation, Biden is determined to put in measures that will enable the US to become carbon free by 2050.

Infrastructure to enhance the electric vehicle market will include 500,000 new public charging outlets by the end of 2030, while a target of reducing the carbon footprint of the US building stock 50% by 2035 is to be put in place.

From his first day of office, Biden says public companies will be required to disclose climate-related financial risks and the greenhouse gas emissions in their operations and supply chains.

Also on his staggering ‘to-do’ list is a desire to re-join the 2015 Paris Climate Accord.

Image by BarBus from Pixabay

Inaugural Net Zero Awareness Week announced

An annual government-back official national awareness week for all things net zero will take place for the first time this coming summer, from 14-20 June.

Greg Clark MP is an ambassador for the week and is the former Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy.

Greg was in the post when the government signed the UN Paris Agreement in 2016 and was responsible for the groundwork in achieving the net zero legislation that became law in 2019.

“Climate change is the single greatest challenge facing mankind. The UK is leading the world in rising to this challenge and can take pride in being a nation that is not just showing ambition but one which holds a record to match,” he said.

“We all have a stake in this and I applaud the efforts of individuals, organisations and initiatives like Net Zero WeekTM in highlighting the importance of this vital work.”

Reaching net zero will require many new measures, innovative solutions, aggressive government policies and plenty of human effort both at work and at home.

Net Zero Week™ will take place four months before the UK hosts the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in November 2021 Glasgow.

Net Zero Week™ forms a focal point generating awareness and much needed momentum for businesses and consumers just starting the journey to decarbonise and acts as an information hub for those well on their way.

The week has widespread support across the industry with over 25 associations currently partnering the initiative, and many more finalising their support.

The national awareness week offers all stakeholders a dedicated platform to voice opinions, share evidence, explore strategy, and highlight solutions in our shared journey towards net zero.

The content will be split into two distinct areas – business and consumer. The business section will be content-led aimed at professionals that require insight, evidence based material, and thought-leadership articles to aid them in their task of decarbonising their organisation no matter what role they have.

The consumer section will be more advice driven, exploring lifestyle choices and their direct benefits. The website www.netzeroweek.com will be launching in February 2021.

Source: ESTA

2021 set to be bumper year for green energy

An even stronger year for renewable energy is being predicted in 2021, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Renewables generation grew by almost 7% in 2020 despite the steep fall in global demand for energy caused by the economic upheaval related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Power generation from wind, solar and hydro sources soared and with continued investment in green technology, the IEA predicts the uptrend will continue over the next 12 months.

The IEA reports that renewable capacity additions are on track for a record expansion of nearly 10% in 2021, leading to the fastest growth since 2015.

It cites the commissioning of delayed projects in markets where construction and supply chains were disrupted during lockdown as one of the key factors behind this.

India is expected to be the largest contributor to the renewables upswing in 2021, with the country’s annual additions almost doubling from 2020.

Looking a little further afield, the IEA forecasts that total installed wind and solar PV capacity is on course to surpass natural gas in 2023 and coal in 2024 as countries strive towards meeting decarbonisation targets.

UK set for EV explosion after government declaration

The government have brought forward their ban on the sale of diesel and petrol cars to 2030, as the UK bids to become the second all-electric motoring country behind Norway.

Originally 2040 was mentioned, then 2035, but now the cut-off point is just under a decade away as Prime Minister Boris Johnson sets about putting his ‘green revolution’ in motion.

As of the end of October this year, Electric Vehicles (EVs) accounted for just over 6 per cent of car sales in 2020 (76,000 vehicles), mainly due to concerns of customers over the cost and the limited range capabilities of EVs.

To go from that low mark to 100 per cent will take some doing, but the government has pledged £2.8 billion to ensure the target is met.

Investment in the installation of more charging points and the development of mass-sale EV battery production in the UK will take place as part of a wider plan to make the UK carbon-neutral by 2050.

Businesses looking to install charging points on site have a number of hurdles to overcome, but from initial scoping through to installation, Energy Management has the expertise to help smooth over the process.

For more information on EV support, please contact a member of the team on 01225 867722