Policy

A climate council should marry policies with ambition

European Union climate policies need to become more ambitious as the bloc looks to hit its net-zero emissions goal for 2050. But a gap between what is agreed on paper and deployed in the real world means a risk of having to do more than one energy transition. Lawmakers are setting up an EU-wide advisory board to bridge that void

Most read this month

Governments can stimulate green growth in emerging technologies

Metrics that inflate the cost of the energy transition are under attack

Northern Europe’s opportunity to fuel the future

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We face a fundamental change of the cost structure on the supply side and a need for a fundamental change.

Jochen Kreusel

- Market innovation manager in the power grids division at ABB Power

They [the European Commission] are looking at this stuff backwards. I still think they are convinced the short-term market model could work even though they are also starting to realise that you need something parallel, with long term price signals that give investors confidence to invest in infrastructure and allow them to see a decent market return.

Francesco Venturini

- Global head of renewables for Italian utility Enel

Despite tremendous cost decline of wind and solar technologies, electricity prices will probably remain too low to attract the level of investment needed.

Fatih Birol

- Executive director of the International Energy Agency

The greatest barrier to overcome is the integration of variable renewables into electricity systems. This will require developing power system flexibility and also a friendly deployment of variable renewables.

Fatih Birol

- Executive director of the International Energy Agency

Energy storage is the perfect partner to decarbonise remote areas

The multiple roles of battery energy storage can help remote or off-grid power systems stop using diesel generators. But the regulatory environment needs to adjust to spur wider adoption of these new systems, says Michael Lippert from Saft

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Wind turbines in a race to become even cleaner

The growth of wind power capacity is accelerating globally, with 2020 a record year for new installations. But with the expansion comes a growing mass of production waste, emissions from manufacturing and transport, and discarded components from retired machines. The industry’s turbine makers are facing up to the problem but proposed solutions remain commercially immature

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Differing pasts will provide alternative hydrogen futures

There is a growing appetite for hydrogen in net zero plans. The countries with more renewables and lower cost generation are best suited to benefit from the expansion of green hydrogen, while those with a history in gas production may turn to blue hydrogen, says Alexander Esser and a team from Aurora Energy Research

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Italy’s dreams of a green hydrogen future rest on its renewables plan

Italy is putting many eggs in the hydrogen basket to decarbonise its heavy industry, including its prized steel sector. Authorities dream of converted hydrogen steel plants and “hydrogen valleys” dotted across the country. But while attention is focussed on whether hydrogen can solve Italy’s problems, other key ingredients to make the hydrogen green are being ignored

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Carbon pricing is no silver bullet to decarbonise buildings across Europe

The introduction of a carbon price in the building sector will only encourage fuel switching and burden those least able to pay with the cost of decarbonisation. If implemented, it should be complemented with legislation to boost energy efficiency, says Monica Frassoni of the European Alliance to Save Energy

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Concentrated solar power faces existential threat

It cannot easily compete with wind and solar PV for daytime electricity generation but in countries with high levels of direct solar irradiation concentrated solar power could play a vital role in decarbonising energy systems thanks to its ability to act as a thermal battery for overnight production. But few markets are rewarding dispatchable overnight renewable energy, putting the future of the industry at risk

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Digital solutions help to harmonise the dissonance of distributed energy

The rise of distributed energy sources means finding new ways to operate the grid systems. Digital products are set to play a role in solving the issues, says Matthias Rebellius of Siemens Smart Infrastructure

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Battery powered transportation is not yet as green as it should be

While electric vehicles have proved to be better for the environment than those running on fossil fuel, their production leaves a bigger carbon footprint than making an internal combustion engine equivalent. How batteries for EVs are produced and for how long they last are decisive for making the shift to electric transport as carbon light as possible

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Opinion

Youth activists are calling for action to reduce carbon, cities can show how this is done

The Fridays for Future Global Climate Strike on March 19th was a reminder of the monumental changes that need to happen to avoid the catastrophic effects of climate change. Cities and regional authorities have it in their power to make a significant contribution, says Raymond Johansen, Mayor of Oslo, and Mark Watts from C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group

New markets evolve to support SME transition

Green ammonia is the best way to advance the hydrogen economy

Flexibility experiments work to cut the system costs of solar and wind

Governments can stimulate green growth in emerging technologies

Metrics that inflate the cost of the energy transition are under attack

Northern Europe’s opportunity to fuel the future

Brexit may boost global cooperation on carbon trading clubs

The green comeback of public transport

Battery supply chains the oil pipelines of tomorrow

Clay cement can cut up to 3% of global CO2 emissions

Investors muscle up and pile on green pressure

What our editors are reading

Clean firm power key to California’s net-zero goals

Reports

Reliance on weather-dependent energy sources such as wind and solar pose challenges for the pursuit of California’s net-zero emissions targets, particularly for the electrification of transport and heating. While battery storage can help balance the grid, current technology cannot cost-effectively store enough energy for the winter months. Despite being more expensive than wind or solar power, geothermal and nuclear, or even carbon capture and storage for gas-fired plants, could provide critical reliability to help the Golden State avoid blackouts. Expanding the capacity of these so-called “clean firm power” sources to the same level as California’s existing natural gas fleet could help decarbonisation efforts without raising consumer costs.

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Fossil-based hydrogen with CCS risks decarbonisation efforts

Reports

Fugitive emissions from coal- and gas-based hydrogen production with the deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) could jeopardise decarbonisation goals. Carbon prices of $22-46/tCO2e would be required to make hydrogen from fossil fuels with CCS competitive with hydrogen produced from fossil fuels without CCS, while the cost of producing zero-carbon hydrogen from electrolysis could fall in the foreseeable future and be cost-competitive with fossil fuel options. This increases the risk of stranded assets if governments pursue a fossil-based hydrogen supply chain.

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Coal’s partial recovery set to fade after 2021

Reports

Global coal demand will increase in 2021 after a decline in 2020 because of the covid-19 pandemic. By 2025, global demand will flatten out at around 7.4 billion tonnes. Trends
are expected to vary by region by 2025. In Europe and North America, coal demand will continue contracting after a projected temporary uptick in 2021. In China, the world’s
largest consumer, demand will flatten over the next five years. And in India and some other countries in South and Southeast Asia, use is expected to increase through 2025.

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