Reports


What our editors are reading

Fossil fuels offer ever poorer return on energy investment

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Fossil fuels come out on top when their energy return on energy investment (EROI) — the ratio of how much energy a source such as coal will produce compared to how much energy it takes to extract— is compared to renewables. But researchers from the University of Leeds, UK, say this is because historically EROIs have been measured at extraction. Taking into account the energy required to transform oil, coal and gas into finished fuels brings the ratios much closer and makes a strong case for rapidly stepping up investment in renewable energies, say the scientists.

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Coastal states must cooperate to support US offshore wind

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US states must do more than compete with each other for ocean energy power. They must cooperate to create a winning industry for the country, says the Leadership 100 Work Plan by the Business Network for Offshore Wind. This is because US states, which are independent in some ways from each other and from the federal government, often compete to be home to the nascent offshore wind supply chain. Cooperation between states is also key to developing the grid and transmission lines needed to support large offshore wind projects.

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Investors and pensions at risk from reduced fossil fuel shipping

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Fossil fuels make up over 40% of the annual cargo tonnage of all maritime trade. If the world changes its energy sources to reduce emissions in line with the Paris climate agreement, investors in shipping and ports will be exposed to substantial financial risks, says a study by Maritime Strategies International. If the average global temperature rise is limited to 1.5°C, the value of the world’s dry bulk ships will more than halve from $195 billion in 2018 to $90 billion by 2030 with significant implications for investment banks and major institutional investors.

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Renewables are here to stay

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Solar photovoltaics and wind are now mainstream options in the power sector, with an increasing number of countries generating more than 20% of their electricity from these energy sources, shows the Renewables 2019 Global Status Report from REN21, a think tank. But a lack of ambitious and sustained policies to drive decarbonisation in the heating, cooling and transport sectors means countries are not maximising the benefits of the clean energy transition, including cleaner air and energy security, says the report.

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Yeti-sized digital footprint

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At over 300 million tonnes, online video emits as much carbon dioxide a year as Spain, says a report by French think tank The Shift Project. The main use of digital tools worldwide, online video accounts for 60% of global data flows and is the biggest producer of GHG emissions in the digital sector. Overall, the digital sector is responsible for 4% of global emissions, as much as civil aviation, and its global energy consumption is growing by 9% a year. Left unchecked, its emissions may double by 2025, reaching the same share of global emissions as passenger cars today.

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US state policies boost renewable energy

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About half of the growth in US renewable energy generation since 2000 is because of state requirements, says a report by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Iowa was the first state to establish a renewable portfolio standard, which mandates utilities to source a certain proportion of electricity from renewables. More than half of states have since established such requirements. But the role of RPS policies has diminished because of declining renewable energy costs and the adoption of other state policies such as net metering.

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Energy sustainability could boost workforce diversity

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The US clean energy economy workforce is old school. Compared with other sectors, including fossil fuels, the clean energy workforce is older, more male-dominated and lacks more racial diversity, says a report, Advancing Inclusion Through Clean Energy Jobs, by the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Programme in Washington DC. The authors argue the clean energy transition will bring high-paying jobs, especially to those with fewer academic credentials — and it is therefore a great opportunity to include women and minorities. 

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Over slow coal phase out

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To meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement, the EU should phase out coal by 2030. Analysis by Sandbag and Climate Action Network Europe shows Europe is not on track. After examining the draft National Energy and Climate Plans of 21 countries still using coal for electricity generation, the NGOs found only eight will end coal by this date, leaving 60 gigawatts of installed capacity, a reduction of only 58% compared to current levels. As the report says, member states need to make sure the transition is more than just talk. 

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Financing a just transition

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The just transition has become a trendy term, but financing the move away from coal and fossil fuels to a sustainable and clean economy based on renewables and efficiency is complicated. The EU office of the WWF has produced this briefing paper showing how EU-level funds can help pay for this transformation in the form of seed money for the development of comprehensive and locally developed, strategic long-term transition plans based on assessments of early economic needs.

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Wind leading US energy transition

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Annual generation from wind will surpass hydro power generation for the first time in 2019 to become the leading source of renewable electricity generation in the US, forecasts the Energy Information Administration. Wind will maintain that position in 2020, says the government agency’s monthly Short-Term Energy Outlook. Renewables will produce 18% of the country’s electricity in 2019 and almost 20% in 2020, it adds. In contrast, coal consumption, already at a 39-year low of 687 million tonnes (Mt), will fall to 602 Mt in 2019 and to 567 Mt in 2020.

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EU moves closer to green finance laws

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The EU Technical Expert Group on sustainable finance has released three new reports related to taxonomy, green bonds standards and climate benchmarks. These will form the basis for a package of legislation on green finance, stipulating which economic activities can be labelled “environmentally sustainable” as the EU aims for a net-zero emissions economy. WWF called the report on taxonomy “a robust starting point”. The green bonds standards “add value beyond current best market practice”, said the NGO, encouraging adoption by bond issuers, underwriters and investors. 

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Energy efficiency is the heart of the transition

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Analysis from the Energy Efficiency Council, an Australian non-profit, underlines the growing importance of energy efficiency. Global private and public investment in energy efficiency was AU$346 billion (€212 billion) in 2018. Energy savings are not a marginal issue with energy efficiency improvements since 2000 reducing China’s annual energy demand in 2017 by nearly 10%, notes the report. In short, in 2017 China saved more than twice as much energy as Australia used. The main message:  put energy efficiency at the centre of energy policies.

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Targets and cheap construction costs boost wind

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Just four states provided 52% of US wind energy in 2018, says a paper by the US Energy Information Administration. Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa and Kansas are not only very windy, but they also have either mandatory renewable energy requirements or voluntary goals as well as relatively cheap construction costs. Five other states—California, Illinois, Minnesota, North Dakota and Colorado—provided another 20% of total wind generation. US producers generated 275 million megawatt hours of electricity from wind power in 2018, says the federal agency. 

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Tax incentives to spur power sector innovation

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Tax incentives are inherently less efficient than direct federal spending at transmitting incentives to the private sector, say researchers at Columbia University, US. But new predictable, long-term tax incentives are important to enable the deployment of technologies to make the power sector more flexible and integrate significant amounts of renewable energy, they add. Support should be ramped down as technologies mature, they insist. Eligibility for America’s federal tax credit for wind energy projects expires in December 2019 and the incentive for solar will start being phased out in 2020.

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Urgent need to overhaul US grid

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The US power grid is ageing and urgently needs an update, says a report by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), Grid Vision: The Electric Highway to a 21st Century Economy. The American Society of Civil Engineers recently gave America’s electricity infrastructure a grade of only D+, highlights the report. Dozens of studies confirm that an investment in transmission will pay for itself many times over, says AWEA. Well-designed transmission projects provide consumer benefits two to four times greater than their cost, the trade group says. 

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Solar needs right support

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Solar power is forecast to increase significantly in the coming years, says the Global Market Outlook For Solar Power 2019-2023, an industry report. It cites the continuing fall in solar’s power generation cost, which decreased by around 14% year-on-year in 2018 to $0.02 a kilowatt hour in many sunny places around the world, as an important element. But the report warns: “Low generation cost alone is not enough to facilitate growth; it also needs the right policy frameworks and energy market designs”. 

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Slow progress on renewables in heat and transport

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Increasing progress towards the global energy targets set in the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals requires “stronger political commitment, long-term energy planning, increased private financing and adequate policy and fiscal incentives to spur faster deployment of new technologies”, says a report from the International Energy Agency, the International Renewable Energy Agency, the World Bank and others. The use of renewable energy in heat generation and transport still lags far behind the goals, it states.

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Electric vehicles save energy

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Policies, targets and fiscal incentives are important to grow the electric vehicle (EV) market, says the International Energy Agency in the 2019 Global EV Outlook. Technology developments are bringing down costs and this trend is set to continue. The report also underlines the need for policies and market frameworks to ensure electric mobility plays an active role in increasing the flexibility of power systems. It likewise confirms electric cars save more energy than they use, significantly contributing to reducing emissions and oil use by 2030. 

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Urban waste heat potential

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The potential for waste heat for district heating and cooling was a big subject at the recent Euroheat & Power Congress. The Accessible Urban Waste Heat report published in 2018 by ReUseHeat, an EU research project, is worth (re-)visiting to help assess opportunities. It shows enough waste heat could be recovered from urban sources, such as data centres, metro stations, service sector buildings, and waste water treatment plants to supply more than 10% of the EU’s total energy demand for heat and hot water.

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Cities’ investment needs

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new publication by Energy Cities, a Brussels-based NGO, illustrates the energy transition investment needs of five European cities (Ghent, Belgium, Frederikshavn, Denmark Bordeaux-Métropole, France, Sevilla, Spain and Tallinn, Estonia). The amounts vary significantly between €750 million to €3 billion. The report also provides guidance on where financial support is needed locally in an effort to steer funding change at an EU and national level to ensure spending supports actions in line with the Paris Climate Agreement. 

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Countries told to improve net zero emissions plans

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All EU member states need to rewrite draft plans aimed at showing how they will get on a pathway to net zero emissions by 2050, according to analysis by the Ecologic Institute and Climact, commissioned by the European Climate Foundation. Too many countries have limited plans for phasing out coal and fossil fuel subsidies, offer few indications on much needed investments, have included “too much unsustainable biomass” in their planned energy mix and are failing to consult adequately with the public. Final versions are due by the end of the year.

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Energy transition business leaders

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For businesses wanting to lead the energy transition, the World Economic Forum has put together a report entitled Two Degrees of Transformation: Businesses are coming together to lead on climate change. Will you join them? It cites companies from a variety of sectors that have reinvented their businesses to thrive in a low-carbon future. It focuses on: different industries working together to develop low-carbon products and technologies; creating sustainable value chains; harnessing data and connectivity; and financing change.

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Recommendations to reduce financial climate risks

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The Network for Greening the Financial System has published its first report setting out financial risks linked to climate change and outlining six recommendations for central banks and financial supervisors. These include: integrating climate-related risks into financial stability monitoring and sustainability into portfolio management; bridging data gaps; building awareness, intellectual capacity and encouraging knowledge sharing; robust and internationally consistent climate and environment-related disclosure; supporting a taxonomy of economic activities.

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Heavy industry costs to achieve net-zero emissions

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Products from Europe’s heavy industries are needed to power the clean energy transition, yet these sectors release over 500 million tonnes of CO2 emissions a year, 14% of the EU total. These emissions can be reduced to net-zero by 2050, concludes a report by Material Economics. The change will have little impact on end-user/consumer costs, but industry will need to introduce new costlier production processes with significant near-term capital investment equivalent to a 25–60% increase on today’s rates required, reaching €40-50 billion a year.

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Investors need to wake up to climate change

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BlackRock, the world’s biggest asset manager, warns the US economy is at risk of severe consequences because of climate change and urges investors to wake up. Rising sea levels, increased and more violent hurricanes, wildfires and droughts are all threats that should be factored into investment decisions, it says. Its report examines four scenarios based on different levels of climate action, showing that an immediate and decisive move away from fossil fuels to reduce stop emissions and climate change spiralling out of control will also reduce investment risk. 

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Renewables and electrification to deliver climate goals

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Scaling-up renewable energy combined with electrification can deliver more than 75% of the energy-related emission reductions needed to meet global climate goals, says the International Renewable Energy Agency. An accelerated energy transition based on this approach would also save the global economy up to $160 trillion cumulatively over the next 30 years in avoided health costs, energy subsidies and climate damages. Every dollar spent on energy transition would pay off up to seven times, says the report, with the global economy growing by 2.5% in 2050.

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Lower gas volumes in all scenarios

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The second Gas for Climate study published by Navigant for a group of seven European gas transport companies and two renewable gas industry associations looks at the role of gas in a decarbonised EU energy system. It compares a “minimal gas” scenario with an “optimised gas” scenario. Both arrive at a net-zero emissions system by 2050 via a large scale-up of wind and solar, and blue hydrogen being replaced by renewable green hydrogen towards 2050/2060. In both scenarios, gas volumes used in networks are lower in 2050 than in 2019.

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Ten priorities for the EU

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Agora Energiewende has drawn up ten priorities showing the next European Commission, to be in place by the end of 2019, how the EU can meet its 2030 climate and energy targets. A vibrant action framework with the right financial and policy support is vital, says the think tank. Avoided health costs will outweigh the costs of a clean energy transition, it states, adding that the transformation will increase GDP and employment, not raise household expenses, and boost energy security. Energy and trade intensive sectors will need support, but industrial competitiveness is not at risk.

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Drastic action to decarbonise aviation

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Emissions from aviation are out of control and a radical new plan is needed for the sector to achieve its climate goals, says the Rocky Mountain Institute. The Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) doesn’t do enough to meet established goals, let alone address climate stability targets, says the US organisation. It calls instead for a clear path to transform commercial aircraft using breakthrough technologies, to remove barriers slowing the uptake of lower carbon fuels and for a new forum bringing together all aviation sector actors to work collaboratively. 

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Solutions to integrate variable renewables

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Recognising the diversity of solutions and differences between local energy systems, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has analysed, mapped and categorised solutions from around the world aimed at facilitating the integration of variable renewable power. The report’s goal is to make life easier for policy makers and help them understand the most apt solutions for their power systems. IRENA also urges decision makers to continually revisit and update market policies and those in place to drive technological innovation to keep up with new developments and breakthroughs. 

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Infrastructure choices key to fighting climate change

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Resource extraction and processing are responsible for about half of global greenhouse gas emissions, finds the latest Global Resources Outlook from UN Environment. Published every four years based on research by the International Resource Panel, the report says economically attractive and technologically feasible alternatives exist. The climate change impacts from the extraction and production of metals approximately doubled from 2000 to 2015, with the iron-steel production chain the worst offender. The authors also highlight the massive increase in fossil fuel electricity generation capacity and underline the importance of policy makers taking the right infrastructure decisions to avoid lock in of environmentally harmful technologies.

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Green gas has its place

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Building the infrastructure to decarbonise the EU’s energy system by 2050 through large amounts of green gas could be up to 36% more expensive than through energy efficiency and smart electrification, concludes Towards fossil-free energy in 2050, a report from UK consultancy Element Energy and Cambridge Econometrics, commissioned by the European Climate Foundation. Developed with input from renewable energy organisations, the gas industry, car companies and others, the report’s scenarios do not rely entirely on direct electrification, but instead underline its complementarity with carbon-neutral green gases and heat networks. 

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Data driven report on electricity in Europe

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A presentation of conclusions drawn from vast quantities of data, Power Facts Europe 2019 is a dry read. But it is also refreshingly packed with real world evidence of how the transition of 500 million citizens to clean electricity is being actively and positively managed by grid operators. The report, from the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E), bluntly tells us that failing to build out the grid as planned to integrate renewables will result in an extra system cost by 2040 of €43 billion a year.

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Ten years and ten tasks to rewire the economy

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Rewiring the Economy from Cambridge University’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership is described as a strategic compass bearing for business, government and finance leaders. The intention is to inspire collaboration between the three for fundamental change in the global economy. Inequality, conflict and insecurity are the author’s worries along with degradation of ecosystems, depletion of resources and rising greenhouse gas levels. Government and Finance are each allotted three tasks, while Business gets four. Decisions based on evidence, measuring the right things and “socially useful” action are among the most frequent admonishments.

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Case studies in how to fast track zero-carbon growth

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The best way for governments to accelerate action on clean electrification and environmental husbandry is to implement bold policies that provide clarity and confidence for bold business investment. For courageous policies that work, look to business leadership, is the key message from The Ambition Loop, a hard-hitting, how-to report. It documents successful business-policy feedback loops for a wide range of countries and technologies. A stimulating read that inspires action for public-private partnerships and provides step-by-step instructions on how to go about it.

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The European Power Sector in 2018

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Replacing coal with renewables is the fastest way to cut emissions, concludes an evaluation of the EU’s electricity system in 2018 by Agora Energiewende and Sandbag. In six years, Europe’s annual CO2 emissions from coal power plants have fallen by 250 million tonnes and for the first time in 2018 wind and solar power were comparable to existing coal and gas generation costs. But growth in renewables must increase substantially to meet the EU’s goal of covering 32% of energy demand with renewables by 2030. 

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Where does change start if the future is already decided?

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The future is “decarbonised, decentralised and electric” and distribution system operators (DSOs) will be at the heat of this transformation, says a report from consultancy EY. Drafted with input from European DSOs, the latter are urged to get ready now and make concrete plans to enable a successful energy transition. The next five years will be critical for DSOs, which must continue to develop and operate the network in a reliable, affordable and sustainable way, while building a grid that is fit for the future, says the report.

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BP Shareholder Resolution

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BP will support a call from institutional investors to disclose how its policies and spending plans align with the 2015 Paris climate agreement. The company’s board will back a resolution at its annual general meeting in May to broaden its corporate reporting. The resolution says investors remain concerned BP has not demonstrated that its strategy, “which includes growth in oil and gas as well as pursuing low carbon businesses”, is consistent with the Paris goals. It also highlights potential discrepancies between its pledge “to power economic growth and lift people out of poverty” given climate vulnerabilities in developing countries. 

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Climate governance guidance to help boards

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Ahead of its annual gathering of movers and shakers in Davos, Switzerland, the World Economic Forum, in conjunction with consultants PwC, has published a guide for board members of all companies advising them how to navigate the challenges and opportunities of climate change. Good governance based around eight principles, ranging from climate accountability, risk assessment and reporting and disclosure, is at the heart of the paper, which builds on existing corporate governance frameworks, such as the recommendations of the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on ClimateRelated Financial Disclosures.

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Energy transition helps reduce household electricity prices

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The economic benefits of energy market coupling, grid upgrades and transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energies are showing up in lower electricity prices for consumers. The price fall and the reasons behind it are revealed in the latest Energy Prices and Costs in Europe report. For the first time since 2008, household electricity prices fell between 2016 and 2017 as did the cost to consumers of supporting renewable energy. The data also shows almost flat electricity demand growth over the next decade and a steep drop in gas investments.

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Changing energy tax rules will boost just energy transition

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Simplifying EU decision-making rules would speed up a fair and affordable energy transition, says the European Political Strategy Centre, the European Commission’s in-house think-tank. The use of so-called passerelle clauses would allow the EU to move from unanimity to qualified majority voting in specified policy areas, such as energy taxation. This would enable changes “crucial to curbing the dominance of oil” and meeting global climate change commitments, and encourage “redistributive measures” to support those most affected by the transition and fiscal incentives to boost investments in low-carbon technologies.

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Companies ignoring climate change are risky investments

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Hermes was one of the first big asset management companies to consistently warn of the risk to business of a warming world. Its message has only gotten stronger since.

Companies not adapting to a low carbon economy are at risk of being left with stranded assets, Hermes says in its Carbon Report 2018. And those with high scores in environmental governance provide better financial returns, the data reveals. Investor concern about climate change has the power to unite rather than divide society, states CEO Saker Nusseibeh.

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US market reform vital for reliable and affordable electricity

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When Michael Goggin and Rob Gramlich team up on reforming wholesale electricity markets, the result is bound to be good. It would be hard to find a duo with more experience in communicating the complexities of electricity market design.

Sweeping changes in fuel costs, technology and computing make it imperative to redesign markets if reliable and affordable electricity in the US is to continue, the report finds. Growing proportions of renewables only add to the urgency. A table of recommendations for energy, capacity and reliability services markets is the key takeaway.

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Business case for renewable energy gets stronger

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The membership of the group of RE100 companies committed to powering their businesses with renewable energy now represent 5% of global GDP, reveals the most recent RE100 Progress and Insights report.

Of the 155 member companies, including Google, Coca-Cola, BMW, and IKEA, 37 already get 95% of their electricity from renewable sources. The RE base is now growing outside Europe and North America. Its reach extends to 140 markets. Ten Japanese companies were among the 37 to become members in 2018. 

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Cement, steel and shipping can be decarbonised

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When leaders from across the entire energy spectrum present a report outlining how to decarbonise the cement, steel, plastics, trucking and aviation industries by mid-century with hardly a ripple to the global economy there are grounds for optimism. The sectors emit nearly a third of global dioxide emissions. Eradicating these is far harder than for the power sector, but is vital for keeping the rise in global temperature to well below 2°C. The Mission Possible report comes from the Energy Transitions Commission.

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Carbon capture and storage no longer needed

Carbon capture and storage no longer needed

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Advances in renewable energy technology and natural gas make retrofitting coal power stations to enable them to capture and store their carbon emissions no longer necessary, reports the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. In its report, Holy Grail of Carbon Capture Continues to Elude Coal Industry, the IEEFA tracks the “dismal performance” of four “wildly expensive” flagship carbon capture projects across North America. More reliable and far cheaper power-generation alternatives exist, it says.

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Electricity cheaper from new wind than from existing coal

Electricity cheaper from new wind than from existing coal

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If there is any doubt left about the economic advisability of transitioning to renewable energy it is swept away by Lazard’s 12th like-for-like analysis of electricity generation costs for the owners of assets managed by the financial advisory heavyweight. Lazard documents how the average cost of electricity from US wind farms undercuts the average cost of electricity from existing coal plants across the scale. Solar PV cannot compete with the average cost-range for wind, but beats coal at the top end of coal’s average cost. 

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Four next steps to accelerate energy transition

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In a discussion paper of refreshing clarity, think-tank The Australia Institute outlines the next steps its government should take to fast-track the energy transition: support dispatchable renewables and storage; build-out transmission links; modernise market rules; create a safety net for displaced fossil-fuel workers.The well argued advice is highly applicable to other countries with growing penetrations of renewables. The paper includes solutions for making investment in new capacity attractive in a world where electricity prices are being driven down by low-cost wind and solar.

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Grid stability benefits of wind compared with coal and gas

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Wind turbines can change their output in response to operator and market signals at least ten times faster than conventional thermal power facilities and their response is far more accurate, concludes a report by Sandia National Laboratories for the US government. The inertia of a wind turbine rotor stores kinetic energy in return for only a slight loss of the turbine’s operating efficiency. Battery storage may find it hard to compete with the flexibility of wind turbines in the frequency management market.

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Renovate buildings to save energy and improve health

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Those looking for new arguments to encourage policy makers and the private sector to invest in the renovation of buildings to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, would do well to take on board the findings in a study by Buildings 2030 and conducted by the Buildings Performance Institute Europe. It shows that making offices, schools and hospitals more energy efficient would greatly improve people’s health, well-being and productivity. The increase in productivity across Europe could be worth up to €500 billion.

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Energy efficiency can double energy’s economic value

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Efforts to deploy the right energy efficiency policies could see emissions peak quickly and then fall while the global economy doubles, says the IEA. Energy Efficiency 2018 finds that efficiency gains could allow the world to extract twice as much economic value from the energy it uses. This would reduce energy bills by more than $500 billion dollars a year, lower energy imports and cut air pollution. The report sets out a vision for 2040 with 60% more building space, 20% more people and double global GDP, while using only marginally more energy and cutting emissions by 12%.

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Oil, gas sector spends little on low carbon assets

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CDP has updated its ranking of the world’s largest publicly listed oil and gas companies against their readiness for the low-carbon transition. Norway’s Equinor comes out top, with Total, Shell and Eni closely following. European companies come out on top, pivoting portfolios towards gas, setting climate-related targets and investing in low-carbon technologies. Since 2010, the 24 ranked companies have invested $22 billion in alternative energies, but spending on low-carbon assets for the sector as a whole will account for only 1.3% of total 2018 CAPEX.

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Latest impartial evidence on cost of energy

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Verified and current information on the full system-cost of electricity production and delivery, from the power plant to the wall socket is surprisingly hard to come by. Yet forging energy policy without this is like shooting in the dark. To shed light, researchers at the University of Texas have developed a comprehensive cost of energy methodology. One result is a colour coded map for the entire US: wind generation is cheapest where it is windy, solar cheapest where it sunny, with mainly gas filling in the gaps. 

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Clean energies for clean air

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Reducing the over-dependence on fossil fuels in the global energy mix, investing in improvements in energy efficiency and facilitating the uptake of renewable energy sources, will not only help keep global warming under control, but also improve the lives of billions of children, says a report from the World Heath Organization. Launched at the WHO’s first Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health, the report warns of the dire impact air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels and vehicle exhausts is having on children the world over.

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Road transport pushes up EU emissions

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Greenhouse gas emissions in the EU increased by 0.6% emissions in 2017 compared to 2016, according to preliminary estimates from the European Environment Agency. The rise was mostly due to the increase of oil consumption by road transport. The increase prolongs a relatively stable trend in emissions since 2014, after a 10-year period of almost continuous reduction. The EU, however, needs to step up the pace significantly to reach its long-term decarbonisation objective of reducing emissions by 80-95% by 2050, highlights the report.

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Chilling prospects

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As the world’s population and temperatures continue to rise, more of us will live in hot places. “The health and economic risks associated with a lack of access to sustainable cooling is higher than ever before,” states Chilling Prospects: Providing Sustainable Cooling for All. “Access to cooling is now a fundamental issue of equity.” Demand for sustainable cooling is creating a market for super- efficient, affordable technologies, says the report, which is intended as both a wake-up call and call for action.

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Official summary of latest IPCC report

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The Summary for Policy Makers is a sobering reminder of the sheer weight of scientific evidence behind the IPPC’s latest conclusion: mankind is about to trigger a cascading series of disasters that will tip the world’s ecosystem irreversibly out of balance. But it is not too late, stresses the panel. Fast and decisive action to halt global warming at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels would likely stabilise the world for decades. At just 34 pages, it is well worth the time it takes to read.

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Capital costs fall again for solar and wind

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Market prices for electricity from solar and wind get ever more attractive in comparison with electricity from fossil fuel and nuclear technologies. That is not only because fossil fuel prices are burdened by carbon costs and nuclear by safety costs, but also because the cost of constructing wind and solar continues to fall. Analysis of 2016 data by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) provides useful evidence for the downward trend. It also reveals that construction costs for gas went up.

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Denmark demonstrates how

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Despite a hot summer in Denmark with little wind, the country’s wind turbines supplied more electricity than coal, gas, solar and biomass combined, reports the national wind turbine owners association in a briefing note. Although the 1653 GWh of wind energy provided in June and July compares poorly with the 2167 GWh from the same, but windier, period in 2017, the total wind production was still three times more than the next largest volume from a single electricity producing technology, natural gas.

See datasets for production and consumption here

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Making business sense

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Powering companies by renewable energy makes business and climate sense, says this report from the global RE100 initiative and Capgemini Invent. The 152 corporates committed to sourcing 100% of their energy from renewables are more profitable than their peers, it finds. An analysis of data from 2016-2017 shows RE100 businesses perform better than non-members on net profit margins and earnings before interests and taxes by up to 7.7 percentage points. The gains are true across all sectors, though most prominent for IT, telecommunications, construction and real estate.

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Green investor bible updated

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Issuers, investors and regulators wanting to see whether projects are apt for green financing will benefit from the latest version of this guide. It identifies the assets and projects needed to deliver a low carbon economy and offers screening criteria consistent with limiting warming to 2°C as set out in the Paris climate agreement. The 2018 taxonomy covers eight sectors, including energy, buildings, transport and industry, and uses a traffic light system to indicate eligible assets and projects.

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Transformational action needed

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It is technically and economically possible for Europe to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, say the European Climate Foundation and Climact, a climate and energy consultancy. They makes it clear, however, that this is no small task and will require, without delay, transformational action in all parts of society. This means significant changes in terms of consumption patterns and increases in natural sinks, such as trees, alongside a shift to energy efficiency, renewables and electrification.

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Saving electricity has a cost

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How much does saving a kWh cost a customer who supports energy efficiency initiatives, such as financial incentives, technical assistance, education and energy audits? This thorny question is answered in great detail in “The Cost of Saving Electricity Through Energy Efficiency Programs Funded by Utility Customers 2009-2015,” from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab in California. Nearly every US state offers energy efficiency programmes. LBNL provides crucial metrics for assessing when not consuming a kWh can reduce overall cost.

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The energy transition index

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The readiness of 114 countries to transition away from fossil fuels to a renewable energy economy is tracked by the World Economic Forum in its “Fostering Effective Energy Transition,” with number crunching by McKinsey. The report is packed with hard facts on different approaches and levels of success. WEF sees the index as a tool to “identify imperatives and align policy and market enablers,” and create energy transition roadmaps. No country can do it alone, says WEF.

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Investor guide to fossil fuel risk

Reports

Fund managers have a pressing fiduciary duty to re-examine their holdings in a sector that is “freighted with risk” says the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis in “The Financial Case for Fossil Fuel Divestment.” The report systematically details the cumulative risks undermining the fossil fuel sector and meticulously rebuts arguments against divestment, calling them “dangerous” and “a breach of fiduciary standards”. The fossil fuel industry is not too big to fail, says the IEEFA.

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Why we need the grid

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Expanding transmission line capacity and building an increasingly robust grid network is essential for the energy transition, despite the growth of local electricity sources, such as rooftop solar, explains a report from the Renewables Grid Initiative. “Enabling a Renewables Based Electricity System” sums up conclusions from an ongoing dialogue with Transmission System Operators and is packed with real world facts about shaping the grid for tomorrow while keeping down costs. Listening to those at the sharp end of operations is likely to lead to workable solutions.

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Global opportunities

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The fourth edition of Global Opportunity Report by DNV GL focuses on four of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Under the Climate Action goal, it explores: capturing carbon and recycling it or locking it up in new materials; innovative, carbon-saving ways to cool buildings; and reducing the shipping industry’s reliance on carbon fuels. Under the Responsible Consumption and Production goal, it looks at repurposing batteries from electric vehicles to support electricity grid stability. DNV GL values business opportunities linked to the SDGs at $17 trillion.

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The cooling blind spot

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Increased use of air conditioners in buildings will triple global energy demand by 2050, predicts the International Energy Agency, requiring a global increase in electricity generating capacity equivalent to that today in the US, the EU and Japan, combined. “Growing electricity demand for air conditioning is one of the most critical blind spots in today’s energy debate,” says IEA boss Fatih Birol. “The Future of Cooling” documents how to reduce cooling demand to a level compatible with the goals of the Paris climate agreement, while saving money.

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Technology update

Reports

The clean energy transition can only be achieved if a full range of technologies are deployed. The updated Tracking Clean Energy Progress report from the International Energy Agency gives a clear oversight of where technologies are today and where they need to be if the world is to keep warming below the critical 2°C level. The report finds that solar PV is the only renewable technology on track to meet its targets with record-level new deployment in 2017.

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Showing the way

Reports

Decision makers trying to decide the best and most efficient ways to move forward the energy transition would do well to look at the Fostering Effective Energy Transition report from the World Economic Forum. It includes an index benchmarking the performance of energy systems in 114 countries, listing those leading the energy transition as: Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands, the UK, Austria, France and Iceland. Others, including Venezuela and Iran, are identified as “emerging” with plenty of opportunity for improvement.

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All systems go

Reports

Energy systems based on 100% renewables are feasible, economically viable and decreasing in cost every year, concludes this scientific paper. The authors insist that 100% renewable systems meeting the energy needs of, “All citizens at all times are cost-competitive with fossil-fuel-based systems, even before externalities such as global warming, water usage and environmental pollution are taken into account.” The current power system does not need re-inventing but a low-cost evolution to run on clean energy and “guarantee affordability, reliability and sustainability.”

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