Reports & books


What our editors are reading

Data driven report on electricity in Europe

Reports & books

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

Reports & books

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

Reports & books

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?

Reports & books

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

Reports & books

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

Reports & books

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

Reports & books

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

Reports & books

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

Reports & books

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

Reports & books

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

Reports & books

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

Reports & books

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

Reports & books

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

Reports & books

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

Reports & books

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

Reports & books

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

Reports & books

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

Reports & books

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

Reports & books

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

Reports & books

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

Reports & books

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

Reports & books

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

Reports & books

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

Reports & books

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

Reports & books

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

Reports & books

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

Reports & books

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

Reports & books

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

Reports & books

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

Reports & books

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

Reports & books

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 & books

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

Reports & books

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

Reports & books

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

Reports & books

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 & books

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 & books

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 & books

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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