Europe’s political leaders must dramatically ramp up efforts to phase out polluting coal plants if they are serious about preventing dangerous climate change, a new report shows. The study reveals carbon emissions from Europe’s ageing coal-fired power stations will have to come down three times faster than the current rate for the bloc to keep in line with global efforts to limit warming to 2C.
The findings are published as the world’s top climate diplomats are in the thick of negotiations over a new global plan to bring down planet-warming emissions at the UN climate summit in Paris.
Drawing on the most comprehensive database of Europe’s coal plants ever compiled, analysts from Sandbag and Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe have for the first time been able to put a number to the amount of carbon released by the 280 coal-fired power stations currently operating in the EU and its changes over time.
In 2014, Europe’s huge fleet of coal plants released a total of 762 million tonnes of CO2 – as much as the combined emissions of France, Spain and Portugal.  This accounts for nearly a fifth (18%) of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions, a slice nearly as big as that of the entire EU road transport sector (21%).
The report, commissioned by Greenpeace UK and CAN Europe, urges Europe’s leaders to get a grip on coal pollution by setting out clear national plans and deadlines to push coal off their energy system.
The UK has recently become the first G20 economy to announce such a plan, with the aim of retiring all of its coal plants by 2025. It was preceded by a similar move in Austria, which is now on track to become coal power free when the last plant closes in 2025. Finland had already committed to phase out coal by the 2020s.
Greenpeace UK energy campaigner Diana Vogtel said: “The verdict from our report is very clear: when it comes to coal emissions there can be no room for complacency. Unless Europe’s leaders take action to phase out the dirtiest fossil fuel, their creaking, polluting coal plants risk derailing the bloc’s efforts to stave off dangerous climate change. The clean technologies that can replace coal are getting cheaper and more efficient every year, whilst the impacts of coal on our health and climate have never been clearer. There are no excuses left for Europe not to kick its coal addiction for good.”
CAN Europe Director Wendel Trio said: “From Alberta in Canada to Finland and the UK, the leaders of advanced economies are already showing that it’s possible to put an expiry date on the age of coal. We now need a strong deal coming out of the Paris summit to give fresh impetus to a EU-wide clampdown on coal emissions. Phasing out coal is the easiest way for the EU to increase its climate ambitions.”
According to leading experts at the International Energy Agency (IEA), Europe’s carbon emissions from burning coal will need to fall on average by 8 per cent every year until 2040 to keep below the 2C warming threshold. But the report published today shows the bloc’s coal emissions have only come down by an average of 2.3 per cent a year over the last nine years.
The study also found that two thirds (66%) of Europe’s coal plants have been in operation for 30 years or more. This makes them particularly inefficient, polluting, and prone to breakdowns.
Coal plants are the world’s biggest emitters of CO2, accounting for nearly a third (31%) of all carbon released by burning fossil fuels, according to the IEA. The IEA have warned that globally coal emissions must halve by 2030 and be almost completely phased out by 2040 if the world is to stand a fighting chance of keeping warming to 2C. Research by University College London also concluded that 88 per cent of global coal reserves must stay in the ground if the world is to stay below the 2C threshold.
Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?
Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?
Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.
Is Biofuel Green?
One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.
Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?
Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.
Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.
Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.
Benefits Of Biomass
The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.
Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.
7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees
As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.
After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:
One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.
While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.
Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies
Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.
The Ability To Work Remotely
It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.
Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.
Unlimited Time Off
This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.
A Full Pantry
Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.
Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!