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Can shale gas solve Europe’s energy and climate challenges?



Can shale gas solve Europe’s energy and climate challenges? That was the question on the table at an event hosted by the thinktank Policy Exchange on Thursday evening. Tasked with providing some answers were Jason Anderson of the WWF, economist Prof Dieter Helm from the University of Oxford and former BP chief executive Lord Browne, who is now head of the UK-based shale gas extraction firm Cuadrilla.

The debate’s chair was Guy Newey, Policy Exchange’s head of energy and environment. In his opening remarks he made the point that shale gas – and its associated extraction method fracking – represented a small share of Britain’s energy future two years ago. This was around the time the thinktank produced its Gas Works? report on the policy implications. Now shale gas is a major topic of discussion and seems central to the government’s plan for energy.

Lord Browne delivered his opening statement first. A peer since 2001 and a former president of the Royal Academy of Engineering, he is best remembered for leading BP for 12 years. Since leaving the oil supermajor in 2007, he has been a partner at private equity group Riverstone, co-leading the world’s largest renewable energy fund. More recently, it is his role as Cuadrilla chief executive that has thrust him in the media spotlight most often.

Browne described shale gas as “abundant” and “low-carbon”. He made the analogy that the EU’s carbon budget was a diet; it was was eating a lot of ice cream and salad (i.e. using an increasing amount of coal and renewables). Instead, he said the mix needed to be “rebalanced” – with gas a central player – which would help Europe meet its carbon reduction targets.

Jason Anderson, head of European climate change and energy policy at the environmental campaign group WWF, spoke next. He opened with a reference towards unburnable carbon. These are major fossil fuel reserves that leading economists and climate scientists say need to be left in the ground if the world wants a fighting chance of tackling climate change. He said that gas was preferable to coal – which was singled out as the villain during the event – but that there was a “narrow window” for decarbonisation, and we needed to act fast.

The final panellist was the economist Dieter Helm, professor of energy policy at the University of Oxford. He pulled no punches in his opening remarks. He described EU energy policy as a “complete shambles” and said Europe was “a million miles” from a decarbonisation path. He added that in countries like Germany and France, which had banned fracking, the “consistent” climate position must be to outlaw coal as well. In fact, they had not done so, and in some cases had built more coal plants.

Opening the discussion to the floor, coal was yet again held up for criticism. Helm claimed those who care about climate change should be concentrating their efforts on getting rid of coal, which is by far the most polluting of all fossil fuels. “Everything else is for the birds”, he added. Meanwhile Browne said coal “will not go away by itself” and a carbon tax was needed in order to truly reduce its output. Helm has long argued for such a policy and so agreed with this point.

With regards to shale gas, the Cuadrilla chief called for an independent group of people to really analyse the data in a bid to enhance the debate. “That won’t be someone who has a vested interest in [shale gas] like me”, he clarified.

Speaking about what shale gas could do to prices, Helm said while it was true it had dramatically lowered prices in the US, this was because gas was rarely traded outside the country. He added, “[Gas has] its own market. There are hardly any exports [and] a limited amount of imports, and so supply and demand determines the price in the US.” In the UK, there is a common price for gas because it forms part of an interconnected wholesale market with other European countries.

One of the main arguments against fracking relates to its environmental impact. The shale gas extraction method works by blasting rocks with water and chemicals. These then fracture the rocks and release the natural gas contained within them. As a result of this process, various studies have linked it to water contaminationmethane leakage and an increased risk of earthquakes.

A resident in the audience from Balcombe – the Sussex village where Cuadrilla had conducted exploratory drilling – asked about the research into fugitive methane emissions from fracking. Browne described the studies as “controversial” and said their findings were “not agreed by many people”.

One particular point that divided opinion among panellists was the role of renewable energy in the energy and climate debate. Helm said he didn’t believe current renewable technologies like wind and solar can solve climate change: “It’s the next generation of renewables that really will wipe the floor of these things… If they won’t, we’re stuffed.”

Anderson of the WWF disagreed. He said this “next generation” – which Helm described as things like next generation solar, geothermal, 3D printing, batteries and storage technology – will not become commercially viable soon enough. “We have actually far more value in renewable energy value chains, aside from the piece of technology you put on your roof or out in a field, and you need to develop those robustly”, Anderson continued. He argued the current generation of technology can easily achieve the EU’s renewables targets for 2020 and 2030. And in meeting these, we were creating the knowhow and market conditions for the next generation.

The consensus appeared to be that shale gas was a lesser evil than coal – which panellists agreed was the most harmful fossil fuel – and it could play a role in decarbonisation. That said, polling suggests the public are not entirely behind the technology. There are also key questions about environmental impact still to be addressed.

All the while, the challenge of climate change is not going away. Therefore, adding another polluting fossil fuel to the energy mix – regardless of its relatively lower carbon emissions – when there are viable clean alternatives available, does seem counter-intuitive.

The full debate can be heard here.

Further reading:

Survey: public support for fracking weakening

Lord Lawson takes on climate scientist on fracking. And the winner was…

Three facts on fracking

Government has ‘two-faced attitude to fracking’, say campaigners

‘Incentivising’ my local authority to support fracking


New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035



renewable energy policy
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New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.


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How Going Green Can Save A Company Money



going green can save company money
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What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

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Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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