Today, world-leading energy and technology companies launch their action plans “Scaling up renewables” to nearly double renewable energy capacity by supporting the global deployment of 1.5TW of additional capacity by 2025. This major announcement comes at the EWEA (European Wind Energy Association) Annual Event in Paris.
The sixteen leading energy and technology companies part of LCTPi’s Renewable Energy program together account for nearly 10% of global installed capacity. They believe that the doubling of renewable energy capacity required by 2025 to stay below 2°C is achievable. They will address barriers preventing the necessary widespread uptake of renewable energy by:
– Facilitating efficient, reliable, effective and commercially viable integration of renewable energy into grids and electricity markets, including promoting energy interconnections,
– Facilitating the significant scaling up of green bond finance through a commitment to robust verification and transparency as well as de-risking project pipelines,
– Working with corporate renewable energy buyers to scale renewable energy procurement and channel demand towards renewable energy,
– Promoting sustainable electrification of remote areas via accelerated deployment of low carbon microgrids.
Commenting on the launch of the group report and CEO statement, President and CEO of the WBCSD Peter Bakker said: “Accelerating the development and deployment of renewable energy is a critical part of the 2°C pathway. We are working with the world’s most forward-thinking companies to develop innovative low carbon solutions that can help address the climate challenge.
“Today’s announcement on Renewables shows that businesses around the world are taking concrete action to combat climate change as they see the multiple integrated benefits of investing in a low carbon world.”
Renewable energy is reliable and increasingly competitive, with significant economic benefits extending beyond climate change mitigation. An Impact Analysis by PwC of LCTPi revealed the potential for the initiative to generate over $3.5 trillion worth of investment and up to 15 million jobs. Other benefits range from enhanced energy security and access to increased flexibility and resilience of electricity systems. It also showed that as a whole, the ambitions of the nine LCTPi working groups could deliver 65% of the required emission reductions needed to keep climate change below the 2°C threshold.
To achieve the scale required, business actions need to be supported by the appropriate policy framework. Members of the Renewables LCTPi have developed clear recommendations for policymakers and regulators to enable accelerated deployment of renewable energy. Carbon pricing and forward-looking market and regulatory structures are critical to success. Additionally, ongoing and deeper collaboration between public and private sectors will be necessary to address the climate challenge effectively on both local and global levels.
CEO of EDP Group, António Mexia said: “Renewable energy is crucial in addressing climate change and presents substantial economic opportunities given increasing cost-competitiveness with other power sources. EDP recognizes the urgency of the need to move towards a low carbon economy and the opportunities associated with this, and has committed to increasing electricity generation from renewable sources to 75% of installed capacity by 2020.
“Considerable progress has been made in renewable energy deployment globally, however, the time for a major step-up has come. New business models are needed to enable the scaling up of renewable energy at the speed that is required. The LCTPi framework presents an opportunity for business to work collaboratively to make this happen, and to ensure our companies are well placed to benefit from the resulting opportunities.”
Mr Rui Teixeira, member of Board of Directors for EDP, will be speaking on behalf of the LCTPi group at the EWEA event in Paris on Thursday 19 November,
CEO of Iberdrola, Ignacio S. Galán said: “Decarbonisation of the world’s electricity generation is a crucial part of the transition to a low carbon economy. Iberdrola began this transition nearly 15 years ago. Today, our specific emissions are 30% lower than the average of the European electricity sector thanks to our reliance on renewable energy. But we can do more, and we have set tough new environmental targets for our generation business with the aim of reducing, by 2030, our CO2 emission intensity by at least 50% from emissions recorded in 2007 and, furthermore, to become completely carbon neutral by 2050.
“Acceleration of renewable energy deployment must take place globally in order to achieve the decarbonisation required to limit climate change to below the 2°C threshold. Businesses and governments alike need to work together to set the right policy framework and remove barriers. Under the LCTPi framework, we are working with other innovative companies and partners to proactively develop business-led solutions to address key barriers which, in addition to ongoing technological innovation driven by the electricity industry, will speed up decarbonisation of the economy.”
Chief Sustainability Officer of NRG, Leah Seligmann said: “Acting on climate change is not a choice but a necessity. The LCTPi Renewables working group is an opportunity for large users and producers of energy to accelerate the shift to a low carbon future. Driven by business and economic factors as much as societal, corporations of all types have the freedom and the ability to innovate and solve the world’s greatest challenges for mutual benefit. To stay below 2°C, one step we know we must take together is investment in and adoption of clean energy solutions.”
Chairman & CEO of ACCIONA, José Manuel Entrecanales said: “Renewable energy is ready to match the challenges of Sustainable Development; however, scaling-up and accelerating its deployment is decisive in slowing down global warming. Implementing effective carbon pricing mechanisms and developing initiatives like LCTPi, that addresses future market structures and regulatory frameworks, are key elements in moving forwards to a low carbon economy.”
The Renewables LCTPi will collaborate with the International Finance Corporation, the Clean Energy Ministerial, The Climate Group and the Climate Bonds Initiative in the development and implementation of the action plans. These initiatives will enable leading companies to fully harness the economic opportunities of investing in renewable energy and accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy.
Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?
Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?
But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?
The Big Picture
The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.
That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.
One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.
There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.
As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.
Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.
Make and Model of Car
Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.
On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.
The Bottom Line
Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?
Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.
New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035
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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