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Shortlist unveiled for prestigious renewables awards

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The Renewable Energy Association (REA) has revealed the shortlisted companies and individuals that will vie for accolades at the eighth annual British Renewable Energy Awards in June.

The REA – the trade body for the renewables industry – recently conducted a confidence survey among its members, with 96% saying they were apprehensive about whether the UK can meet its 2020 renewables target.

The awards evening will therefore be a chance to set aside policy worries and focus instead on championing innovation and excellence across the wide-ranging sector.

Nominees include Good Energy – the UK’s only 100% renewable electricity supplier – which recently unveiled an encouraging set of annual results, and is up for the Company Award.

Westmill Solar Co-operative is in the running for the Community Award, after successfully raising money through a share offer to install 21,000 solar panels at a site in Oxfordshire.

The Lancashire county pension fund, which invested £12m in the Westmill project, is included in the Pioneer Award category, which is sponsored by Blue & Green Tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Lightsource Renewable Energy and Solarcentury – the companies behind that gave a Cambridgeshire waste treatment plant a solar makeover in September – are up for the Leadership and Project Award respectively. Solarcentury’s inclusion is because of its role in transforming Blackfriars bridge into London’s largest solar development.

As always, the shortlist for this year’s awards reflects the diversity, diligence and ingenuity of the UK renewables industry”, said Gaynor Hartnell, the REA’s chief executive who earlier this year said she would be stepping down from her role.

We have lifelong renewables champions alongside exciting young entrepreneurs. Small start-ups showing their peers how it’s done, and huge projects setting a path for others to follow.

These fascinating stories reveal how renewable energy is powering society, heating homes and businesses and getting us from A to B.”

Former Conservative politician Michael Portillo is after dinner speaker at the event, which takes place at the Jumeirah Carlton Hotel in London on June 13. Tickets are available through the REA’s website and the full shortlist can be found below.

Champion Award

John Baldwin – CNG Services

Peter Fraenkel – Fraenkel-Wright

David Handley – Renewable Energy Systems

Clare Lukehurst – IEA Task 37

Mark Shorrock – Tidal Lagoon Power

Guy Watson – Dulas

Community Award

Devon Association for Renewable Energy

Repowering

TGV Hydro

Westmill Solar Co-operative

Company Award

Forest Fuels

Gentoo Group

Good Energy

Marches Biogas

Innovation Award

3sun Group

Econic

Evergreen Gas

Oxford PV

Installer Award

Bright Green Energy

British Gas New Energy & Walsall Housing Group

Ecohill

Feed It Green

Leadership Award

J V Energen

Lightsource Renewable Energy

Vale Green Energy

Pioneer Award (sponsored by Blue & Green Tomorrow)

Dytecna Ltd

Eco Sustainable Solutions

Golden Gates Housing Trust

Lancashire County Pension Fund

Tamar Energy

Vale Green Energy

Project Award (sponsored by reNews)

Clearfleau – Dailauine anaerobic digestion plant

Ignis Biomass – Wick district heating scheme

J V Energen/Scotia Gas Networks – Poundbury biomethane injection project

Solarcentury – Blackfriars solar bridge

Skills Development Award

3sun Group

A P Chant Renewable Energy

Clarke Energy

NatWest Bank

Vivergo Fuels

Further reading:

96% of the renewables industry apprehensive about UK targets

No decarbonisation target in energy bill, but government promises investment certainty

The energy bill: it’s time to talk about ‘energy and climate security’

Renewables: the UK’s new industrial revolution

The Guide to Limitless Clean Energy 2012

Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/zapp2photo

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.

Driver Reduction?

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

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.

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Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

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.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

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