Welcome to another two weekly review of energy and environmental events and developments from both here in New Zealand and around the world. As always we hope you find our collection of stories to be of interest in what continues to be a rapidly evolving area.
A precedent has been set – environmentalists have had a victory - Horizons Regional Council (Manawatu-Wanganui) has lost its court case regarding river pollution from farm runoff, and has had to stop issuing consents for farm runoff into waterways, a ruling that will affect councils and farmers New Zealand wide. The environment court found that economic concerns were not reason enough to allow the decline in water quality.
If the farming of animals has regulations that are becoming too hard/costly to comply with, maybe there is an opportunity to reconsider what is being farmed. With the carbon emissions from animals also being a major concern, the ability of plants to sequester carbon into the soil is being studied and some interesting and hopeful results have been found. There will likely be a better way of farming in the future, based on this study, increasing crop production whilst also increasing the carbon captured in the soil. This recent study suggests we can slow climate change simply by feeding people. 
As well as crops sequestering more carbon, other techniques for growing crops can increase production for a large proportion of farms while decreasing the amount of pesticides and chemicals used. The next article discusses a recent study where results challenge the pesticides industry’s argument that their products are vital for food production in the quantities needed to feed a growing world population. Another win for the environment with less of these pollutants being used, less pollutants reaching our rivers, as well as being better for the health of the farmers and those who eat the crops.
We now look at renewable generation. In 2016 the world added record levels of renewable generation capacity, an exciting part being the reduction in actual spend, by 23%. This incredible fact confirms the global trend towards a renewable future. Interestingly, the added generation is equivalent to that generated by the world’s top 16 existing power producing facilities, generating over 138 gigawatts of capacity. This article, although factually heavy, really highlights the global move towards renewable energy generation.
Helping lead the way towards this renewable future is India. A report issued by the Indian government has stated that it is aiming to generate 275GW of renewable energy capacity and about 85GW of other non-fossil fuel power, such as nuclear, by the next decade. This goal would bring India’s non-fossil fuel related generation to over 57% by 2027. This far exceeds their promise as set out in the Paris Agreement. The largest challenge facing India is similar to issues that are currently troubling Australia and China – grid reliability. Without adequate storage, and a well maintained national grid, the renewable energy generated will more than likely remain idle. India is looking to try to overcome this with a $3.5 billion transmission makeover.
As mentioned above, Australia is also facing issues with grid reliability. Australia’s electricity infrastructure has being built largely without renewables in mind, and primarily to maintain reliability for when demand peaks. However, due to the high pickup of solar panels, grid demand has reduced by 5-10% and, as a side effect, has lowered the value of the network assets, raised prices and made the grid harder to manage. One solution they are considering is using batteries from electric vehicles (EVs) as storage systems to help provide generation in peak demand times. By using a smart meter, the car essentially becomes a battery you can drive. The main issue they face with this is the affordability of EVs to lower income households, a problem they hope to take on in the future.
Our final article today looks at aviation, one of the larger industries contributing to CO2 emissions. There is no denying that the aviation industry has taken a toll on the environment, and with air travel becoming the norm to many people around the world, it’s not a surprise to hear aviation related carbon emissions are increasing. However, these have not been ignored by the industry. Primarily beginning after the 2008 global financial crisis, the aviation industry has been looking to reduce its costs, and hopefully reduce emissions while doing so. Since then, there have been major breakthroughs in aviation grade fuels, which have been picked up by airlines such as United Airlines, and differing methods of plane construction, such as 3D printed parts on planes. More exciting, though, is EasyJet looking to improve the efficiency of its planes by including a hydrogen fuel cell in the hold of its Airbuses, which allows engines to completely turn off while taxiing or otherwise on the ground.
Our Tech Corner this week also looks at an exciting development in aviation.
Thanks for taking the time to read this issue and we look forward to catching up with you again. If you have any items of interest you would like to submit, then please feel free to forward them.