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.

As much as some would want you to believe differently, climate change is very much a concern of people worldwide, according to a recent survey of 8000 people in 8 countries. In fact it rates only slightly behind fears about large-scale environmental damage, and the threat of politically motivated damage escalating into war, a shift in viewpoint from past years. People are becoming more willing to act to prevent future climate catastrophes.[1]

Millennials are acting to make their viewpoints known on this, and a letter to the world on their behalf asks us to ignore Trump and his misinformed decision to exit the Paris Agreement. Millennials want to work with all to deal with the climate challenges, asking others committed to the Paris Agreement to keep to it, and in doing so the millennials will be their allies.[2]

California is ignoring Trump by making a non-binding agreement with China aimed at expanding cooperation between China and California on renewable energy, zero-emission vehicles and low-carbon urban development. Other States have also pledged to uphold the accord. It is heartening to see the positive momentum towards fulfilling the climate goals has not been lost completely, with individual states taking the lead where their national government won’t. [3]

It’s not just millennials and individual states of the US that are concerned about climate, despite Trumps decision. In the last year ExxonMobil shareholders have turned their view around, with 38% last year and now 62% of shareholders wanting to understand how the impact of climate change will affect the company’s oil assets. The company will now have to be more open about this. [4]

Next we take a look at the spectacular drop in renewable energy costs leading to record global boosts. Due to the falling costs in wind and solar, renewable capacity around the world has increased by 10% on 2015 figures. The costs associated with this increase, however, have decreased! The global investment in renewable energy has reduced 23% on 2015 figures, with investment continuing to remain higher than all fossil fuels. The majority of this boost is due to new solar, making up half of all new capacity, followed by wind and hydropower at 15%. [5]

This rapid drop in costs for renewables is evident all over the world. However some of the greatest change has been seen in India, where solar prices have hit record lows, undercutting fossil fuels. Prices for solar capacity have fallen to 2.62 rupees/kWh (NZ$0.06), down 40% on last year’s record bid of 4.34 rupees /kWh (NZ$0.09). Comparing this to the average price of coal powered generation of 3.46 rupees (NZ$0.07) in February, solar appears to be taking off in the world’s third largest carbon polluting country. Prices are expected to continue to drop in India, bringing hope that India will meet their Paris commitments earlier than expected.[6]

Supporting the previous 2 articles, a recent whitepaper published by Allen and York has reported that over 9.4 million people across the world are now employed in the renewable energy sector, including 3.5 million employed in China, and 769,000 employed in the US. The US Department of Energy reported that the solar workforce alone increased by 25% in 2016, while those in the wind sector increased by 32%! This constant trend shows blue skies ahead for the industry, providing employment and clean energy around the globe. [7]

It’s not difficult to understand how 3.5 million people are employed in the renewable sector in China, with the constant news of incredible feats achieved in the sector there. Last month, China unveiled the world’s largest floating solar power plant. Going online in mid-May this year, the 40MW facility has been providing power directly into the national grid, unlike some installations we have seen in the past. The construction location itself is rather ironic, being constructed on top of a flooded former coal mine. This is a first of many popping up around China, with a smaller 20MW facility opening sometime this year. It is exciting to see countries pushing forward, making efforts to slow the heating of our planet. [8]

We next take a look at how tax credits are helping to reduce food waste in Virginia. Farmers can now apply for food donation tax credits of up to $5,000 each to help with harvesting costs for food that would otherwise be left to rot. According to this article approximately 10 million tons of produce is not harvested and therefore wasted at farms each year. Reversing this through tax credit incentives is a very positive move. If successful in Virginia this process could be expanded state by state and maybe to the global community. Feeding people and reducing waste can only be a good thing. [9]

Closer to home, many Kiwis are trying to make a difference by demanding a levy on single use plastic bags. Recycling of these bags as not been as successful as previously hoped, but maybe education around this can be improved. Councils are demanding they be allowed to levy plastic bags if the national government won’t do it. Here’s a link to a previous Snippets article on how to recycle plastic bags. [10]

We finish with a look at a recent award ceremony held in Auckland - The Enviro-Mark Solutions Outstanding Performance Awards 2017, celebrating environmental excellence. Some large and well know organisations have achieved some big reductions in emissions; the winners achieved a net reduction of 10,385 tonnes of carbon over the past year. That’s the equivalent of not driving from Cape Reinga to Bluff more than 20,000 times! [11]

Energy TS is a category winner, “Outstanding performance for a smaller organisation”. We’re not just talking, but walking the talk!

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.


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