Global consumption of coal dropped by 1.7% last year. This is a major change considering that it had increased by an average of 1.9% per year from 2005 to 2015. China, which accounts for about half of the coal burned in the world, used 1.6% less in 2016, as compared to an increase of 3.7% per year over the previous 11 years.
New York State has been encouraging its communities to install microgrids for quite a while. Now the state has committed to build a 16-megawatt microgrid to power the Empire State Plaza in downtown Albany. The microgrid will use combined heat and power to supply 90% of the electricity as well as heating and cooling for the 10 buildings where 11,000 state employees work.
The end of 2013 marked the first occasional observations of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere of 400 parts per million. There is nothing magical about that value, but we do tend to focus on round numbers.
There is a tendency to think of the changes in the energy industry as a pitched battle between fossil fuel companies and renewable energy. There is some truth to this, but only to a certain extent. The multi-trillion-dollar fossil fuel industry is made up of businesses dedicated to growth and increased profits. And like businesses in other industries when major changes occur, fossil fuel companies may read the tea leaves and change with the times.
Renewable energy may be under attack by the federal government these days, but one federal agency is making great progress on using the sun’s energy to split hydrogen from water. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, located in Golden, Colorado, recently highlighted two initiatives aimed at the production of renewable hydrogen.
According to a new study by the non-profit group Carbon Brief, carbon dioxide emissions in the United Kingdom are at their lowest levels since the 1920s. Four factors are responsible: a record drop in coal use, the rapid growth of renewable energy, the expansion of energy efficiency programs, and the increased use of natural gas for electricity power plants.
A recent report from the Energy Information Administration notes that for the first time in 40 years, carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation are less than those from transportation. The reason is that power plants nationwide are abandoning the use of coal and turning to cleaner burning natural gas, as well as newer sources such as solar and wind power.
Last year was a big year for progress in the U.S. power sector. Renewable energy provided nearly 17% of the country’s electricity, up from 13.7% in 2015. The first offshore wind farm in the U.S. opened off the coast of Rhode Island. And most significantly, carbon emissions from the power sector continued to decline and reached the lowest levels in nearly 25 years.
We have heard the term “clean coal” for years, mostly from politicians and in coal company advertising. The concept sounds good: burn coal but don’t produce carbon dioxide emissions. While there have been various small-scale tests of technologies to accomplish this, it has not actually been a viable option for the power industry.
Multiple studies are now reporting that wind and solar power are the cheapest way to make electricity in a growing number of places around the world. A thorough analysis of the levelized cost of energy – which considers every cost component from capital expenditures to operating and maintenance costs over a lifetime – shows that solar and wind power are winning the day.
There are many good reasons why we should be making the transition from fossil fuel energy sources but the one that is likely to be the most persuasive is strictly economic. It has long been said that the renewable energy future will truly arrive when installing new solar panels is cheaper than a comparable investment in coal, natural gas, or other options.
The new administration has promised to revitalize the coal industry in the U.S. A major part of this plan is to eliminate various regulations that hamper that industry. But the truth is that coal has lost ground for far more important reasons than regulation.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the process in which water, chemicals and sand are injected at high pressure to split apart rock thousands of feet below Earth’s surface and release oil or natural gas. And it’s a controversial practice.
Electric cars are generally seen as the way to eliminate or at least dramatically reduce the disastrous effects of personal transportation on the environment. They still constitute only a tiny fraction of the cars on the road, but their popularity and availability is growing.
Most of the blame for climate change has been placed on the growing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but methane also plays a major role. Estimates are that about 1/5 of greenhouse effect warming is caused by methane in the atmosphere. There is far less of it than carbon dioxide, but methane is tremendously more effective at trapping heat.
The boom in natural gas drilling by conventional methods and by fracking has led to a spike in methane emissions from pipelines, storage tanks, processing facilities, and other parts of the natural gas system. Natural gas is mostly composed of methane, so these emissions constitute waste and lost revenues. But they also represent a serious environmental problem because methane is 25 times more effective in trapping atmospheric heat than carbon dioxide.
The Carbon XPrize is a five-year, $20 million competition to identify ways to convert carbon emissions into successful, profitable and useful products. Forty-seven organizations from seven countries are competing for the prizes and include large companies, startups and university researchers.