Climate change: Electrical industry’s ‘dirty secret’ boosts warming

Climate change: Electrical industry’s ‘dirty secret’ boosts warming

SOURCE: BBC DATE: September 13, 2019 SNIP: It’s the most powerful greenhouse gas known to humanity, and emissions have risen rapidly in recent years, the BBC has learned. Sulphur hexafluoride, or SF6, is widely used in the electrical industry to prevent short circuits and accidents. But leaks of the little-known gas in the UK and the rest of the EU in 2017 were the equivalent of putting an extra 1.3 million cars on the road. Levels are rising as an unintended consequence of the green energy boom. Cheap and non-flammable, SF6 is a colourless, odourless, synthetic gas. It makes a hugely effective insulating material for medium and high-voltage electrical installations. It is widely used across the industry, from large power stations to wind turbines to electrical sub-stations in towns and cities. It prevents electrical accidents and fires. However, the significant downside to using the gas is that it has the highest global warming potential of any known substance. It is 23,500 times more warming than carbon dioxide (CO2). It also persists in the atmosphere for a long time, warming the Earth for at least 1,000 years. Where once large coal-fired power stations brought energy to millions, the drive to combat climate change means they are now being replaced by mixed sources of power including wind, solar and gas. This has resulted in many more connections to the electricity grid, and a rise in the number of electrical switches and circuit breakers that are needed to prevent serious accidents. Collectively, these safety devices are called switchgear. The vast majority use SF6 gas to quench arcs and stop short circuits. Researchers...
Most renewable energy companies linked with claims of abuses in mines

Most renewable energy companies linked with claims of abuses in mines

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: September 5, 2019 SNIP: Most of the world’s top companies extracting key minerals for electric vehicles, solar panels and wind turbines have been linked with human rights abuses in their mines, research has found. Analysis published by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC), an international corporate watchdog, revealed that 87% of the 23 largest companies mining cobalt, copper, lithium, manganese, nickel and zinc – the six minerals essential to the renewable energy industry – have faced allegations of abuse including land rights infringements, corruption, violence or death over the past 10 years. As the global economy switches to low-carbon technologies to combat global heating, demand for minerals could rise by as much as 900% by 2050, according to World Bank estimates. In order to prevent further human rights abuses, renewable energy companies urgently need to clean up their supply chains. The watchdog found no correlation between the existence of a company’s human rights policy and whether such a policy prevented it from receiving allegations of abuses, indicating that the current company policies were either insufficient or not adequately enforced in their supply chains. For example, the top five lithium companies have all had human rights abuse allegations made against them, yet only one company had a publicly available policy on human rights. The BHRRC has launched a tracker tool to allow investors, businesses and civil society groups to trace the allegations made against companies mining the six key minerals for the electric car, solar and wind...
The dirty business of clean power in B.C.

The dirty business of clean power in B.C.

SOURCE: Vancouver Sun DATE: May 14, 2019 SNIP: Journalist Sarah Cox takes on the dirty business of clean power in Breaching the Peace: The Site C Dam and a Valley’s Stand against Big Hydro. NP: Clean energy = Bad? Please explain. SC: Large hydro dams are a hugely expensive and destructive way to generate renewable energy. They are neither “green” nor environmentally friendly. Some of Canada’s leading scholars studied the Site C dam project and found that it will have more significant adverse environmental effects than any project ever examined in the history of the federal Environmental Assessment Act. Among other impacts, the Site C dam will destroy habitat for more than 100 species already vulnerable to extinction, including bird, plant, butterfly, bee and mammal species. The Site C dam and its reservoir will also eliminate some of Canada’s richest farmland, ancient wetlands called tufa seeps, old-growth boreal forests and a living laboratory for scientists to study how species adapt to climate change. The Peace River Valley, which would be inundated by the dam, is a flyway for migratory birds and is part of the boreal bird nursery. It hosts three-quarters of all B.C.’s bird species. As many as 30,000 songbirds and woodpeckers nest in the dam’s future flood zone, which stretches the equivalent distance of driving from Toronto to Niagara Falls when you include Peace River tributaries that would also be flooded. Just how “clean” big hydro dams really are is called into question by many scientists. One study by U.S. scientists shows that reservoirs produce considerably more carbon emissions than anticipated. About 80 per cent of these...
The Reason Renewables Can’t Power Modern Civilization Is Because They Were Never Meant To

The Reason Renewables Can’t Power Modern Civilization Is Because They Were Never Meant To

SOURCE: Forbes DATE: May 6, 2019 SNIP: Over the last decade, journalists have held up Germany’s renewables energy transition, the Energiewende, as an environmental model for the world. With Germany as inspiration, the United Nations and World Bank poured billions into renewables like wind, solar, and hydro in developing nations like Kenya. But then, last year, Germany was forced to acknowledge that it had to delay its phase-out of coal, and would not meet its 2020 greenhouse gas reduction commitments. It announced plans to bulldoze an ancient church and forest in order to get at the coal underneath it. Now comes a major article in the country’s largest newsweekly magazine, Der Spiegel, titled, “A Botched Job in Germany” (“Murks in Germany”). The magazine’s cover shows broken wind turbines and incomplete electrical transmission towers against a dark silhouette of Berlin. Over the past five years alone, the Energiewende has cost Germany €32 billion ($36 billion) annually, and opposition to renewables is growing in the German countryside. Solar and wind advocates say cheaper solar panels and wind turbines will make the future growth in renewables cheaper than past growth but there are reasons to believe the opposite will be the case. Der Spiegel cites a recent estimate that it would cost Germany “€3.4 trillion ($3.8 trillion),” or seven times more than it spent from 2000 to 2025, to increase solar and wind three to five-fold by 2050. Between 2000 and 2019, Germany grew renewables from 7% to 35% of its electricity. And as much of Germany’s renewable electricity comes from biomass, which scientists view as polluting and environmentally degrading, as from...
Fossil fuel expansion crushes renewables

Fossil fuel expansion crushes renewables

SOURCE: National Observer and BP DATE: September 20, 2017 SNIP: I read lots of articles these days pointing to the rapid expansion of renewable energy as a reason to be hopeful about our unfolding climate crisis. Unfortunately, the climate doesn’t care how many solar panels and wind farms we build. What determines our climate fate is how much climate-polluting fossil fuels we decide to burn. Renewables are great but only if they actually replace oil, gas, or coal. Sadly, rising renewables haven’t stopped our fossil fuel burn, or our atmosphere’s CO2 from continuing to rise. Instead, the new business-as-usual is one in which we keep expanding both renewables and fossil fuels at the same time. The best available science says we need climate pollution “reductions of 90 per cent or more between 2040 and 2070.” (see International Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment report.) But the latest energy data clearly shows we aren’t reducing fossil fuel burn. Just the opposite. We keep cranking the tap open wider every year. [T]he last decade’s increase in fossil fuels was so huge that it single-handedly exceeds all the renewable energy supply we’ve ever...