Downtown Sydney is Now Powered By 100% Renewable Energy Thanks to Historic Deal

In the middle of Australia’s largest city the downtown business borough is now officially powered by 100% green energy thanks to the “largest standalone renewables agreement for an Australian council to date.”

The City of Sydney, which is home to a quarter-million people, has begun sourcing all of its energy from two solar farms and the largest wind farm in all of New South Wales.

The transition was facilitated through a power purchase agreement (PPA) with electricity retailer Flow Power. Although the historic deal costs AU$60 million, the initiative is expected to save AU$500,000 every year, according to Euronews.

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The initiative is also expected to purge roughly 20,000 tons of CO2 from the city’s carbon footprint—roughly 70% of its total output—before 2024, which is several years earlier than its original goal.

“Cities are responsible for 70% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, so it is critical that we take effective and evidence-based climate actions,” said Sydney Mayor Clover Moore.

“The City of Sydney became carbon neutral in 2007, and were the first government in Australia to be certified carbon neutral in 2011,” she added. “This ground-breaking $60 million renewable electricity deal will also save our ratepayers money and support regional jobs in wind and solar farms in Glen Innes, Wagga Wagga, and the Shoalhaven.”

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Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions Estimated to Fall by 8% in 2020—the Largest Recorded Drop in History

The COVID-19 pandemic represents the biggest shock to the global economy in more than seven decades, but new research says that the outbreaks are likely to result in a record-breaking 8% annual decline in carbon emissions—the largest decrease in history.

A new report released this week by the International Energy Agency (IEA) provides an almost real-time view of the COVID-19 pandemic’s extraordinary impact across all major fuels. Based on an analysis of more than 100 days of real data so far this year, the IEA’s Global Energy Review includes estimates for how energy consumption and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions trends are likely to evolve over the rest of 2020.

“Only renewables are holding up during the previously unheard-of slump in electricity use,” said Dr. Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director. “It is still too early to determine the longer-term impacts, but the energy industry that emerges from this crisis will be significantly different from the one that came before.”

The Global Energy Review’s projections of energy demand and energy-related emissions for 2020 are based on assumptions that the lockdowns implemented around the world in response to the pandemic are progressively eased in most countries in the coming months, accompanied by a gradual economic recovery.

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The report projects that energy demand will fall 6% in 2020—seven times the decline after the 2008 global financial crisis. In absolute terms, the decline is unprecedented—the equivalent of losing the entire energy demand of India, the world’s third largest energy consumer.

Advanced economies are expected to see the biggest declines, with demand set to fall by 9% in the United States and by 11% in the European Union. The impact of the crisis on energy demand is heavily dependent on the duration and stringency of measures to curb the spread of the virus. For instance, the IEA found that each month of worldwide lockdown at the levels seen in early April reduces annual global energy demand by about 1.5%.

Changes to electricity use during lockdowns have resulted in significant declines in overall electricity demand, with consumption levels and patterns on weekdays looking like those of a pre-crisis Sunday. Full lockdowns have pushed down electricity demand by 20% or more, with lesser impacts from partial lockdowns. Electricity demand is set to decline by 5% in 2020, the largest drop since the Great Depression in the 1930s.

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At the same time, lockdown measures are driving a major shift towards low-carbon sources of electricity including wind, solar PV, hydropower and nuclear. After overtaking coal for the first time ever in 2019, low-carbon sources are set to extend their lead this year to reach 40% of global electricity generation—6 percentage points ahead of coal.

Electricity generation from wind and solar PV continues to increase in 2020, lifted by new projects that were completed in 2019 and early 2020. An additional report from energy research group BloombergNEF says that wind and solar power are now the cheapest sources of new energy development for two-thirds of the world’s population.

This trend is affecting demand for electricity from coal and natural gas, which are finding themselves increasingly squeezed between low overall power demand and increasing output from renewables. As a result, the combined share of gas and coal in the global power mix is set to drop by 3 percentage points in 2020 to a level not seen since 2001.

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Coal is particularly hard hit, with global demand projected to fall by 8% in 2020, the largest decline since the Second World War. Following its 2018 peak, coal-fired power generation is set to fall by more than 10% this year.

After 10 years of uninterrupted growth, natural gas demand is on track to decline 5% in 2020. This would be the largest recorded year-on-year drop in consumption since natural gas demand developed at scale during the second half of the 20th century.

Renewables are set to be the only energy source that will grow in 2020, with their share of global electricity generation projected to jump thanks to their priority access to grids and low operating costs. Despite supply chain disruptions that have paused or delayed deployment in several key regions this year, solar PV and wind are on track to help lift renewable electricity generation by 5% in 2020, aided by higher output from hydropower.

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“This crisis has underlined the deep reliance of modern societies on reliable electricity supplies for supporting healthcare systems, businesses and the basic amenities of daily life,” said Dr. Birol. “But nobody should take any of this for granted—greater investments and smarter policies are needed to keep electricity supplies secure.”

As a result of these trends—mainly the declines in coal and oil use—global energy-related CO2 emissions are set to fall by almost 8% in 2020, reaching their lowest level since 2010. This would be the largest decrease in emissions ever recorded—nearly six times larger than the previous record drop of 400 million tonnes in 2009 that resulted from the global financial crisis.

“Resulting from … economic trauma around the world, the historic decline in global emissions is absolutely nothing to cheer,” said Dr Birol. “But governments can learn from [the 2008 crisis] by putting clean energy technologies—renewables, efficiency, batteries, hydrogen and carbon capture—at the heart of their plans for economic recovery. Investing in those areas can create jobs, make economies more competitive and steer the world towards a more resilient and cleaner energy future.”

Reprinted from the International Energy Agency

This is just one of many positive stories and updates that are coming out of the COVID-19 news coverage this week. For more uplifting coverage on the outbreaks, click here.

File photo by rabiem22, CC

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Record-Breaking Amounts of Solar Electricity Generated in Germany After String of Sunny Days

Good News Network recently explained how traditional consumer-driven supply and demand market forces are pushing coal further and further to the edge of the bed (and economic ruin), like a sprawling spouse kicking the blankets toward the cold tile floor.

A recent string of cloudless days in Germany saw the country’s solar energy production climb above 32,000 megawatts in a single day last week—smashing the previous record set on March 23rd, according to a report from Bloomberg News.

The sunny days are slated to continue, according to the German weather service DWD.

These sunny days mean that solar power is generating around 40% of the total baseline in Germany, with all their renewables together accounted for 78%, while coal and nuclear power trailed behind with only 22%.

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By 2038, renewables are predicted by the German government to make up 80% of total grid production. And owners of coal plants understand that it could become completely unsustainable to continue financing operations many years before that milestone is achieved.

A Death Rattle for Coal

In Europe, it’s already 100% more expensive to finance, supply, staff, and operate a coal-fired power plant compared to a renewable facility, while in historically coal-glutted nations like the U.S., India, and China, it’s already 50-60% more costly.

The recent lockdown orders for COVID-19 in Germany could have had a measurable effect on the sunny days as well, as the reduction in air pollution from things like car exhaust has already been recorded as significant in countries like India, where residents have been able able to see the Himalayas on the horizon for the first time in 30 years.

File photo by Nathan Dumlao, CC

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Not only are the shutdowns rewarding the solar market with clearer skies, but the already lagging coal market is taking further body blows as demand plummets from the shutdown of stores and office buildings. In Germany, renewable sources are the first to enter grid circulation, and since the decrease in energy demand, consumers are actually using less power than is available, meaning the electricity generated from a coal plant might be not only unutilized—but unpaid for.

The services desired by consumers are simply being fulfilled by those most readily capable of fulfilling them.

This not only applies to Jane and John Smith turning on the lights in their house, but buyers and sellers in the energy sector. The simple explanation is as follows. Johan runs an energy investment firm, and when looking to buy shares of a power producer, his maximum price for carbon-based power is 5,000 euro per share, and for renewable power, 8,000 euro per share. He can afford to pay more for renewables because he stands to make more money from those shares.

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Jurgen, who runs a carbon-based power source, can only afford to sell at 10,000 euro per share, because of current market demands for renewables. This difference of valuation of 5,000 euro between Jurgen and Johan prevent a sale from being made, and so Jurgen must either find a willing buyer, a way to reduce operating costs, or another energy project.

Whether catalyzed from climate activism, science, or whichever technology costs the least to operate, these simple supply and demand forces are causing people to put their money in renewables—and money-talks.

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Exciting New Data Says Renewables Accounted for Almost Three Quarters of New Energy Capacity in 2019

In an exciting reported victory for sustainability, new renewable power accounted for a whopping 72% of all global power expansion in 2019.

According to new data released last week by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the renewable energy sector added 176 gigawatts (GW) of generating capacity globally in 2019, although this was notably lower than the (revised) 179 GW added in 2018.

However, IRENA’s annual Renewable Capacity Statistics 2020 shows that renewables expanded by 7.6% last year with Asia dominating growth and accounting for 54% of total additions. While expansion of renewables slowed last year, total renewable power growth outpaced fossil fuel growth by a factor of 2.6, continuing the dominance of renewables in power expansion first established in 2012. Solar and wind contributed 90% of total renewable capacity added in 2019.

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“Renewable energy is a cost-effective source of new power that insulates power markets and consumers from volatility, supports economic stability and stimulates sustainable growth,” said IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera. “With renewable additions providing the majority of new capacity last year, it is clear that many countries and regions recognize the degree to which the energy transition can deliver positive outcomes.

“While the trajectory is positive, more is required to put global energy on a path with sustainable development and climate mitigation—both of which offer significant economic benefits,” continued Mr. La Camera. “At this challenging time, we are reminded of the importance of building resilience into our economies. In what must be the decade of action, enabling policies are needed to increase investments and accelerate renewables adoption.”

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Renewables accounted for at least 70% of total capacity expansion in almost all regions in 2019, other than in Africa and the Middle East, where they represented 52% and 26% of net additions respectively.

The additions took the renewable share of all global power capacity to 34.7%, up from 33.3% at the end of 2018. Non-renewable capacity expansion globally followed long-term trends in 2019, with net growth in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, and net decommissioning in Europe and North America.

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Solar added 98 GW in 2019, 60% of which was in Asia. Wind energy expanded by close to 60 GW led by growth in China (26 GW) and the United States (9 GW). The two technologies now generate 623 GW and 586 GW respectively—close to half of global renewable capacity. Hydropower, bioenergy, geothermal and marine energy displayed modest year on year expansion of 12 GW, 6 GW, 700 MW, and 500 MW respectively.

Asia was responsible for over half of new installations despite expanding at a slightly slower pace than in 2018. Growth in Europe and North America increased year on year. Africa added 2 GW of renewable capacity in 2019, half of the 4 GW it installed in 2018.

Want to learn more? Read the “Highlights of the key findings” or the full IRENA report.

Reprinted from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)

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These New Solar-Pavement Driveways Made of Plastic Bottles Can Power the Average Household

Photo by Platio Solar

Solar panel driveways may soon be powering all our households with clean electricity thanks to this Budapest-based startup.

For the last five years, Platio Solar has been developing new ways of implementing solar technology into urban spaces—and one of their latest developments is a residential solar paneled driveway made out of recycled plastic bottles.

According to a video that was published by the company last week, the solar system is the first to generate power from the pavement of a residential household.

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Each “Platio Solar Paver” is made from 400 polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles—one of the most common forms of consumer plastic. Compressed into pavers, the material becomes more durable than concrete while still being non-slip and sustainable.

The system can either be used to generate electricity for a residential household or power an electric car. According to the company’s website, a 20-square-meter (215-square-foot) Platio driveway system has the capacity to cover the yearly energy consumption of an average household.

The company is now offering resell opportunities and installation quotes for their driveway systems available in brown, blue, red, and green designs.

(WATCH the demonstration video below)

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Scorched Australia is Getting Power Back Thanks to New Solar Grids Funded by Philanthropist Couple

Since the bushfires and flooding across southern Australia have left dozens of communities without power, several tech companies have begun installing solar panels and electrical grids with astonishing speed thanks to a philanthropist couple.

Mike and Annie Cannon-Brookes have donated $12 million towards the creation of the Resilient Energy Collective—a coalition dedicated to setting up sustainable microgrids across Australia.

The collective, which utilizes electrical batteries from Tesla and solar systems from 5B, has already deployed two clean energy grids for rural sites in New South Wales and Victoria. Prior to their installation, firefighters and locals had been depending on diesel generators for electricity during the bushfire season. In addition to these generators being particularly costly and high-maintenance, they also emit large amounts of pollutants.

The collective is now working with energy providers across the country to prioritize 100 more sites for microgrid installation.

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The initiative is similar to how Tesla used solar-powered grids to restore electricity across Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in 2017. Now, Mr. Cannon-Brookes—who is also the co-founder and CEO of the Atlassian tech company—says that the coalition has been installing their own microgrids in as little as two days.

“In three weeks we’ve come together, found the technology, adapted it, put it on trucks and right now, it’s operating, generating electricity,” Cannon-Brookes told Eco Generation in a statement.

“That’s what this collective is all about; getting the best tech and the best ingenuity together to solve a massive problem, in days, not months or years.”

Photos by Resilient Energy Collective

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Impelled by Reactor Meltdown, Fukushima Japan Vows to Achieve 100% Renewable Energy Use in 20 Years

Nine years ago, an earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan caused one of the most significant nuclear disasters in human history in the area around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, where the resulting reactor meltdown led to the evacuation of 150,000 individuals.

Now, the local government has vowed to restructure the grid of the north western prefecture to use entirely renewable energy sources by 2040. Fukushima is the third largest administrative district in the country, and uniquely includes a variety of energy resources like prime spots for solar and wind farms, and also opportunities for geothermal power as well.

Working to achieve these ambitious goals, Fukushima Prefecture signed a memorandum of understanding in the field of renewables with the Ministry of Environment for the German state of North-Rhine Westphalia, the largest energy-producing state in Germany—and Europe as well—in August of 2017.

North-Rhine Westphalia has doubled their renewable energy infrastructure over the last 15 years—growing it to deliver 9% of total energy production.

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Since 2012, however, Fukushima has tripled its renewable energy production, with solar, wind, water, thermal, and biofuel resources totaling 1,500 megawatts of electricity, delivering a contribution of nearly 18% of Japan’s total yearly energy consumption.

Additionally, 300 billion yen ($2.75 billion) for the project has already been fronted by sponsors such as the state-owned Japan Development Bank and Mizuho Bank. The funding will be used to construct 11 solar farms and 10 wind farms over the next 4 years. The new projects also include biomass plants, geothermal stations, even fleets of sea-going windmills.

The proposed new grid, spanning 80 kilometers, would reach the Tokyo metropolitan area and contribute 600 megawatts of electricity, replacing much of the power which, up until recently, the city had received from the pair of Fukushima atomic energy plants.

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Beyond moving away from its robust infrastructure and dependence on atomic energy, Japan is also the third largest importer of coal and natural gas, and a massive change in energy independence would help Japan reach its ambitious goals set forth in the recent UN climate change panel in Madrid last month.

The country’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, irrespective of the Fukushima Prefecture’s own energy objectives, is targeting 24% total energy from renewables nationally by 2030.

Power Up With Positivity By Sharing The Good News With Your Friends On Social Media — File photo by Tokyo Electric Power Co., TEPCO, CC

Oil-Dependent Canadian Province Launching New Solar Farm Next Year—One of the Largest in the World

Canada will soon be welcoming the largest operating solar energy project in the country—and it is also being hailed as “one of the largest in the world”.

Back in August, Greengate Power Corporation received approval from the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) to construct and operate its $500 million Travers Solar project with a total generating capacity of 400 MW.

The company now expects to begin construction of the project sometime during the first half of 2020, with full commercial operations targeted for 2021.

Greengate is an industry leading, privately-held Canadian renewable energy company based out of Calgary. Since 2007, Greengate has successfully developed close to 600 MW of operating—or near-operating—wind energy projects in Alberta and Ontario, including the 300 MW Blackspring Ridge Wind Project, which is currently the largest operating wind energy project in Canada.

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These projects represent well over $1 billion of investment and provide a clean source of power to more than 250,000 homes. Greengate is currently pursuing the development of close to 1,000 MW of new solar and wind energy projects as it continues to grow as an industry leading producer of clean renewable energy.

For perspective, the two biggest solar power facilities currently operating in Canada maintain a capacity of about 100MW. Since Alberta averages about 300 days of sunlight per year, the Travers Solar project is expected to power as many as 110,000 homes and offset 472 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year.

The project will utilize about 2.5 million PV modules across 4,700 acres (1,900 hectares) of land in Vulcan County, Alberta.

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The AUC conducted an extensive review of the project and found that its approval is in the public interest considering its social, economic, and environmental effects, particularly in accordance with the Alberta Hydro and Electric Act.

“We are very pleased to have received approval for what we expect will be Canada’s largest solar energy project and one of the largest in the world,” said Dan Balaban, President and CEO of Greengate. “This continues our successful track record, having already developed some of the largest renewable energy projects in the country. We anticipate that Travers Solar will bring significant investment, employment and clean renewable energy to Alberta while strengthening the province’s position as a global energy and environmental leader.”

Power Up With Positivity By Sharing The Good News With Your Friends On Social MediaFile photo by Intel Free Press, CC