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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How an Indian Architect is Sucking Carbon Emissions Out of the Air and Turning it into Stylish Tiles

An Indian architect has developed a revolutionary new way to serve the housing needs of a population, while also fighting air pollution.

Tejas Sidnal is the mastermind behind Carbon Craft Design: a Mumbai-based startup that specializes in capturing carbon emissions from the air and turning it into stylish tile.

Using a device called the AIR-INK, the company is able to draw CO2 out of the polluted city air, combine it with a mixture of marble chips and powder, and then press it into elegantly-designed tiles.

Since Sidnal says that India is in need of maintaining the world’s third largest housing industry, his sustainable tile recipe can help meet the industry demand for building materials in an eco-friendly way.

(WATCH the Great Big Story video below)

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Unemployed Single Women Are Saving Fish and Making Money by Farming Sea Sponges

This article was reprinted with permission from World At Large—a news website which covers politics, nature, science, health, and travel.

In an area characterized by poverty, overexploitation of sea resources, and high rates of unemployment, these women from Zanzibar are beginning to farm sea sponges as a more reliable source of income.

Organized by Marine Cultures, a small Zanzibar-focused nonprofit headquartered in Zurich, 3 to 4 sea sponge farms are being launched every year to help unemployed and single mothers support their families.

Historically relying on seaweed for income, the people of Jambiani have been unable to rely on the trade because of disruptions in production from diseases and pests, and the crop’s low market price worldwide.

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Marine Cultures’s Christian Vaterlaus recently detailed how sponge farming became the primary idea for saving the livelihoods of these seaweed farmers in an article published in PANORAMA: a platform hosted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for nonprofits and other organizations to host solutions that benefit the natural world.

Trial and error

“When searching for alternative means of income, many aspects such as the know-how of the parties involved, eco-friendliness, market opportunities, investment requirements, general acceptance of the method, scalability, and availability of resources need to be considered,” wrote Vaterlaus. However, “aquaculture of sponges was identified to be a suitable alternative to seaweed farming promising substantially higher incomes.”

A research trip to Southeast Asia and the Pacific yielded this idea after the group witnessed an organization working with community members to farm sea sponges and invertebrates with materials and methods that were both sustainable and very cheap.

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Sea sponges are used around the world as shower luffas and sustainable methods for removing makeup and paint. Since the sponges are anti-allergenic, dermatologists often recommend them for washing infants or for those with sensitive skin.

After Marine Cultures opened up their first sea sponge farm in Zanzibar back in 2009, they started testing more than 120 species of sponges to find one that was not only suitable for use in the bath, but also sustainable and environmentally harmless.

“We had to invest a lot of time to figure out best farming methods,” writes Vaterlaus.

Photo by Marine Cultures

Acquaculturalist’s almanac

Since their sponge farming operation was slow to get off the ground, Marine Cultures also started coral farming for the international aquarium trade in 2014.

Vaterlaus says that aquaculture practices—such as sea sponge farming—is “like land-based agriculture where years of experience and trial and error are key to shape best practices.” That being said, the hard work can certainly pay off; one single farm can feed 2 to 3 large families while 3 new farms can be launched each year.

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In contrast to pearl or fish farming, a sponge farm can be started with little to no effort while simultaneously empowering local women to learn the skills of a fisherman, marine biologist, merchant, entrepreneur, swimmer, and farmer all at once.

“To save the created jobs in the long-term, the coastal communities of Zanzibar have to learn more about the sea, the importance of corals, sea grass, mangroves and biodiversity to manage their natural marine resources themselves sustainably,” added Vaterlaus.

Photo by Marine Cultures

Sponge farming 2020

A Marine Cultures update published in February 2020 says the sponge farming operations are going well. The older sponge farms managed by some of the Jambiani women are producing more sponges these days than in previous years, as ecological conditions improve and knowledge is shared among participants.

Shemsa is just one of the Zanzibar women who have found success in sea sponge farming. She told Marine Cultures: “We’ve always lived in the lagoon with sponges—but only now have we learned how they help us to improve our lives and those of our children.

“Sometimes something is very close to us without us knowing how to make money with it,” she added. “Thanks to my training as a sponge farmer, I can feed my family, build my own house and have electricity. We may never achieve all of our goals, but I have already achieved half of mine.”

Reprinted with permission from World at Large

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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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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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In Groundbreaking Vote for Sustainability, EU Moves to Approve Insects for Human Consumption

As famed adventure television host, world record holder, former British Special Forces operator, and all around feel-good motivational guy Bear Grylls repeatedly reminded us on his television programs Man vs Wild and Running Wild, insects have more protein than beef or fish—sometimes as much as 8x more, if measured pound for pound.

After a long television career of pounding back worms, grubs, spiders, crickets, and ants for our amusement, Grylls would certainly be applauding the new proposed European Union legislation that would allow for mealworms, lesser mealworms, crickets, and locusts to be sold as “novel food sources,” pumping life into an industry that, while small, produces 500 tons of food annually according to The Guardian.

The products include things like cricket protein bars, locust aperitif, or mealworm burgers, and the new regulations from the European Food Safety Authority are likely to open the floodgates for insect food to flow from countries where they are made like Holland, the UK, Denmark, Belgium, and Finland, into countries where they are banned, such as Italy, France, and Spain.

“We reckon these authorizations will be a breakthrough for the sector,” Christophe Derrien, secretary general of the International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed, added.

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“They are taking the necessary time, they are very demanding on information, which is not bad. But we believe that once we have the first novel food given a green light from EFSA that will have a snowball effect.”

Companies in the Netherlands, France, Switzerland and Spain are all preparing to ramp up operations to prepare for the demand, perceiving through market signals that people actually want insect food.

Chirps Chips submitted

An Obvious Solution

Insects have been part of the staple diet of many world cultures, even now in modern times. They represent a rich source of animal protein that is practically immune to extinction, and just like traditionally harvested animals are perfectly safe to eat if you can control the conditions in which they live.

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With some of the most basic brain functions of anything in kingdom Animalia, insects are also less-likely to offend the sensibilities of vegetarians who, being more likely to be vitamin B12 deficient than omnivores, might be able to utilize the occasional cricket bar as a means of supplementing their plant based diet with bioavailable and dietary sources of B12 which can’t be made by plants, coming only from bacteria which live on plants.

Furthermore, unlike hoofed mammals, the process of enteric fermentation which, using the United States as an example, accounts for a small percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions (about 2.5% in the U.S.) is absent in insect agriculture, and so there’s a small potential reduction in GHG emissions to be gained from a switch.

Lastly trillions of insects are killed every year both by combine-harvesters and pesticides to protect major crops like wheat, rice, soya, corn, and cotton, representing millions of tons of lost nutrients. And, in a world where many communities are protein-deficient, insect products might never be more needed.

Multiply The Good By Sharing The Exciting News With Your Friends On Social Media — Photo by Chirps Chips

Newly-Developed Enzyme That Breaks Down Plastic Bottles in Hours is On Track to Change the Recycling Game

Utilizing an enzyme found within composted leaves, scientists are now breaking down plastic all the way into a recyclable form in a matter of hours.

Carbios, the French company responsible for the breakthrough, is already collaborating with Pepsi and L’Oréal to unleash industrial market-scale production of the new substance within five years.

“We are the first company to bring this technology on the market,” the deputy chief executive at Carbios, Martin Stephan, told The Guardian. “Our goal is to be up and running by 2024–2025, at large industrial scale.”

Their discovery, which sources described as a major advance, joins an arsenal of solutions for plastic pollution control that have appeared over the last decade.

Just like Boyan Slat who took on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or the bracelet folks at 4Ocean who took on the problem of ocean pollution in rivers, the scientists from the University of Toulouse are applying their breakthrough to another part of the problem—the recycling of plastic.

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Plastic isn’t straightforward to recycle. There are common varieties of plastic made from multiple layers of different esters, each one requiring different equipment or temperature to breakdown. And, there are a lot of plastic esters that could be recycled but aren’t because the market value for the recycled material is so low it can’t financially sustain the operation.

In the scientist’s paper published in Nature, they detail how poly(ethylene terephthalate) PET, the most common polyester plastic, loses much of its mechanical utility when heated for recycling. Therefore, creating new material is preferred, and PET waste continues to accumulate.

Their new enzyme achieves a minimum of 90% de-polymerization in just 10 hours, meaning that the polymers—large complex particles, become monomers—small single particles in less than a day, and perhaps even more amazing, end up as biologically depolymerized plastic that can actually be reused to create things like plastic bottles.

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While manufacturing plastic bottles from recycled PET made by this enzyme would cost about 4% of the amount needed to make new bottles from fresh petroleum, the recycling infrastructure, including the grounding up and heating of the plastic bottles before the enzyme is added would still make it more expensive in the end.

Nevertheless, the future is bright for this technology. Co-enzymes could be synthesized, companies could produce more inexpensive recycling infrastructure—both of which could finally bring down the cost of producing recycled plastic goods.

Carbios has also begun tackling the normally unrecyclable plastic film problem. In an alliance with several other European companies under the name Carbiolice, they demonstrated a plastic film last year that can be compostable in home or municipal compost piles. Their objective will be to address the markets of plastic films and single-use bags—and later on, rigid packaging and disposable tableware.

“These milestones reinforce our ambition to offer the market circular economy solutions that are both competitive and eco-friendly, and which will revolutionize the end of life for plastics and textiles.”

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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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Free Market Forces Will Obliterate Global Coal Reliance Within 10 Years, Says Study

Contrary to the image of greedy fossil fuel billionaires lobbying politicians for favors, it is now the free market, not world governments, that are doing the most to advance the use of clean renewable energy.

In the most basic sense, it is no longer a lucrative business path to invest in carbon emission-heavy sources. Today, investing in coal projects is more expensive—across all world energy markets—than renewables. In as little as 10 years, it will be cheaper to build renewables than to run coal power resources, much less build new ones.

How much more expensive? Right now, the report estimates that the cost of operating and investing in coal—not in Europe, but in the U.S., India, and China—is about 50% more expensive than renewables. By 2030, that number doubles to 100% assuming market forces remain constant rather than intensify, which they are likely to do.

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“The market is driving the low-carbon energy transition, but governments aren’t listening,” writes Matt Gray, co-head of power and utilities for Carbon Tracker, and co-author of a new global economic report about coal investments entitled “How to Waste Half a Trillion Dollars.”

“Renewables are outcompeting coal around the world and proposed coal investments risk becoming stranded assets which could lock in high-cost coal power for decades.”

Indeed, the number of countries in which it is cheaper in invest and operate renewable energy assets could make someone optimistic about the future since most underdeveloped Asian energy markets, as well as the three biggest coal consumers on earth, would all save money switching to renewables, according to this helpful infographic from the report.

However, many of these countries still have nationally-planned coal power projects either in early investment stages, or already in production.

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As repeatedly demonstrated by the national debt of the US government, a stranded asset is manageable for most nations, but insufferable for a private firm that is unable to borrow more dollars every year than they invest.

It is an economic term for an asset—like a coal plant—which will cease to generate returns even before the end of its economic life. These carbon-heavy facilities not only have a slow rate of return and open the door for market competition from renewables, they also are becoming more expensive to invest in, build, and operate, than they are to make returns for those investors.

That is partially why free market economic forces are working where many governments are failing; it costs a lot of money to build electricity-generating resources, and since banks and financial institutions are the largest funders of energy projects, they simply aren’t willing to finance coal power projects, choosing instead to invest in solar and wind resources.

Vietnam: a Greenhouse Government

The government of Vietnam is currently considering backing away from 15 gigawatts of proposed coal power as financial constraints make it a harder to build new plants, which it wants to do in order to increase economic development.

The proposed projects would allocate 50% of energy production to coal-fired plants, but an end to the deal would see it drop to 37%, with others like hydroelectric and gas remaining stable, and renewable energy swooping in to cheaply meet the demand and fill the gap in supply.

Much of the nation’s energy projects are funded by investors in other coal-fired East Asian nations like Japan and South Korea, as well as powerhouse lender Singapore. After a recent aligning of principles with EU nations to restrict coal financing, however, many coal projects in Vietnam will be left stagnating with the government’s only options being to either finish the projects with taxpayer money or listen to market forces and move into cleaner energy production.

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On the other hand, private sector giants like Sir Christopher Hohn, who is the billionaire hedge fund manager and co-founder of the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), threatened to sue British banks Barclays, Standard Chartered, and HSBC over the financing of new coal projects.

“Coal is the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions globally and the risks of its continued use in the power sector are not being adequately addressed by regulators and the financial system,” he said in a statement on the CIFF website.

Irresistible Market Forces

A high price of carbon and significant investment in renewable energy has created a very unfriendly market for coal in the EU, while “How to Waste Half a Trillion Dollars” finds that today, even big coal consumers like China, India, and the U.S. are on the right path and “not far behind” the EU in terms of renewable energy investments.

“The report finds that market forces will drive coal power out of existence in deregulated markets, where renewable energy developers will take advantage of the growing price gap,” reads the report summary on Carbon Tracker’s website. Across the world, 6,700 coal plants produce 2,045 gigawatts of energy, and another 1,000 or so accounting for another 500gw are in early stages of production or investment.

As the cost of investment, production, and operation of coal plants continues to increase as market forces push investors further and further towards renewables, hundreds of billions of dollars in energy markets the world over will become available at a lower cost, and coal could become twice as expensive, and begin to rapidly vanish—even in large coal-consuming countries like China and India, within just 20 years.

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A report from Reuters found that coal power generation fell worldwide by 3% in 2019, while wind and solar power contributed 270 more terawatts, or an additional 15%, to grids. The research went on to illustrate how this growth would be needed every year for 15 years in order to meet the Paris Agreement targets. The power generation would have to continue to fall from 3% to 11% to prevent 1.5 degrees celsius of warming—the rough estimate of wiggle room needed to avoid the worst effects of global climate change.

Money talks—and if coal production will rise from from 50% to 100% in the U.S., India, and 60% to 100% in China, in just ten years, it means that far from unlimited growth targets being met for investors, coal barons will have to cope with a 5% yearly rise in capital requirements, as well as any future blows coal might be forced to absorb such as carbon taxes, coal embargoes, and other brutish legislative measures.

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Amsterdam is Enjoying Quieter Canals as Boats Go Electric Years Ahead of Diesel Ban

The buzz and rumble of boats passing through Amsterdam’s famous canal system is one of the most iconic traits of the Dutch city.

However, a newly-elected Green Party mayor is pushing to transform the second-most popular form of transportation in the city into an all-electric powered force for a cleaner Amsterdam.

Soon, the sound of diesel-powered boat engines could be consigned to history since the city is now planning to ban the diesel engine before 2025.

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The city’s commercial fleet is already close to achieving that goal since 75% of the city’s 550 commercial vessels are already meeting the planned emissions-free regulation, according to Reuters.

The news outlet goes on to say that contractors are expected to install 100 more boat charging stations by the end of 2021. Furthermore, startup Skoon Energy will be launching a floating charging station this week to help with grid balancing.

Although there are still several thousand recreational vessels that are still in need of emission-free upgrades, the canal’s new infrastructure is expected to quicken the city’s transition to cleaner waterways.

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Fashion Industry Eyes Alternative Leather Made Out of Cactus–And it’s Sustainable and Eco-Friendly

Photo by Adriano Di Marti

Two men have succeeded in developing an alternative to animal leather made out of Mexican cactus—and it could save millions of animals worldwide.

Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez created their vegan fabric out of the nopal cactus and spent two years researching and developing their design. They then perfected the manufacturing process in July and unveiled the fabric to the fashion world in Milan, Italy in October.

The entrepreneurs realized the environmental impact of animal leather spending years working in the furniture, automotive, and fashion industries. Upon quitting their jobs, they co-founded Adriano Di Marti to find an innovative leather replacement.

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Their patented “Desserto” fabric is made out of cactus leaves that are sustainably harvested every 6 to 8 months. The material is designed to breathe easily while still being durable and partially biodegradable. In addition to the cactus-based material requiring a minimal amount of water to develop, it is grown organically in the Mexican state of Zacatecas.

The material, which is available in a variety of colors produced using natural dyes, has now been used to make everything from bags and automotive seating to shoes and jackets.

(WATCH the video below)

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Swedish Oat Milk Pioneers Offer a Successful Win-Win Path to Struggling U.S Dairy Farmers

Self-proclaimed as the manufacturer of the world’s only true 100% environmentally-friendly dairy-free yogurt, Hälsa Foods is sharing their secret of success with struggling American dairy farmers.

Scandinavians Helena Lumme and Mika Manninen, the co-founders of Hälsa—which is Swedish for health—use oats to make their ‘oatgurt’ and milk drink substitutes.

Research has shown that oats crops are far more sustainable than the production of coconut, almond, or rice milk which create a more negative impact on both the ecosystems and the workers.

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“We are currently importing our organic oats from Scandinavia because we cannot find the quality that meets our standard in the United States,” Lumme and Manninen explain.  “At the same time, U.S. dairy farms are struggling due to slumping milk sales. So we thought, why not come up with a solution that benefits both of us—and our planet?”

Hälsa, which is headquartered in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, did just that by advancing their oat outreach with a structured program to help small U.S. dairy farms—stung by recent trade wars—to stay in business by converting their pasturage to oat crops.

A dairy farming business in the New York town of Hoosick was the first to jump onboard with Hälsa’s conversion process. The farm, with 200 dairy cows, consists of 300 acres of certified-organic land overlooking the Vermont border.

Helena Lumme and Mika Manninen

“We’re excited to get started,” said Eric and Jamie Ziehm, co-owners of the High Meadows of Hoosick farm. “Our goal is to build a biodiverse and biodynamic ecosystem that has the ability to regenerate its resources. We hope this will have a positive impact and also inspire our fellow farmers who are facing many challenges today.”

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Hälsa is not the only business with Scandinavian roots now catering to America’s exploding desire for oats as a dairy substitute. Swedish manufacturers Oatly opened a $15 million production facility for their oat beverage in New Jersey, and their products are now available in 7,000 stores nationwide.

But, Bloomberg Business News reports there is plenty of demand, with sales up nearly 700% since 2017—from $4.4 million a year to $29 million.

Hälsa sources their ingredients with organic, non-GMO oats that haven’t been exposed to any glyphosate-containing pesticides. Their products contain no artificial ingredients and are sold throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states at ShopRite, Fairway Market, Fresh Direct, all NYC airports, and at select New York metro area stores.

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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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Designer Works to Erect First Modern Village to Generate its Own Electricity–and Food–in 100% Sustainable Loop

An American architect has put his own money and years of struggle on the line to begin building a modern neighborhood that would generate its own power using a closed loop system that would also recycle all the waste and generate all the food.

Officials in the Netherlands have given James Ehrlich an initial green light to construct at least one eco-village 30 minutes outside of Amsterdam, and he hopes to break ground on the project sometime this year.

Ehrlich founded ReGen Villages in 2016 as a startup company intending to disrupt the way the world thinks about housing, development and transportation, and how these CO2-heavy sectors can be overhauled to create a green, self-sustaining lifestyle.

The master plan is for 200-300 homes in the town of Almere where infrastructure permits were approved in 2018.

The vision is a grand one: While incorporating entirely self-sustainable systems for waste management, water treatment, and food production, electricity would be generated through solar, biogas from food and animal waste, and geothermal sources.

Special aquaponic gardens would combine fish farming with aquatic agriculture that allow residents to cultivate a sustainable micro-ecosystem to produce fish and produce.

Rendering by ReGen Villages

Human waste would be composted to feed the ecosystems, with the fish waste providing a critical source of fertilizer for the gardens.

But there are two bigger issues for ReGen Villages: “The two greatest challenges we face are financial support and political will,” the founder told the New York Times.

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Design rendering by ReGen Villages

The company is trying to wrap up a funding round of €16 million in private equity investment for operating expenses needed for the first village and for “master planning the next couple of concurrent developments.”

The homes, to be situated on at least 61 acres of land in the Oosterwold District, would cost according to DutchReview magazine between €200,000 to €850,000 ($216,000–$918,000) depending on the size and luxury of the house.

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Continuing the closed-loop ecosystem model, each family home will have a greenhouse attached to it for growing personal crops, and rainwater catch-and-filter systems. The energy and food systems would be managed by ReGen’s staff, but residents could also work in the communal farming systems to reduce the monthly cost of their food and energy fees, which would be charged along with their mortgages.

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Disaster Breeds Invention: Philippine Residents Use Volcanic Ash to Repair Damaged Buildings

While a volcanic eruption doesn’t conjure many reasons for celebration, residents of Binan, Philippines have utilized the immense destructive power of nature and turned it into an unorthodox opportunity.

Tens of thousands of grey bricks, produced with the very ash from the recent eruption as well as cement and discarded plastic have been made for the purpose of repairing the parts of the city damaged by the eruption on January 12th, providing a short economic stimulus, and even reducing amounts of plastic in the city’s landfills.

After the Taal volcano erupted last week on the island of Luzon, the mayor of the city of Binan asked residents to collect the fine grey ash deposited all around the city by Taal and place it in sacks to be sent to a state-owned factory.

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“Instead of just piling up the ashfall somewhere, we are able to turn it into something useful. And it includes plastics, too,” said city environmental officer Rodelio Lee, according to DW.

So far, 5,000 bricks are being produced per day, all of which contain some plastic waste in addition to the ash. In the midst of a natural disaster, Binan has essentially created a massive recycling opportunity.

“When the ash came, we thought we’d exchange the white sand which we mix with plastics to be converted into bricks with ash. We did it and they came out sturdy,” city Mayor Walfredo Dimaguila told Reuters.

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“What we plan is to turn them into hollow blocks and bricks and sell them to interested companies,” he said, adding that the proceeds would be donated to residents affected by the volcano.

Positioned on the Pacific Ring of Fire, communities in the Philippines are often under threat from erupting volcanoes, with Taal being one of the most formidable in the region.

(WATCH the news coverage below) – Photo by Reuters

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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