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Weekly Highlights | From the drawbacks of a blue hydrogen economy to the key role of energy storage

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By illuminem

· 5 min read

1. For Many, Hydrogen Is the Fuel of the Future. New Research Raises Doubts

By the New York Times

  • There is an emerging consensus that an hydrogen economy that still relies on natural gas could be damaging to the climate, even if carbon capture measures were applied
  • Hydrogen would ultimately need to be made using renewable energy to produce what the industry calls green hydrogen. Hydrogen made from fossil fuels could still act as a transition fuel but would ultimately be a small contributor
  • Today very little hydrogen is green, because the process involved is hugely energy intensive and costly

2. Oil and gas: a risky business

By Wood Mackenzie

  • There are big differences in risk profile between different hydrocarbon assets. Not all oil and gas projects are the same
  • Oil is deemed riskier than gas, which is viewed as a critical fuel for the energy transition. Therefore, oil assets could be discounted at 15%; gas at 10% (the standard discount rate)
  • Emerging carbon policy and climate litigation have driven risks in traditionally low political risk countries

3. U.S. Coal Consumption Falls To 60-Year Low

By Forbes

  • The Covid-19 pandemic caused a record 4.2% drop in global coal consumption in 2020, with a growing disparity between coal consumption in OECD and non-OECD countries
  • The only exceptions have been Vietnam and China, showing an increase both in coal consumption and production
  • U.S. coal consumption and production were at the lowest level since 1965, causing a sharp decline in the U.S. CO2 emissions

4. Energy storage potential

By PV Magazine

  • As solar and wind grid penetration continues to increase, there is a growing need to time-shift energy generated by renewables to cover more of the day, something batteries are well placed to do
  • The United Kingdom has been among Europe’s leading markets for battery storage
  • Renewables developer Penso Power connected the largest battery seen in Europe to date to the U.K.’s grid – the 100 MW Minety battery project located in southern England

5. The global electric vehicle race is heating up

By Wood Mackenzie

  • In 2050, we will see 875 million electric passenger vehicles, 70 million electric commercial vehicles and 5 million fuel cell vehicles on the roads (56% of the total global sales)
  • Volkswagen will surpass Tesla by the mid-2020s to be the leading electric vehicle automaker. Nissan-Renault and Hyundai will also surpass Tesla in annual sales by the end of the decade
  • High-price and the lack of charging infrastructure have been widely cited as barriers to adoption. However, price of battery packs continues to drop (the US$100/KWh threshold is expected to be reached by 2024) and the charging points are projected to grow to 64 Mln (6 public; 58 residential) by 2030

6. Climate repair: three things we must do now to stabilise the planet

By The Conversation

  • Reduce: about 70% of world economies have net zero emissions commitments over varying timescales. However, this alone is not enough
  • Remove: taking CO₂ and equivalent greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere, involves creating new CO₂ “sinks” (e.g. with forest planting, mangrove restoration, wetland and peat preservation)
  • Repair: the immediate challenge is to stabilise the planet, achieving a manageable equilibrium that gives a last chance to shift to renewable energy and towards a circular global economy. The most urgent effort is to refreeze the Arctic, interrupting a bleak spiral

7. Oil Giants Turn to Startups for Low-Carbon Energy Ideas

By the Wall Street Journal

  • Energy giants including BP and Shell are bolstering their venture capital arms (increasing budgets, hiring more staff and doing more deals) seeking out new low-carbon technologies to help future-proof their profits
  • Venture spending by oil companies represents only a small amount of their annual investment budgets. Nevertheless, BP, Shell and TotalEnergies are now among the most active clean-tech investors by number of deals closed
  • Some clean-tech entrepreneurs (and employees of the startups) have been reluctant to sell to fossil fuel companies

8. How Big Tech can save money and fight climate change at the same time

By the Los Angeles Times

  • Five of the 10 largest buyers of corporate air travel in the U.S. are technology companies: Amazon, IBM, Google, Apple and Microsoft

  • During last year’s lockdowns, even when commercial flights were reduced to zero for many months, the profits of Amazon and other large technology firms soared
  • If concern for climate justice won’t cure Big Tech’s corporate flying addiction, maybe money will. The good financial performance of the last year could eventually convince firms to reduce the number of corporate flights

9. The $8bn EV company you’ve probably never heard of

By the BBC

  • Arrival is an electric vehicle start-up based in the UK and listed on the US Nasdaq stock market which focuses on commercial vehicles
  • The company was founded by Russian billionaire Denis Sverdlov and has already a deal to supply 10,000 vans to UPS
  • Since it is widely accepted that electric vehicles are lower total costs of operation than fossil fuel vehicles, Arrival is worth more than $8 billion

10. Litigation increasingly the ‘only option’ when big emitters fail to address climate change

By Energy Monitor

  • In May 2021, Shell was ordered by the Dutch court to curb its emissions in a landmark ruling, which has had far reaching consequences
  • The power of law has been getting traction as a climate action tool for already several years; in fact, it is used by almost any activist, NGO and scientist all around the world
  • Litigation is increasingly used against both governments and big companies, and will stick around until they give an adequate answer to climate change
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