Oil and coal losing, solar and electric cars winning

Pope Francis urges fossil fuel companies to protect ‘our garden home’

Pope Francis meets with leaders of global oil industry at the VaticanLast week (June 9) Pope Francis spoke to a gathering of international oil company executives at a Vatican-hosted energy conference “Energy Transition and Care for Our Common Home”.

Expanding on the environmental philosophies he put forth in his 2015 document Laudato Si, the Pope said “Civilization requires energy, but energy must not be used to destroy civilization!”

He urged the fossil fuel executives to work towards the goals set in the 2015 Paris Agreement on limiting the emission of carbon dioxide emission and greenhouse gases.

He noted the poor pay the highest price for climate change linked to emissions and added that “The transition to accessible and clean energy is a duty that we owe towards millions of our brothers and sisters around the world, poorer countries and generations yet to come.”

Perhaps his most powerful words echoed the teachings of many indigenous peoples: “There is no time to lose. We received the Earth as a garden home from the Creator. Let us not pass it on to future generations as a wilderness.”

While the head of the Catholic church is obviously an important and powerful person to be addressing these corporate heads, Quartz points out that while many western-based companies like Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Exxon and Statoil were in attendance, many other companies which are based in Arab and Muslim nations did not attend.

»» Read a CNN account of the Pope’s appearance
»» Read the Quartz article and list of attendees

Solar speeds shuttering of huge coal-fired plant

Navajo Generating Station in ArizonaWith the closure of the Texas ‘Big Brown’ facility in February Arizona’s Navajo Generating Station is the largest coal-power plant in the western United States. It has been under intense scrutiny and scrambling efforts to fend off its closure for the past several years.

One of those efforts involved the federal Interior Department urging a regional water utility, the Central Arizona Project, to extend a contract to purchase power from the smoke emitter.

But the utility, having known for some time that the closing of the coal plant might be imminent, started investigating other power sources, including solar and other renewables.

The area’s High Country News outlet reports that “On Thursday, despite the Interior Department’s recommendation, CAP’s board voted to sign a 20-year power purchase agreement with a solar company.”

This happened the same week a leaked memo (Scribd) from the Department of Energy outlined a plan to keep coal and nuclear plants alive in the name of ‘national security’.

The Sierra Club writes that one of the challenges of the coal plant’s situation is that even while dumping enormous amounts of carbon dioxide and toxic chemicals into the air, it also provides jobs and royalty payments to members of the local Hopi Tribe and Navajo Nation.

»» Read more at High Country News

Chinese EV make Byton gets a half billion, announces new car

Byton, the electric car startup from China, announced Monday (June 11) that it has raised $500 million for the launch next year of a production electric car.
According to The Drive who spoke with Byton CEO Dr. Carsten Breitfeld, “the largest single investor is Chinese state-owned automaker FAW Group”. FAW, which contributed around $250 million, is one of China’s largest domestic automakers and could provide relevant manufacturing expertise. Another investor is CATL, which will provide batteries for Byton’s electric cars, Breitfeld said.

From Fortune: “In January, Byton unveiled its tech-centric all-electric SUV concept at the big tech trade show CES. The base version of the car, which starts at about $45,000, will have a 71-kilowatt-hour battery pack that can travel 250 miles on a single charge. Byton told Fortune this base model will be able to charge its battery 80% in 30 minutes. A more expensive version, figures the company didn’t provide, will be four-wheel drive and be able to travel 325 miles on a single charge.”

And only a few hours after announcing the new investment, The Verge reported on Byton’s new fully autonomous electric sedan which is slated to hit the streets in 2021: “The concept, named K-Byte, is just a tease of the sedan Byton says it will start manufacturing in 2021. The headlining feature? The company is promising that the car will be capable of Level 4 autonomous driving, according to the scale set by the Society of Automotive Engineers, meaning it could take a person from point A to B without ever requiring that they take (or even be ready to take) control.

»» Read more at The Drive
»» Read more at Fortune
»» Read more at The Verge

Father of Photovoltaics‘ takes home global prize

Australian scientist Martin Green, Professor at University of New South Wales, and Director of the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics at the school, has been awarded the 2018 Global Energy Prize, beating out Elon Musk and a host of 43 other contenders. Oh, and taking home a cash prize of $820,000 Australian.

Professor Green is known as ‘The Father of PhotoVoltaics’ for good reason.

From Renew Economy (Australia)

“In 1989, his team supplied the solar cells for the first photovoltaic system with an energy conversion efficiency of 20 per cent.

In 2014, he headed the development team that first demonstrated the conversion of sunlight into electricity with an efficiency of 40 per cent.

Professor Green also invented the PERC solar cell, which accounted for more than 24 per cent of the world’s silicon cell manufacturing capacity at the end of 2017.”

To give you some idea of what an effect Professor Green has had on the world of solar cells and the energy revolution in general, take a look at the chart leading off this article, from GreenTechMedia. It shows what is called Lazard’s Levelized Cost of Electricity. It is not an uncomplicated formula that is used, but you don’t need a physics degree to see that solar – the line that starts really high on the left side of the graph, has fallen dramatically in price over the years. Obviously for a lot of reasons, but one of the key ones is the work of Martin Green.

And he suggests it is only going to get better:

“If you look at the figures from the last few years growth has consistently stayed at around 40 per cent a year,” Green said. “If it keeps growing at that rate, we’re looking at hitting a terawatt of solar production in 2024. “Even if it slows to growth of 20 per cent a year, we are on track to reach production levels of a TW a year in the late 2020s.”

“And that’s the area where you can really start cutting greenhouse gases.”
Congratulations and Thank You!

»» Read the full article at Renew Economy

Images: The Vatican, Wikicommons, Byton, GreenTechmedia/Lazard. Icons: made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com

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