FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Megan Darby for Climate Change News:The Swedish government is expected to decide this week whether to allow the sale of some of Europe’s most polluting assets. At issue are state-owned Vattenfall’s brown coal mines and plants in Germany, which it wants to offload to Czech firm EPH.Olivia Linander of 350.org urged the ruling parties to “show they take the Paris Agreement seriously” by blocking the transaction.An opinion poll commissioned by Greenpeace, WWF and Swedish Society for Nature Conservation suggests the public is inclined to agree. Nearly half (49%) oppose the sale, compared to 27% in favour.The figures are similar among voters for the Social Democrats, whose minister Mikael Damberg is responsible for the decision: 49% against, 32% for.Vattenfall expects to lose US$2.7-3.3 billion in the transaction, yet argues it is cheaper than holding onto the loss-making business.Shedding the five opencast mines and four power stations will shrink the firm’s carbon footprint by two thirds – seen as desirable for its reputation and bankability.Gerard Wynn, analyst with the Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis, questioned whether it would really be more expensive for Vattenfall to decommission the mines.“If it is about brand, it is not great if you are potentially going to create a big mess in Eastern Germany,” he said. “Which is more important, bankers or your voters?”Sweden faces climate test as voters oppose brown coal sale Resistance in Sweden to Selling, Rather Than Closing, Lignite Mines and Plants in Eastern Germany
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Charleston (W.V.) Gazette:The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship’s appeal of his criminal mine safety conviction, the court announced Tuesday.Justices turned down Blankenship’s petition, including it on a weekly order list of more than 200 cases in which a request for a “writ of certiorari” — the type of order in which the Supreme Court agrees to hear a case — was denied without any reason given or further comment offered.In doing so, the court allowed to stand Blankenship’s conviction for conspiracy to violate federal mine safety and health standards at Massey’s Upper Big Branch Mine, where 29 miners died in an April 5, 2010 explosion.“We are pleased with but not surprised by the Supreme Court’s decision to deny the Blankenship petition,” said U.S. Attorney Carol Casto. “Now, hopefully, the families of those lost and others impacted by the UBB explosion and long history of safety violations can find some closure and begin the long and difficult process of healing.”Two years ago this month, jurors in U.S. District Court in Charleston began hearing testimony against Blankenship in the high-profile case involving charges against a coal executive who was once one of the region’s most powerful figures in a trial that focused on the rampant safety violations at Upper Big Branch in the months leading up to West Virginia’s worst coal-mining disaster in a generation.Blankenship, 67, was convicted of conspiracy to violate safety rules and then sentenced by U.S. District Judge Irene C. Berger to pay a $250,000 fine and spend one year in prison, both the maximum allowed under current federal law that classifies criminal mine safety violations as misdemeanors. Blankenship completed his one-year prison sentence in early May, and is currently serving his one year of supervised release. Berger recently modified the terms of Blankenship’s supervised release so that he could report to probation officials in Las Vegas, where he now lives.Earlier this year, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond affirmed Blankenship’s conviction.Blankenship had argued on appeal that Berger incorrectly instructed the trial jury that Blankenship’s ”reckless disregard” of federal mine safety standards amounted to the criminal willfulness needed for a conviction and that Berger was wrong to deny the defense the chance for a second cross-examination of former Massey official Chris Blanchard, a major government witness. Coal industry lobby groups from West Virginia, Ohio and Illinois had warned that Blankenship’s conviction would pave the way for coal executives to be prosecuted for making “tough decisions” necessary to “operate a successful company.”More: US Supreme Court won’t hear Don Blankenship’s appeal U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Appeal of Coal Exec Convicted in 29 Miner Deaths
New York’s ambitious offshore wind plans can benefit from advances in Europe FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Greentech Media:New York state will look to the world leader in offshore wind deployment for advice on how to connect sea-based projects to mainland grids.European nations have together installed nearly 16,000 megawatts of offshore wind capacity. The United States has thus far managed just one 30-megawatt project, the Block Island Wind Farm, off Rhode Island.Earlier this month, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office announced that the New York Power Authority (NYPA) would lead a study of successful offshore wind transmission models, particularly in Europe, to determine the most cost-effective way to build interconnections for the 2,400 megawatts of capacity to be installed off the coast of New York by 2030.“This came out of work both NYSERDA [New York State Energy Research and Development Authority] and NYPA had been doing to try to investigate how New York state can bring down the cost of offshore wind and reach the governor’s offshore wind target, 2,400 megawatts,” Robert F. Lurie, executive vice president and CFO of NYPA, told Greentech Media in an interview. “In order to do that much offshore wind,” he added, “we at NYPA felt that one of the unexplored areas for cost reduction was the transmission part of the equation.”According to New York’s offshore wind master plan, transmission could account for 30 percent of the total project costs of an offshore wind farm.In July, New York’s Public Service Commission confirmed the timeline for the first phase of the state’s offshore wind deployment. In the fourth quarter of this year, NYSERDA will issue a solicitation for 800 megawatts of offshore wind, in coordination with NYPA and the Long Island Power Authority. Winning bids are scheduled to be announced in the second quarter of 2019.According to Lurie, developers for that first 800 megawatts of offshore wind capacity will likely be responsible for building the transmission to connect the projects to onshore grids. But based on the findings of the new transmission study, different models could be employed for future projects.“In the longer term, as we build out a much higher volume of projects, we need to investigate other options for how to bring the costs down for transmission,” he said.The study aims to answer a series of questions. Who should own transmission? A public entity? One or more private entities? Or a consortium of entities? Who should finance transmission?And how should projects be connected to mainland grids? Should planners opt for radial interconnections (a single cable connecting an individual project to the onshore grid), or a networked solution in which a few major connections act as hubs to connect distant offshore projects to online transmission?Advice from EuropeSoon after New York announced the launch of its transmission models study, Wilfried Breuer published an op-ed at NJ Spotlight, a New Jersey politics and policy website, advising policymakers to follow Europe’s example and keep offshore wind project generation and transmission separate. Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order in January directing New Jersey regulators to put the state on a path to deploy 3,500 megawatts of offshore wind by 2030.Breuer is managing director of TenneT Offshore and a member of the executive board of its parent company TenneT Holding B.V. TenneT is a transmission system operator (TSO) that has connected 5,300 megawatts of offshore wind in Germany and the Netherlands to mainland grids.“Building an offshore grid separately from the wind farms and offering access to the power grid on a nondiscriminatory basis is the key to creating a level playing field for competition between offshore generators,” he wrote.He went on, “As can be seen in the declining prices offered by those generators in Germany and the Netherlands, providing access to an offshore grid stimulates innovation and cost reductions in the offshore wind industry.”More: New York Looks to Europe for Successful Offshore Wind Transmission Models
U.K. plans for a U.S.-style fracking boom not happening FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享CNN:The United Kingdom once hoped that fracking would unlock its shale energy reserves, enhancing the country’s energy security and creating jobs and new tax revenues in the process. That now looks unlikely to ever happen.Only three wells have been fracked in the country to date, according to a report this week from the National Audit Office (NAO), which monitors government spending. The U.K. government had been hoping for 20 wells by the middle of 2020.The NAO cites multiple factors for the slow start: Public support for fracking was weak to begin with and has dropped over time. The size of U.K. shale reserves remains unknown and the cost effectiveness of extraction has not been studied by the government.Even more dramatic, each of the three wells have caused earthquakes more powerful than the 0.5 magnitude threshold that requires a pause in operations, according to the NAO. The most recent was a 2.9 magnitude quake in August.In 2016, fracking accounted for more than two-thirds of all oil and natural gas wells drilled in the United States, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.U.S. oil production has more than doubled over the past decade to about 12 million barrels per day. The United States briefly overtook Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world top oil exporter in June, according to the International Energy Agency.In addition to environmental concerns, the fracking industry faces another big challenge: the cost of renewable energy is falling fast.The U.K. government wants the country to become a global leader in renewables and plans to derive a third of its electricity from offshore wind by 2030. For fracking, the game may already be up.More: The UK once hoped for an American-style fracking boom. It’s not happening.
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享The Jakarta Post:The government aims to complete this year a study into replacing several aging fossil fuel-fired plants with renewable energy plants as it races against time to catch up with its green goals.The study, which began in January, not only includes mapping potential renewable sources but also future growth in targeted regions, the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry’s director general for electrification, Rida Mulyana, said on Monday. It is being conducted by state-owned electricity company PLN as the operator of the aging plants.“We are still gathering data right now,” said Rida, who is also a PLN commissioner. “There are a lot of plants and they are quite spread out. We can’t study them randomly, but this has to be done one by one. This needs time.”Indonesia has 2,246 diesel-fired power plants (PLTD) that are over 15 years old, 16.2 percent of which are in Aceh, ministry data shows. These plants have a combined installed capacity of 1,778 megawatts (MW).Southeast Asia’s largest economy aims to make renewables contribute 23 percent to its power production by 2025, yet regulatory headwinds are setting the country back from achieving the goal. Existing regulations stipulate that Indonesia should have reached a 17.5 percent renewable power mix by 2019, yet the country achieved only 12.36 percent that year.Indonesia also has 23 coal-fired power plants (PLTU) that are over 20 years old and 46 combined-cycle power plants (PLGU) of similar ages. The former have a combined capacity of 5,655 MW and the latter 5,912 MW. Most of these aging plants are located on Java Island. In comparison, PLN’s total installed capacity is 42,350 MW as of December last year, according to government data.[Norman Harsono]More: Government studies plant to convert old power plants into renewables Indonesia studying plan to replace aging diesel generators with renewable energy
U.S. coal-fired generation hit hard by coronavirus, falling electric demand—Rhodium Group FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享E&E News ($):Coal-fired electricity and oil demand suffered record drops between mid-March and mid-April, according to a new study examining the widespread impacts of the novel coronavirus pandemic across the energy sector.The analysis Friday from the Rhodium Group found electricity demand was “weaker” over the past month, partly because of warmer temperatures along with the pandemic. The demand plunge slammed U.S. coal generation, which averaged 16.4% of the U.S. total over the last month, compared with 22.5% over the same period last year.For the week of April 8-14, coal fell further, averaging 15% of total U.S. power generation, with wind and solar generation surpassing coal during a three-day period for the first time in recorded history, the analysis said. Coal’s decreased share of total generation was also affected by lower natural gas prices, the brief said.“Coal generation has borne the brunt of the electricity demand decline,” the analysis said. It followed a report earlier this month finding that renewable energy had surpassed coal for generating electricity in the first quarter of 2020 — the first time that has happened in a three-month period.Coal last year accounted for 23.5% of U.S. electricity generation, followed by nuclear and renewables at 19.7% and 17.5%, respectively, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.Rhodium said that coal’s decreased share is subject to change if the pace of new solar and wind construction is slowed by “COVID-driven economic weakness.” Still, the report noted: “[E]xisting renewable assets have so far fared considerably better than their coal-fired peers.”[Carlos Anchondo]More ($): ‘Coal generation has borne the brunt’
Energy transition prompts Peabody to write down value of largest U.S. coal mine by $1.42 billion FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):The largest coal mining company in the United States substantially lowered the value of one of its top-producing thermal coal assets based on low expectations for future coal demand.Peabody Energy Corp. impaired the value of its North Antelope Rochelle coal mine in Wyoming by $1.42 billion in the second quarter. Peabody said it was lowering the expected value of the coal mine, the largest in the United States, because of assumptions regarding lower long-term natural gas prices, the timing of coal plant retirements, and continued growth from renewable generation.“While we still believe coal is essential to a reliable energy grid and that our [Powder River Basin] assets are best positioned to serve that demand … we do expect coal’s long-term share of the U.S. generation mix to remain below prior-year levels,” Peabody CFO Mark Spurbeck said on the company’s Aug. 5 earnings call.Production from the North Antelope mine has dropped drastically in recent years. U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration data shows the company produced about 30.7 million tons of coal in the fourth quarter of 2014, a near-term high for the mine. Quarterly production from North Antelope dropped below 20 million tons for the first time in recent history in the first quarter of 2020, and second-quarter production totaled just 14.0 million tons. Peabody delivered coal from North Antelope to 84 power plants across the U.S. in 2019, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data.“This is a clear signal that Powder River Basin coal production isn’t coming back and the multi-year decline that was prevalent before the pandemic will continue long after the virus is gone,” Shannon Anderson, the staff attorney for the Powder River Basin Resource Council, said in an emailed statement about the impairment. “It’s time for Wyoming leaders to think about what comes next for our communities, coal miners, and our revenue streams.”Peabody Energy had $6.54 billion in total assets as of the end of 2019 but reported $4.95 billion in total assets on its balance sheet as of the end of June. Including the impairment, the company booked a $1.54 billion net loss, or $15.78 per share, in the quarter.[Taylor Kuykendall]More ($): Lower expectations drive Peabody’s $1.42B impairment of largest U.S. coal mine
International Finance Corporation tightens rules on coal plant financing FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Reuters:The World Bank’s private-sector arm has introduced new climate change conditions for its investments in commercial banks to encourage the lenders to wind down support for coal projects in Africa and Asia.The International Finance Corporation (IFC), which owns equity stakes in many large commercial banks in emerging markets, hopes the restrictions will trigger other investors to exit the coal sector.“I think this is an important milestone. If we look historically, our environmental policies and procedures have been adopted by both other development finance institutions and the market in general,” Peter Cashion, head of climate finance in the IFC’s Financial Institutions Group, told Reuters.Under the new rules, in effect since July last year but published on Sept. 17, the IFC will no longer make equity investments in financial institutions that do not have a plan to phase out support for coal. The IFC will also use various conditions attached to its existing and new equity investments to ensure that the banks involved reduce their exposure to coal to zero by 2030.The IFC exerts considerable influence over commercial banks in emerging markets, which often turn to the Washington-based lender for both access to capital and the kind of governance expertise that helps them build credibility among investors.Apart from the IFC’s being a major investor in its own right, its standards are widely adopted by the private sector.[Matthew Green]More: World Bank’s IFC adopts new climate rules to deter lenders from backing coal
Lisa Stewart is curator at Appalachian Bear Rescue (ABR) in Townsend, Tenn., near Great Smoky Mountains National Park. ABR admits injured and orphaned cubs captured by wildlife officers from all over the Eastern U.S., rehabilitates them, and releases them into their home sites. The rescue has helped 100 black bears since admitting their first cub in 1996.What’s the chance of seeing a black bear in the wild during the winter? Black bears do not really hibernate in the South. We call it a winter’s nap instead. Males may be on the move all winter, while female bears den if they’re having cubs. But black bear movements do slow down in the winter, so their bodies can handle the lack of available food.How fast can a black bear run? Could I outrun one on a mountain bike? Black bears can run up to 35 miles per hour. And they can run as fast uphill as they can downhill. They’re very agile, climbing trees quickly and scaling down them like a fireman on a pole.What sort of dens do black bears establish in the Southern Appalachians? Most female black bears and their cubs will reside in trees because it’s safer. Otherwise, they’ll take to caves, abandoned dens of other animals, or dig an underground den. Male bears will go from one day bed to the next, sleeping in giant “bird’s nests” of sticks and grass. Black bears can have a feeding range up to 10 square miles that they’ll travel daily. Generally, they stick to a five-mile area surrounding their den.
Pardon my bragging, but I have a small group of friends who are quite accomplished adventurers. We’ve done things. Biked all the way across the Pisgah Ranger District. We’ve snow-camped at 5,500 feet in the middle of a blizzard. We’ve ridden our bikes 150 miles from one brewery to the next. We’ve run through the night, as a team, with a DJ accompanying us while carrying a boom box on his shoulder. We’ve raced serious time trials in cut off jean shorts. We’re worldly. Follow our advice for planning your next epic adventure, be it a formal race or three solitary nights in the woods, and you too will come out the other end far more worldly.1. Don’t bother training. Got a race with a distance you’ve never even driven before? Wing it. It’s best to go in with fresh legs. I don’t care what your Cat 2 racing neighbor says, you can ride 100 miles in the summer heat without logging any tempo workouts. Look, anybody can race in their peak performance shape, but only a few of us have the courage to tackle the challenge with a pudgy belly.2. Leave the map in the glove box. I like maps when they’re hanging on a wall and marking the spot for pirate treasure, but they have no place in the backcountry. Ditto for compasses. And don’t get me started on GPS. If Columbus had a GPS, he never would have discovered America. Think about that.3. Fact: hydration is important. Fact: beer hydrates. That’s not just mumbo jumbo, there’s real science to back that up. Not only does beer hydrate your body, it hydrates your mind. I’ve gotten some of my best adventure ideas while hydrating at a local hydrating establishment. I find it’s best to keep hydrating throughout the epic adventure.4. Agendas are meant to be broken. Having a plan of attack is all well and good, but sticking to a strict “schedule” feels a bit like school, doesn’t it? Try this the next time you’re planning a multi-day backpacking trip: Write down what time you need to be at the trailhead, how long you plan to hike each day, and where you’ll camp each night. Then burn that plan, eat an enormous breakfast at the Waffle House, take a nap, and show up to the trailhead six hours late so you’re forced to hike for three hours in the dark just to reach the next flat campsite. That’s the way real adventurers do it. 1 2