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The Duck Curve
From: greentechgrid  Posted: January 27th 2015

Last September the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project (DDPP) published a study of what actions are necessary in each of 15 countries in order to have a 50% chance of keeping surface temperatures to within 2°C limit adopted by nearly all countries. South Africa was one of the 15 and the conclusion was that we need to provide over 80% of our electricity generation from solar. (see graph). The naysayers say not, but there are now positive signs.

Due to large scale and growing deployment of solar and wind in California, the state is beginning to see big changes in demand from the grid. The daily demand curve is known as the 'Duck Curve' because of its shape. It is expected to show a deep saddle around 2pm when the sun is high. Then demand increases sharply towards evening. Forecasts were provided up to 2020, but already by mid-January, the saddle expected for 2020 was exceeded. The engineering limits of the grid were not stressed by the 'ramping up' of demand. More than once in the last year the price of electricity dropped below zero as supply exceeded demand during the saddle. But this shows that there is an economic case to be made for adding storage to avoid the saddle and to lessen the need to build more generating capacity.

Start-up companies are jostling to provide that storage (91 of them in the US alone) and some already have products on the market. We begin to see how the DDPP targets can be met and how SA can benefit enormously from adopting this approach.

Climate Change
From: The Guardian  Posted: January 26th 2015

A new study by Delavane Diaz and Frances Moore of Stanford University attempts to add the effects of increased temperatures on productivity to existing knowledge of the likely economic effects of climate change. Their study examines two scenarios - for richer countries and for poorer ones.

Hitherto, studies have ignored issues such as wildfires, erosion, health issues and decreased labor productivity in extreme weather. The new study finds that climate change is a much larger factor in reducing GDP in poorer countries when compared with richer ones. It used a modified version of the well known Dynamic Integrated Climate-Economy (DICE) model for the comparison. Their version (DICE-gro) corresponded well with older studies (DICE-2R), for rich countries, but differed markedly for poorer ones.

However, Moore and Diaz conclude that the social carbon cost rises to between about $70 and $400, with a best estimate of over $200 per ton. This suggests that even the new, higher US government estimate of $37 is too low. Using their data, The Guardian concludes that 'There’s a strong economic case for immediate aggressive efforts to cut carbon pollution.'

More Fracking Pollution Discovered
From: Climate Progress  Posted: January 22nd 2015

Earthworks and Clean Water Fund combined in a survey of two counties in California to investigate whether oil and gas operations were contributing to air pollution and, if so, whether the pollution caused health effects.

Their equipment included a FLIR camera which can detect methane and other invisible gases. The team also took physical samples of the air and analysed them separately. In all, 15 separate chemicals were detected that had known health effects and 11 where no studies have been made. The measurements were snapshots of the air and so need further, confirmatory research. But the because known carcinogens were amongst the harmful substances, the study raises many concerns.

In a separate study by Duke University, researchers found ammonium and iodides in fracking wastewater. These pollutants have not been monitored before and can have harmful effects on human and aquatic life. More than 1 trillion litres of wastewater are produced each year by fracking in the US. None of it has been specifically treated for these two new pollutants.

UK push to Ban Fracking
From: The Guardian  Posted: January 22nd 2015

From the summary of the UK government's influential Environmental Audit Committee in its report 'Risks of Fracking'.

"Extensive production of unconventional gas through fracking is inconsistent with the UK’s obligations under the Climate Change Act and its carbon budgets regime, which encompasses our contribution to efforts to keep global temperature rise below two degrees. Shale gas, like ‘conventional gas’, is not low carbon, and the objective of government policy should be to reduce the carbon intensity of energy whatever its source. Shale gas cannot be regarded as a ‘transitional’ or ‘bridging’ fuel. Any large scale extraction of shale gas in the UK is likely to be at least 10-15 years away, and therefore cannot drive dirtier coal from the energy system because by that time it is likely that unabated coal-fired power generation will have been phased out to meet EU emissions directives. It is also unlikely to be commercially viable unless developed at a significant scale, to be able to compete against a growing renewable energy sector, but large-scale fracking will not be able to be accommodated within still tightening carbon budgets. There is in any case little evidence to suggest that fracking could be undertaken at the scale needed to be commercially viable in the UK or that it will bring gas prices down significantly."


Sea Level Rise likely to have Accelerated Faster
From: RTCC  Posted: January 22nd 2015

Global sea level is particularly difficult to measure. It is not level at all, salinity, tides, winds and seabed rise or fall can each complicate calculations - a simple stick will not do. So researchers who reported a rise of 1.5 to 1.8mm per year in 1901 - 1990 may have overestimated it. A new study by scientists from Harvard and Rutgers Universities suggest it was more likely around 1.2mm per year at that time.

Before you breath a sigh of relief, with rise now running at a little over 3mm per year, that then means that the acceleration in the last quarter century has been much greater than previously thought. That in turn has consequences for future estimates.

On the Greenland ice sheet, lakes formed from melt-water suddenly disappear as vast volumes drain into the sheet itself and much of it drains through glaciers to the oceans. A recent study at UCLA estimated that the flow from these lakes reached 1.6million litres/second during the summer melting season.

We include one effect that is already happening to a native American tribe in Louisiana, but there are many more stories to come. Here's another.

Hype, Broken Promises and Shales
From: Deborah Lawrence  Posted: January 22nd 2015

Deborah Lawrence takes us through a brief summary of how shale gas and then tight oil were the objects of hype arising from the Oil and Gas Industry, Wall Street, investors, journalists and public officials and asks whether there was ever the possibility of the US becoming fossil-fuel independent.

Andrew Nikiforuk looks at how LNG is now a non-starter in British Columbia, where there are 24 separate proposals to build LNG terminals and export fracked gas to China. Here is an excellent example of how price volatility can suddenly turn profits into losses and massively reduce royalties. Better to steer clear of it in SA.

Art Berman takes a look at what might happen to prices in the near term, whilst Al Gore and Lord Stern review the attitudes of the oil majors and the devastating effects that the consequences could bring if the majors are allowed to have their way.

Access Infra Africa
From:   Posted: January 19th 2015

A $500million (R5.8bn) investment company called Access Infra Africa has been formed to provide funding for renewable projects throughout Africa, with a particular emphasis on solar energy. The company has substantial experience in its market and so we can expect it to choose projects which have excellent chances of success and high returns.

One week before, the Sishen solar farm, close to the N14 in Northern Cape, connected to the grid. The plant will produce electricity equivalent to the consumption of around 100 000 South African households a year and has a peak capacity of 94.3 MW. At its peak, the construction activity employed over 1000 workers in a region where jobs are scarce. In the US, solar PV has created job growth 20 times higher than the rest of the US economy.

Whilst the new company and the new solar farm are most welcome, their contribution is small beer compared with the effort that India has committed to: providing an additional 140GW of renewable energy by 2019. The 5 rounds of our REIPPPP are scheduled to produce 3.7GW of renewables by the end of next year. So India's scheme is 38 times the SA scheme, albeit over a longer time period, but with less than a quarter GDP per capita. SA needs much more solar and particularly rooftop solar, particularly when our one CPV project's supplier is ceasing production.


2014 had Record High Surface Temperature (Just)
From: Earth Institute, Columbia University  Posted: January 16th 2015

The Earth Institute, together with NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies, confirm that their GISTEMP analysis shows 2014 to have had the warmest land and ocean surface temperatures since records began. The comparison is traditionally made with average temperatures between 1951 and 1980. 2014 was 0.68°C above that.

But the increase over the previous record year (2010) is only 0.02°C, which is within the margin of error for these measurements. Nevertheless, in a year of marginal El Niño conditions, the record is sufficient to show that there is no 'hiatus' in warming.

The authors go on to discuss the prospects for 2015. Even with a fading away of the El Niño effect, the first half of the year is expected to show a continuing warming phase. Many of the El Niño researchers expect that to peter out, but it is interesting to note that two well respected research groups predict that El Niño will strengthen in the Northern Hemisphere spring.


From: Euractiv  Posted: January 15th 2015

Over 1000 aid groups have launched a campaign called 'action/2015'. Its aim is yet again to bring the dangers of climate change to the attention of the world's political leaders. It seeks simultaneously to eradicate poverty and provide a just and sustainable future world.

As part of its initial effort, action/2015 publishes an open letter to world leaders signed by 32 of the best known and most deeply concerned supporters of action to prevent dangerous climate change. Amongst them is our own Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. Here are the real global leaders on this issue, not our politicians.

Action/2015 is initially focusing on the September meeting of political leaders designed to update the Millennium Development Goals and COP21 in December in Paris, where agreement between nations on how to reduce GHGs is essential.

The Turning of the Tide against Fossil Fuels
From: Yale e360  Posted: January 13th 2015

Royal Dutch Shell and Qatar Petroleum just called off a US$6.5 billion project to build a petrochemical plant, due to the precipitous decline in oil prices.

Meanwhile, shale gas companies are struggling under a heavy debt burden and in very many cases selling their gas at prices which are below production cost. The first bankruptcy in their number occurred last weekend. Unless the price rises markedly in the coming months, or the US government is persuaded to supply massive subsidies, there are likely to be many more.

The fossil fuel industry is under great pressure heavily to reduce its GHG emissions, whilst its major clients are being encouraged to adopt low carbon solutions, which are becoming increasingly competitive. Grim times indeed, for an industry that is used to being able to use its financial muscle to further its own ends. However, our planet has an urgent climate problem and an obvious part of the solution must be to depend less on these fuels. Surpluses of oil and gas were always going to be part of that. A few crocodile tears are in order.

Chevy Bolt Interior

Meet the New Chevy Bolt
From: Climate Progress  Posted: January 12th 2015

Sales of the Nissan Leaf were fairly small beer at 30,200 in 2014, but that was an increase of 34% over the previous year. The Leaf's range of 135km. no doubt has restricted its acceptance, even though the running costs are a fraction of an ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle. However, Nissan plan to increase that to 320km.

Meanwhile Chevrolet have unveiled its new 'Bolt' as a concept car with production slated for 2017 and with a similar range. GM's CEO tells us that "Chevrolet believes electrification is a pillar of future transportation and needs to be affordable for a wider segment of customers."

Tesla has broken ground on its lithium-ion battery gigafactory in Nevada and the company expects to begin production of its Model 3 at around the same price, range and launch date. 2017 looks like becoming a milestone year for EVs. Without a U-turn on electricity generation policies in SA which would encourage rooftop solar, that will not happen here.


Poland's Shale Gas Revolution Evaporates
From: Guardian  Posted: January 12th 2015

In September 2014 3Legs Resources called a halt to its exploration for shale gas in Poland, citing disappointing results. Six weeks before, its CFO said it was "potentially on the threshold of a very significant result," involving "potentially hundreds of wells". The company is now planning to go into voluntary liquidation in 2015.

Prices for shale gas in Europe are elusive because little is produced. The closest guide is that of LNG, which has a close link to the price of oil. LNG prices have already fallen 30% since 2014 and are expected to fall a further 30% in 2015. Once the liquefaction, shipping and regasification costs are included, that will take LNG prices down to cost prices even in traditionally higher price markets such as Asia. This is due partly to an increase in exports from Australia and the US. A coming gas glut is likely to have been a factor in 3Legs Resources decision.

Amongst the main factors that have been quoted by the seven (out of 11) companies that have exited from exploration is the stiff resistance provided by the Polish population. Even where the nearest population lives in small villages, opposition has been mobilised in numbers by activists from elsewhere. Their resolve deserves our plaudits.


The State of the Climate Debate
From: Ian Perrin  Posted: June 13th 2014

"Kevin Anderson's blog of 5th June examines the US commitment to cut its emissions by 30 percent by 2030 and concludes that: The maths accompanying obligations to avoid 'dangerous climate change' demand fundamental change rather than rousing rhetoric and incremental action."

" View a 7 minute video clip of Michael Mann explaining the IPCC's conservatism and note that even the IPCC tells us that South Africa can expect temperature increases of 3 to 5C, without emissions reduction and that in turn implies consequences for food production."

"Ezra Klein, until recently a highly regarded political commentator with the Washington Post, wrote a piece entitled '7 Reasons America will fail on climate change' and Joe Romm of Climate Progress responded. Here we look at each of his 'Reasons' in turn and Joe Romm's response to each. "


Obama: ‘If Congress Won’t Act Soon To Protect Future Generations, I Will’
From: Joe Romm  Posted: February 13th 2013

"For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods – all are now more frequent and more intense."

"We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late."

"I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy."


TEDX study reveals more detail about the dangers of gas drilling
From Ian Perrin  Posted: 14th November 2012

"The study shows that air sampling near natural gas operations reveals numerous chemicals in the air, many associated with natural gas operations. Some of the highest concentrations in the study were from methane, ethane, propane, and other alkanes that occur as a result of natural gas operations"

"Although concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) found in this study appear low, they may have clinical significance."

We thank them sincerely on behalf of all South Africans for the effort they are making to understand the effects of drilling and fracking for natural gas that will result in better protection for our workers and communities alike. [Ian]

Greenhouse Gas Theory explained
From Ian Perrin  Posted: 24th October 2012

You might have gained the impression climate change caused by rising amounts of CO2 in our atmosphere is a contentious theory added only recently to our scientific understanding.

Not so – we can trace the basis for it all the way back to Isaac Newton's work in the early 1670's and the first, generally accepted theory around 1859, more than 150 years ago."

Here's our plain English version of the history of its development and some detail on the scientists involved.

We Must Heed James Hansen
From: Joe Romm & Michael Mann  Posted: 9th August 2012

"During the hot, dry summer of 1988, Hansen announced that 'it is time to stop waffling…. The evidence is pretty strong that the [human-amplified] greenhouse effect is here.'" Much criticism followed.

"Hansen, it turns out, was right, and the critics were wrong. Rather than being reckless, as some of his critics charged, his announcement to the world proved to be prescient – and his critics were proven overly cautious."

"Given the prescience of Hansen’s science, we would be unwise to ignore his latest, more dire warning."

"The time for debate about the reality of human-caused climate change has now passed. We can have a good faith debate about how to deal with the problem – how to reduce future climate change and adapt to what is already upon us to reduce the risks that climate change poses to society. But we can no longer simply bury our heads in the sand."

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