Friday, October 15, 2021

UK: Electric trains ditched for diesel as green power costs skyrocket 200%

ELECTRIC trains are being ditched for diesel alternatives as the price to power them is said to have skyrocketed 200 percent in a worrying step backwards during a global energy crisis.

Rail freight operators are now reportedly being forced to halt their electric locomotives and revert back to diesel trains in a move set to increase carbon emissions and journey times. Logistic firms have said soaring wholesale energy prices and a boost to track access charges has made electric, low-carbon trains impossible to run at an affordable cost.

The move comes as the COP26 climate summit approaches where world leaders will meet to discuss their climate goals, and it is likely to put Britain in a weaker position.

The Rail Freight Group, the industry voice for the sector said: “Some operators have had to take the regrettable decision to temporarily move back to diesel locomotives."

It comes after electricity prices triples as the UK tumbles into an energy crisis, with gas prices rising to record highs too.

The crisis has pushed some energy firms over the edge, with Pure Planet, which is backed by oil giant BP, and Colorado joining the list of energy firms recently going bust.

Pure Planet supplies gas and electricity to around 235,000 domestic customers, while Colorado Energy has around 15,000 domestic customers.

Other companies to go bust include Avro Energy, People's Energy and Green Supplier Limited.

Their collapses came as rising prices sent shocks to supply chains.

But while electricity prices soar and diesel makes a comeback, Rail Freight Group pointed out that only emitted over three-quarters less carbon than road haulage even when using diesel locomotives.

A Rail Freight Group spokesperson said: “The current significant increase in the wholesale cost of electricity for haulage means that some operators have had to take the regrettable decision to temporarily move back to diesel locomotives.

“A 200 percent increase in electricity costs for each train cannot be absorbed by the operators, or customers, and so necessary action is being taken to ensure that trains can continue to operate delivering vital goods across the country.


China goes rogue on energy - threatens to humiliate UK at COP26

China has announced plans to increase its reliance on coal as the energy crisis deepens, threatening a huge blow to the UK's ambitions for a landmark global agreement on phasing out the resource at COP26 climate change summit later this month. China has been hit hard by the energy crisis currently gripping the planet, with thousands of homes and factories plunged into darkness in rolling blackouts over recent weeks.

Now, Beijing has said it will ramp up coal use, hinting at a rethink of its timetable to slash emissions.

In a statement after a meeting of Beijing’s National Energy Commission, the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, stressed the importance of regular energy supply.

As many as 20 Chinese provinces are believed to be experiencing the crisis to some degree, with factories temporarily closed, shops lit with candlelight and reports of mobile networks failing after a three-day outage hit the northeast.

China is already the world's largest consumer of coal, relying on the resource for 56 percent of its power. China had previously published plans to reach peak carbon emissions by 2030 and reduce emissions to become carbon neutral by 2060.

Analysts have said that for China to reach the 2060 goal, some 600 coal-fired power plants would have to shut.

In the statement announcing the new coal plants, there appeared a hint at a change in the plan, saying the crisis had led the Communist party to rethink the timing of this ambition, with a new “phased timetable and roadmap for peaking carbon emissions”.

The statement said: "Energy security should be the premise on which a modern energy system is built and the capacity for energy self-supply should be enhanced.

“Given the predominant place of coal in the country’s energy and resource endowment, it is important to optimise the layout for the coal production capacity, build advanced coal-fired power plants as appropriate in line with development needs, and continue to phase out outdated coal plants in an orderly fashion.

The statement added: "Domestic oil and gas exploration will be intensified.”

This renewed reliance on coal appears at odds with President X Jinping's recent pledges to stop building coal plants abroad.

The announcement will be causing serious concern in the UK ahead of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow and could derail a key focus.

Alok Sharma, the UK’s president-designate of COP26, has said an agreement to phase out coal power is a key aim of the summit.


Biden Administration Announces 'Ambitious' Offshore Wind Plan

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced the administration is moving forward with an "ambitious" plan to develop large-scale wind farms “along nearly the entire coastline of the United States,” according to The New York Times.

“The Interior Department is laying out an ambitious roadmap as we advance the Administration’s plans to confront climate change, create good-paying jobs, and accelerate the nation’s transition to a cleaner energy future,” said Haaland.

To meet the administration’s wind energy goal by 2030, Haaland said the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management could hold up to seven new offshore lease sales in the next four years in the Gulf of Maine, New York Bight, Central Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and offshore the Carolinas, California, and Oregon.

“This timetable provides two crucial ingredients for success: increased certainty and transparency. Together, we will meet our clean energy goals while addressing the needs of other ocean users and potentially impacted communities. We have big goals to achieve a clean energy economy and Interior is meeting the moment," she added.

Still, there is no guarantee that companies will lease space in the federal waters and build wind farms. Once the offshore areas are identified, they will be subject to lengthy federal, state and local reviews. If the potential sites could harm endangered species, conflict with military activity, damage underwater archaeological sites, or harm local industries such as tourism, the federal government could deem them unsuitable for leasing.

As they have in response to other offshore wind farms, commercial fishing groups and coastal landowners will likely try to stop the projects. In the Gulf of Mexico, where oil and gas exploration is a major part of the economy, fossil fuel companies could fight the development of wind energy as a threat to not only their local operations but their entire business model.

“To be making these announcements, and making them in ways that are very political, without looking at what that means, what area, when we still don’t know what the effects are going to be of these projects is really problematic,” said Anne Hawkins, executive director of the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance, a coalition of fishing groups. “In an ideal world, when you welcome a new industry, you do it in phases, not all at once.” (NYT)

While progressives praised the announcement, others pointed out why it's a misguided approach.


Australian regulators investigate greenwashing climate change claims

Corporate Australia is on notice that glib promises to address climate change no longer cut it as so-called ‘greenwashing’ claims hit the courts.

Global regulators and major investors are joining shareholder activists in driving the nation’s corporate sector to deliver credible plans to hit net zero by 2050.

Plans rather than generic pledges are now required. They also need to include short and medium term targets and measurement methodologies.

Major emitters including AGL, BHP, Rio Tinto and Santo have all pledged to hit net zero by 2050 or before.

That has not stopped them from facing growing shareholder backlashes – and even legal challenges – amid criticism their emission reduction strategies will fail to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Accord.

The nation’s regulators, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, have also made it clear they will be increasing their oversight of climate change reporting.

ASIC in July warned company directors they could face misleading and deceptive conduct charges should they overstate the environmental credentials of their operations.

It recently rapped outback gas explorer Tamboran Resources over the knuckles for its claim it would be a net zero emissions producer from first production.

The corporate cop is also reviewing whether superannuation funds which promote their investments as green, clean and ethical actually stack up.

Claims of greenwashing – overstating the environmental benefits of an organisation’s products or environmental footprint – are now hitting the courts.

Oil and gas producer Santos is being sued by the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility for allegedly engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct by claiming gas provides “clean energy” and saying it has a “clear and credible” pathway to net zero by 2040.

ACCR climate and environment director Dan Gocher said while climate change had moved firmly onto the radar of major corporations, too many companies were still not being bold enough in their pledges.

“There is a lot of green washing around net zero,” Mr Gocher said.

“Companies come out and commit to net zero but they don’t provide a lot of substance or their 2025 or 2030 targets are fairly weak. That is a big problem because we know we need to take action now.




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