7 charts show new renewables outpacing rising demand for first time. Renewables. 

by Simon Evans.
For the first time ever, investment in new renewables was more than enough to cover rising global electricity demand in 2015. That’s according to the first World Energy Investment report, published by the International Energy Agency (IEA). While fossil fuels still dominate energy supplies, the IEA says changing investment flows point towards a “reorientation of the energy system”.

Carbon Brief has seven charts showing why the IEA thinks an energy shift is underway. Energy investment World energy investment amounted to $1.8tn in 2015, the IEA says, equivalent to 2.4% of global GDP. Around half went towards fossil fuel extraction and distribution, mainly for oil and gas.

Renewables accounted for 17% of the total, around $300bn. The vast majority of this was in the electricity sector, where nearly 70% of investment in power stations went towards renewables. Global energy investment in 2015, by sector. Source: World Energy Investment 2016, IEA.

Oil slide

Investment in energy was down 8% year-on-year in 2015 (around $150bn), largely because of falling investment in oil and gas. Soft demand and Saudi Arabia’s determination to squeeze competitors has created a prolonged period of cheap oil that has decimated incomes.

Reductions have been particularly steep in North America, the IEA says, with investment halving in the past two years. The smaller companies that dominate the US shale industry have been particularly hard-hit by the falling oil price, with scores of firms filing for bankruptcy. Upstream oil and gas investment in 2015, by region. Source: World Energy Investment 2016, IEA.

Falling costs

The Saudi strategy has only been partially successful. Some two-thirds of the fall in oil and gas investment has been absorbed by cost reductions, particularly in the shale sector. Upstream oil and gas costs fell 15% in 2015, the IEA says.

These recent oil and gas cost reductions have been easily outpaced by those for new energy technologies. Costs for onshore wind are down by nearly 40% since 2008, solar by more than 80%, LEDs more than 90% and grid-scale batteries by 70%.

The IEA says renewable costs will continue to fall, while the reverse will be true for oil and gas: “IEA medium-term analyses foresee lower costs in renewables, lighting and electricity storage and eventually modest cost increases in upstream oil and gas.” Energy cost developments 2008-2015, by technology. Source: World Energy Investment 2016, IEA.

Power shift

The large clean energy cost reductions are behind a continuing shift in the power sector, where 70% of investment in generating assets goes to renewables and fossil fuel investment is in decline.

Renewable power investment held steady at around $290bn in 2015, the IEA says, yet cost reductions mean more capacity could be bought for the money. Solar investment was lower than  2011 in dollar terms, but 60% more capacity was added.

Last year, rising renewable additions combined with weakening power demand growth in a landmark way. The IEA says:

“For the first time, investment in renewables-based capacity generates enough power to cover global electricity demand growth in 2015.”

New renewables commissioned in 2015 have the capacity to generate 350 terawatt hours (TWh), against an increase in demand of less than 250TWh. This means all other capacity brought online in 2015 was effectively surplus to requirements.

(It’s worth adding a couple of qualifiers: first, 40% of investment was to replace ageing assets; second, renewables often generate power intermittently rather than on demand).

See charts and read more here…

Source: 7 charts show new renewables outpacing rising demand for first time

Eco-tourism worth billions trumps value of Kinder Morgan project, new report argues | National Observer

Jan 22, 2016,  Charles Mandel

A new report tears into the Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline extension application, saying the company’s environmental assessments show a lack of scientific rigour and unsubstantiated assumptions surrounding the fate, behaviour and toxicity of diluted bitumen.

“Their conclusions are fraught with an unacceptable degree of uncertainty, are not supported by the scientific literature, and often not supported by their own information,” asserts the executive summary of the report from the British Columbia-based Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

Titled Our Threatened Coast: Nature and Shared Benefits in the Salish Sea, the report shows an oil spill of diluted bitumen would have devastating consequences for the region’s wildlife and coastal tourism.

The report contends a large oil spill near Turn Point at the northern end of Haro Strait – which separates Vancouver Island and the B.C. Gulf Islands from Washington State’s San Juan Islands – has a 95 per cent chance of reaching killer whales if they are anywhere near the area at the time.

A 60 per cent chance exists of oil contamination on the surface within a 3,800 kilometre centred on Haro Strait after a spill at Turn Point. The report notes that Haro Strait is one of the most routinely traveled areas in the Salish Sea for resident killer whales.

The report cited a City of Vancouver estimate that the economic impact of a large oil spill in the city’s Burrard Inlet could exceed $2-billion.

Ali Hounsell, a spokesperson with Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion Project, told National Observer: “Trans Mountain has been diligent in assessing risks posed by oil tankers in a comprehensive manner and developed and proposed a number of risk control measures to mitigate such risks.”

The report defines the Salish Sea as one of the world’s largest coastal seas, spanning from the western entrance of the Juan de Fuca Strait to the top of Georgia Strait and bottom of Puget Sound.

The name reflects and honours the Coast Salish, the areas’s first human inhabitants.

“We really need to look at the real value of this place,” said Ross Dixon, a program manager at Raincoast and a co-author of the report with Raincoast biologist Misty MacDuffee.

“Everyone is making decisions on Kinder Morgan and all these other proposals, the shipping of fossil fuels through the region, and we don’t really understand the true value of this place.”

Among the examples cited in the report is the Tsleil-Waututh Nation – the People of the Inlet – whom the report says have acted as stewards of their rivers, streams, forests and beaches with an “over-arching obligation to ancestors and future generations alike.”

The report notes that those obligations form the basis for the nation’s Sacred Trust Initiative, which is sanctioned by the Tsleil-Waututh chief and council and specifically developed to stop the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline project.

Carleen Thomas of the Scared Trust Initiative told National Observer: “Our ancestors have taken care of this home place for us for millennia and so it is our sacred obligation to continue that work.

“It is the heart of our people. It’s the heart of our traditional territory. It means everything to us.”

read more: Eco-tourism worth billions trumps value of Kinder Morgan project, new report argues | National Observer

Antarctica shaping up as 21st century geopolitical hotspot – Nature, News, Society – NZEDGE

Antarctica shaping up as 21st century geopolitical hotspot The locale of one of today’s greatest real estate development grabs might surprise you. It’s not Dubai, Las Vegas, or Shanghai, but the frozen continent that rests at the end of the world. Writing in The New York Times in late December 2015, Simon Romero describes increased activity from various global players, including Russia building its first Orthodox church (with logs imported from Siberia), China’s plans to operate five bases (complete with indoor badminton court in its Great Wall Station), and India’s spaceship-looking Bharathi base, built on stilts and interlocking shipping containers. “An array of countries is rushing to assert greater influence here,” Romero writes, “with an eye not just toward the day those protective treaties expire, but also for the strategic and commercial opportunities that exist right now.” Why the race to the bottom? “The newest players are stepping into what they view as a treasure house of resources,” University of Canterbury School of Social and Political Sciences Professor Anne-Marie Brady told the Times. A treaty banning mining in Antarctica—which shields coveted reserves of iron ore, coal, and chromium—is expected to come up for review by 2048 and the continent’s mineral, oil, and gas deposits are all highly prized. The Times article details how researchers recently found deposits that hint at the existence of diamonds in the region and geologists estimate the area holds at least 36 billion barrels of oil and natural gas. Rather than the desolate, monolithic icescape of popular imagination, Antarctica is shaping up to be a 21st century geopolitical hotspot. Professor Brady is perhaps the world’s foremost scholar at navigating Antarctica politics. Editor of The Emerging Politics of Antarctica (2012, Routledge Advances in International Relations and Global Politics), a volume that examines the post-Cold War challenges facing the continent’s governance, Professor Brady specializes in subject matter related to the power and influence of China, New Zealand’s largest trading partner and the nation that arguably has the fastest-growing operations in Antarctica. Prof. Brady has published groundbreaking research in the field, covering China’s modern propaganda system and the nation’s relationships with Antarctica and the Pacific, as well as major revisionist histories of the Long March and of New Zealand’s national icon, Rewi Alley.

Source: Antarctica shaping up as 21st century geopolitical hotspot – Nature, News, Society – NZEDGE

Fossil fuel divestment is rational, says former Shell chairman | Environment | The Guardian

This is an important example of the way the “keep it in the ground” discourse has been captured by the oil industry and reframed as carbon capture – burying the carbon in the ground. Not only is this anything but the safe alternative promoted here, but also, and importantly, putting a price on carbon thus becomes an impetus to develop carbon capture infrastructure which in turn will enable oil mining to continue as usual.

“….But he also approved of fossil fuel divestment, a fast-growing and UN-backed campaign to persuade investors to dump their stocks, on the basis that current reserves of coal, oil and gas are already several times greater than could be safely burned. The Guardian’s Keep it in the Ground campaign is highlighting the divestment argument and calling on the world’s two largest medical charities – the Bill and Melinda Gates Foudnation and Wellcome Trust – to divest their endowments from fossil fuels.

“Divestment is a rational approach,” Moody-Stuart said, speaking at a dinner in London organised by Carbon Trust, which provides advice to businesses on reducing emissions. “If you think your money can be used somewhere else, you should switch it. Selective divestment or portfolio-switching is actually what investors should be doing.” He pointed out that all the major oil and gas companies divested their considerable coal operations in the 1990s. “It was a perfectly rational decision.”

Moody-Stuart condemned the lack of industry progress in addressing climate change. “I find it quite distressing that 18 years after major oil companies, such as BP and Shell, acknowledged the threat of climate change, and the need for precautionary action, and began to put in place modest steps to address it, that the world in general and the industry has made remarkably little progress,” he said.

Moody-Stuart added: “There are two realities acknowledged by most businesses. The first is the needs that have to be met today [but] business leaders also recognise there will at some point be radical change, and industries will be completely transformed. The gap between how we get from one to the other hasn’t really closed.”

The oil and gas majors should be developing carbon capture and storage (CCS) quickly, Moody-Stuart said. “The industry has a real role to play in CCS. We can do it and it can be perfectly safe. it is not rocket science.”

He said a key problem was the vast infrastructure needed for CCS, on the same scale as the existing oil business. “CCS has the potential to have a major impact but I worry because of the scale and we haven’t made much progress with it.”

via Fossil fuel divestment is rational, says former Shell chairman | Environment | The Guardian.

Climate change dominates marathon Shell annual general meeting | Business | The Guardian

Totally unacceptable and deliberately myopic argument from Shell executives at its annual general meeting.. To wait until the second half to this century is to consign the world to 6 degrees warming. that is not survivable.

“…Van Beurden said Shell would be at the forefront of change but that it needed to find more oil in the short term to meet the demands of population growth and economic development in emerging markets.

He rejected the idea that Shell could be left with “stranded assets” that cannot be extracted because climate change will make them unviable. He dismissed as a red herring the argument that there was a carbon bubble of investment in fossil fuels.

Van Beurden said in the second half of this century solar power would become dominant as a source of energy but that the world would have to rely on oil and other traditional fuels in the meantime.

Simon Henry, Shell’s finance director, said fossil fuels made up 80% of the world’s energy sources and that oil was needed to produce and transport food, make clothes and manufacture roofs. “Modern life would not be possible” without oil, he said.”

via Climate change dominates marathon Shell annual general meeting | Business | The Guardian.

TransCanada Buys Towns Silence On Tar Sands Pipeline Proposal For $28K | ThinkProgress

TransCanada Buys Town’s Silence On Tar Sands Pipeline Proposal For $28KBY EMILY ATKIN JULY 5, 2014 AT 12:51 PM UPDATED: JULY 5, 2014 AT 12:52 PM 3,805Share This 429Tweet This “TransCanada Buys Town’s Silence On Tar Sands Pipeline Proposal For $28K” Share: CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCKA small town in Ottawa, Canada will be receiving $28,200 from energy company TransCanada Corp. in exchange for not commenting on the company’s proposed Energy East tar sands pipeline project, according to an agreement attached to the town council’s meeting agenda on June 23.

via TransCanada Buys Towns Silence On Tar Sands Pipeline Proposal For $28K | ThinkProgress.

A short, powerful video from Reject and Protect. via Occupy Love

Ranchers, farmers and tribal communities from along the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline route, called the Cowboy Indian Alliance, rode into Washington DC and set up camp near the White House to tell President Obama to reject the pipeline.

http://www.rejectandprotect.org

via Facebook.

On the road to reconciliation, tension between miners and Aboriginals grow

TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – While Canada has come a long way in reconciling pre-existing Aboriginal sovereignty with assumed Crown sovereignty, tension is rising between the proponents of several new mining projects located on Crown lands, or within Aboriginal reserves, and Aboriginals, who increasingly assert their rights.

In recent weeks, several Aboriginal communities have voiced their concerns regarding proposed mining projects, insisting on their right to self-determination.

For example, this week the West Moberly First Nations were in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, in Nanaimo, where they argued their case against a proposed coal project in an area 34 km north of Chetwynd, in north-east British Columbia, which had been deemed of “critical spiritual and cultural importance” by the community.

Last summer, the Energy and Mines Ministry issued mining permits to Canadian Kailuan Dehua Mines – a Chinese-backed mining company – for its Gething project, authorising the company to remove 100 000 t of material, transport 15 000 t of coal and construct the main components of a mine that would operate for about 30 years.

via On the road to reconciliation, tension between miners and Aboriginals grow.

Dahr Jamail | Evidence of Acceleration of Anthropogenic Climate Disruption on All Fronts

Dahr Jamail | Evidence of Acceleration of Anthropogenic Climate Disruption on All Fronts.