Closed and abandoned surface mines, often flattened, despoiled and desolate, can make ideal sites for re-purposing into clean energy centers. For over a decade, the Environmental Protection Agency has recommended that renewable energy projects be installed on former mined lands, particularly closed mountain top removal sites. Though solar is the fastest growing source of new electricity across the United States, developers are only now starting to install panels throughout central Appalachia, the long-suffering heart of America’s once dominant coal sector. Now following the passage of President Joe Biden’s $370 billion Inflation Recovery Act (IRA), loaded with clean energy construction incentives, a solar revolution lies just over yonder. Lead blogger and podcaster, Michael Buchsbaum, reviews the state of transformation in the third part of his coal to solar series. Read part 1, part 2 and part 4.
Hands down, Germany has become the world leader in transforming its post-coal mined lands into solar farms, particularly in the nation’s eastern Lusatia region, where more than a century of intense surface mining has despoiled much of the landscape. According to a 2018 report, region-wide there are some 9 GW of solar project potential across nearly 50,000 hectares of torn up land. Spurred on by 2022’s energy crisis while looking long-term as the price of emissions certificates rise and global carbon budgets shrink, several European fossil fuel producers are re-evaluating their strategies, perhaps none more so than one of Europe’s dirtiest energy generators, LEAG. In 2022, this German-Czech company announced plans to close their lignite mines and replace them with new solar and wind farms built across their surfaces while they transform their existing power plants into battery and storage hubs. Lead blogger and podcaster, Michael Buchsbaum, takes us through their vision of supplying more than four million households with the clean electricity of the future, starting now. Read part 1, part 3 and part 4 of this series.
For decades, energy transition experts called for transforming post-mined lands into renewable energy hubs. To bolster their arguments, as part of their “Sunshine for Mines” project, a decade ago the pioneering Rocky Mountain Institute began tracking the few “lighthouse” projects that then existed. At the time, renewable capacity on mine sites stood at just over 600 megawatts worldwide. But by the end of 2019, globally almost 4.9 GW of renewable capacity had been installed or was in the pipeline. And since then, propelled even further by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the global response to it, the sheer amount of these second-life projects is increasing exponentially — with Europe and the United States leading the world into a greener post-coal age. In this series, lead author and podcaster, Michael Buchsbaum shines his light on several model solar-centric coal transitions now being developed worldwide. Read part 2, part 3 and part 4 of this series.
By the time you read this, the village of Lützerath may already be gone – part of the price paid for getting RWE, Germany’s largest energy producer, to stop mining and burning brown coal by 2030. Yet short term, RWE is ramping generation at their lignite-burning plants, among the most polluting in Europe, to make up for sanctioned Russian gas and help Germany get through the next two winters. But climate scientists warn, burning all the coal underneath the activist-occupied town could risk breaking the emissions limits set under the 2015 Paris Agreement. Worse, as lead blogger and podcaster Michael Buchsbaum relates, the steep terms of the deal are splintering the Greens, potentially setting party leadership against its most ardent climate activists.
Heralded as a “courageous step for climate protection,” Germany’s government has in 2022 reached a compromise with RWE, Europe’s most polluting energy firm, to stop mining and burning its filthy brown coal by 2030 – a full eight years ahead of previous plans. But the deal, negotiated by several Green-Party led ministries, also authorizes RWE to keep several units at one of the world’s most toxic power plants to stay longer on the grid, at least through 2025, instead of closing at year’s end. And despite cheers that the new agreement will keep 280 million tonnes of carbon in the ground, scientists fear the heaps of lignite now set to be burned will prevent Germany from meeting emissions limits set under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. Lead blogger and podcaster Michael Buchsbaum reviews the controversial decision.
Founded in 1898 in the industrial city of Essen, RWE has grown into one of the largest electricity producer in Germany and increasingly in the world. While Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing energy crisis has upset plans to immediately reduce RWE’s lignite burn, in mid-October the company finally embraced a total coal phase-out by 2030. The about face comes days after RWE announced a blockbuster deal backed by Qatari’s massive sovereign wealth fund to takeover one of the United States’ biggest renewable energy producers. By the end of October 2022, as lead blogger and podcaster, Michael Buchsbaum, relates, despite RWE running three of the filthiest generating stations in Europe and still being dependent on massive volumes of fossil fuels, the company has become a global clean energy powerhouse.
In the wake of Russia’s February invasion and skyrocketing prices, to ensure energy security and affordability, nations worldwide are installing record levels of solar and wind capacity. Now, for the first time ever, in their annual World Energy Outlook the International Energy Agency (IEA) is predicting fossil fuel demand will peak near-term as non-emitting sources begin producing the majority of global power by 2030. Moreover, following sustained market turbulence on top of its proven climate impacts, the IEA no longer backs “natural” fossil gas a reliable transition fuel. Also, building upon Egypt’s COP27, several wealthy nations and investment agencies are banding together to assist top-ten emissions producer, Indonesia, as well as several other developing countries to accelerate their shifts from coal to clean. Lead blogger and podcaster Michael Buchsbaum helps us navigate through the rapid changes.
Covering an area the size of Belgium, Argentina’s Vaca Muerta oil and gas field comprises the second-largest known reserve of shale gas and the fourth-largest reserve of shale oil in the world. During the COP27 climate conference in Egypt, the international environmental NGO 350.org issued a warning that exploiting the field’s full reserve could unleash a veritable “carbon bomb,” accelerating already quickly rising global temperatures while putting agreements to hold to a 1.5 degree rise out of reach. Now, in the wake of the world’s reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, drillers are accelerating fracking activities as producers rush to backfill missing energy supplies. Supported by international investment banks and their partners, new pipelines and liquid natural gas terminals are enabling Argentina’s toxic hydrocarbons to capture long-term global supply contracts. 350.org’s Latin American Managing Director, Ilan Zugman and 350.org’s Senior Latin America Campaigner M. Victoria Emanuelli along with lead blogger Michael Buchsbaum review the situation.
Fundamental to Germany’s Energiewende is its long-planned nuclear energy phase-out. For over a decade the nation has gradually reduced its reliance on atomic power with a planned end date of December 31st 2022. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the subsequent boycotting and weaponization of Russian fossil fuels, plus fears of a cold winter have upended the nuclear exit-strategy. With three plants still online in October, Chancellor Scholz decided to extend their runs until the following April. But delegates at the Green Party’s recent congress in Bonn overwhelmingly voted against backing any measures allowing the purchase of new fuel rods to further extend their runs. And as lead blogger and podcaster Michael Buchsbaum reminds in this second piece on Germany’s fractious nuclear exit debate, despite the ongoing war, it’s still possible that uranium for any new rods would be imported from Russia.
Soaring energy prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, fears of a cold winter, energy shortages and a looming recession in Germany are causing much handwringing. Long dependent on cheap Russian gas, Germany’s crucial industrial sector is warning of blackouts and lasting economic damage if enough replacement fuel isn’t found. After months of partisan bickering between members of his coalition government, Chancellor Scholz decided to authorize the extended run time of the nation’s three remaining nuclear power plants until mid-April 2023, postponing their long planned, legally binding December 31st 2022 expiration date. In the first of two pieces, lead blogger and podcaster Michael Buchsbaum takes us through the debate.