The international response to Russia’s brutal February 2022 invasion of Ukraine has altered and transformed the energy transition, in some ways accelerating the move towards wind and solar generation but also forcing countries dependent on Russian fossil fuels, particularly European nations and the European Union as a whole, to search for and secure alternative supplies.
President Gustavo Petro, Colombia’s first-ever progressive leader, wants to help slow global climate change, protect regional biodiversity and bolster Indigenous people’s rights by decoupling the nation’s economy from fossil fuels, starting with a ban on new oil and coal exploration permits. The contentious policy change for the long fossil fuel dependent nation comes on the back of a bonanza year for the industry, which enjoyed a record-setting $22 billion in export revenues. Making good on his campaign promises, in early February Petro presented a $247.1 billion four-year development plan to lawmakers full of sweeping social and economic changes. Lead blogger and podcaster Michael Buchsbaum reviews the evolving situation in this installment of the Colombian Conundrum series.
Although overall energy consumption fell, Germany’s emissions declined only slightly: because coal-fired power plants stepped in for Russian gas. A leading German energy think tank argues that Germany has to undertake structural reforms to get on track. Nevertheless, Germany’s emissions are lower than ever before – evidence that Germany can hit targets by replacing fossil fuels with renewables. The catch is that once replaced, fossil fuels must be eliminated from energy production altogether. Experts think that Germany can still phase out all coal-fired generation by 2030.
Zimbabwe citizens currently experience power cuts of up to 18 hours on a daily basis despite the country’s largely untapped renewable energy potential that for years could be a panacea to the enduring power crises. According to its national clean power plan, the country would have enough green energy to satisfy local demand through sources including solar, hydro, biomass, geothermal and wind. However, a lack of investment and political will has prevented most of the Southern African country’s renewable projects from taking off. Kennedy Nyavaya has the story.
South Africa’s ambitious plan to transition away from coal was endorsed at the recent COP27 climate conference in Egypt where officials from Britain, France, Germany, the United States, and the European Union signed pledges of $8.5 billion to help fund its initial steps. Currently South Africa relies upon coal to generate up to 87% of its electricity, but by the end of the decade the nation wants to close more than half its aging, unreliable coal-fired power stations and replace them with new solar and renewables. Yet today state-owned energy provider Eskom is struggling to provide consistent electricity. But despite the climate benefits, citizens and miners fear the plan may end up costing hundreds of thousands of jobs, lead to the privatization of Eskom and rapid market liberalization as operators race to construct solar farms near existing coal facilities. Lead blogger and podcaster Michael Buchsbaum reviews the situation. Read part 1, part 2, and part 3 of this series.
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.
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.