Since Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine, European Union member states have been feverishly reworking their energy policies to reduce their reliance on Russian gas, coal, and oil. To help accelerate the shift, energy developers are rapidly increasing investments in solar and wind power. This summer, solar, helping the EU tackle not only its energy problem but also soaring inflation. According to a new report by climate think tank Ember, about a quarter of the EU’s electricity now comes from just wind and solar. Combined, Lead blogger and podcaster Michael Buchsbaum reviews how clean domestic energy is saving EU ratepayers money while helping slow global climate change.
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.
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.
The global energy transition is full of ironies. On the same spring day that Greece inaugurated its largest solar plant, located adjacent to several lignite mines in the coalfields of Western Macedonia, the government announced a short-term increase in mining as it responds to feared fossil gas shortages following Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. Then in late June, Greece passed a sweeping renewables law targeting 15GW of new clean energy capacity to be built by 2030, much of it in this coal dependent region. Lead blogger and podcaster, Michael Buchsbaum, discusses the region’s planned transformation into one of the world’s largest centers of solar generation.
The year 2020 brought us a devastating pandemic and an economic slowdown but also some decisive moments for the global energy transition. Last year ushered in a wave of groundbreaking pledges on carbon and climate neutrality. Meanwhile, clean energy investments have proven resilient to the global economic downturn, further shrinking prices for renewable power generation equipment and the ongoing electrification of many economies. Finally, a potential game changer for the global energy transition occurred last November: After nine years of protracted negotiations, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was signed by 15 Asian and Pacific countries. Early signs, however, suggest it will prove a mixed bag for efforts to reduce global CO2.
Given the flood of media we all experienced in 2020, in particular as we were stuck inside our homes, one of the challenges is finding and holding onto some of the good and positive developments in the stream. For his first blog post in 2021, our leader writer, L. Michael Buchsbaum reviews some of his energy transition highlights from 2020. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Once you’ve read through the end, please feel free to comment and share with us your own “good news” from 2020.
A total solar eclipse on December 14th left the Chilean south briefly in the dark. Between local indigenous groups and the solar industry, the event was affronted with respect and ingenuity. Vera Dickhoff takes a closer look.
All over Europe, people are rising up to fix climate breakdown – demanding urgent transformation to a fair, fossil free future. Communities, cities and people are at the forefront of building community-owned renewable energy, creating green jobs, and tackling energy poverty. Here is one such story from the frontlines of climate hope, from Ukraine. Susann Scherbarth reports for Friends of the Earth Europe