As in the rest of the Reasons to Be Cheerful posts, cross-platform images and ideas, this is about initiatives and changes that have already happened and have proven to be successful.
Cities around the world aren’t waiting for federal or state governments to mandate energy innovations and responses to climate change. Cities are more nimble than states and nations, and they’re stepping up to be the models for others. As Mayor Hidalgo of Paris said, “they are where the future happens”.
“While the executive branch of the U.S. government speaks on behalf of our nation in matters of foreign affairs, it does not determine many aspects of whether and how the United States takes action on climate change,. The bulk of the decisions which drive U.S. climate action in the aggregate are made by cities, states, businesses, and civil society. Collectively, these actors remain committed to the Paris accord.” -Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg
Mayor De Blasio of NY has made what Bloomberg said concrete—he has divested the 5 billion in NYC pension funds from investing in fossil fuel companies.
5 billion might not be a serious blow to these companies, but it’s the very public nature of this divestment that matters here. This now becomes an example, and others are already following. university endowments University of Oxford, Stanford University and Trinity College Washington, D.C., Berlin and Cape Town are among the cities that are divesting of fossil fuel as well.
This may seem a win for morals and principles over economics. Fossil fuel companies MAY still be a good investment, but increasingly investors are sensing that their money might, in the long term, be more profitably invested in sustainable and clean initiatives. And it will save some of the huge financial burden that will come as climate change effects increase. The more who join this surge, the more likely that sustainable initiatives and technologies will prove to be profitable and not just the right thing to do.
De Blasio is also suing the fossil fuel companies for all the damage they have knowingly done while spreading lies and half truths about climate change. Direct culpability might be hard to prove, but one should certainly include what economists call the externalities into the cost of any business. You might be wondering, “what is an externality?”...well, an externality is a cost or benefit that affects a party who did not choose to incur that cost or benefit.
In an ideal world, an externality like producing hazardous waste or pollution for example, would require that the cost of clean-up as well as the responsibility to eliminate that waste and pollution be included in the cost of whatever it is they make. Cheap oil might just be cheap because no one is paying the true cost—except the taxpayer years from now. That subject best for another time.
Now for the good news…
This is Västra Hamnen the Western Harbor of Malmö, Sweden-and it will be the first carbon neutral-neighborhood in Europe. Their plan involves wind power and water as a means of storing energy.
It’s mayor, Ilmar Reepalu, says this is a result of shutting down both of the city’s nuclear power plants, with an aim for the entire city of Malmo to be carbon-neutral by 2030.That’s a 100% reliance on renewable energy in about 12 years, to put it into perspective. Finland is set to become the first country to ban ALL coal use for energy by 2030.
The current plants are being mothballed and now provide only 8% of the nations energy. This is the largest bio-fuelled power plant in the world, located in Alholmen, Finland.
These are German offshore wind farms in the North Sea. Dong Energy built them- without any government subsidy. This then, is a big moment, as renewables have previously been heavily subsidized. If they can begin to pay for themselves, they will become competitive. Advances in the turbine designs—larger and more efficient—will help make their competitiveness possible
Dong is also bidding for UK wind farms, and the costs are competitive with other less sustainable forms of energy.
Hugh McNeal, chief executive of RenewableUK, a trade body, said: “We knew today’s results would be impressive, but these are astounding.”
This is a massive wind farm off the shore of Liverpool; the same company, Dong, is doing it. Lego is investing in this wind farm!
Goldman Sachs is investing too, but I have to say the Lego investment was a little bit of a surprise.
Galway Wind Park will be Ireland’s largest wind farm. ¼ of the electricity Ireland consumes each year comes from wind. At night there is excess electricity—the wind keeps blowing but the Irish are asleep—so they export the electricity to England. By 2030 they will provide for all the electrical needs of their country, and the burning of peat will be banned.
Big companies are pledging to use renewable energy. Anheuser Busch plans to use 100% renewable energy by 2025. Walmart will reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 1 billion tons by 2030. These companies are aware of their reputations, but they also don’t do much if it doesn’t make business sense.
Mexico promises to have a grid that runs on 50% clean energy by 2050.
U.S. states lead the way on climate change.
Kansas last year generated more than 30 percent of its power from wind. The state may be the first in the country to hit 50 percent wind generation in a year or two, unless Iowa gets there first.
In an era when Washington no longer cares about emissions, could encouraging each state to pursue its own clean energy goals, for its own reasons — be the way forward for those trying to tackle the climate crisis?
“At the state level, you’re just much closer to democracy,” said Adam Browning, executive director of Vote Solar, a California advocacy group.
“States rights” used to be viewed as a rallying cry for segregation and right wing policies, but Michael Kazin, a historian at Georgetown University, pointed out that causes like giving women the right to vote and allowing same-sex marriage have often succeeded at the state level first.
Problems to be solved in transition
Now, to be fair and realistic, there is a lot more to be worked out with wind energy. Obviously it doesn’t work everywhere. That said, the electricity can be moved around. The problem for the moment is that it’s intermittent, so the grid, often powered by fossil fuels, is needed when the wind dies down. The storage technology is not there yet, so right now both renewable and fossil fuels are needed, which is a bit of a mess.
Elon Musk is testing out the world’s largest battery outside of Adelaide,Australia. It can power 30,000 homes… so, let’s see. If it can counter the dips in wind and solar and make those 100% competitive, then others will follow.
Healing the divide
This is a vast new wind farm in Scurry County, three hours west of Fort Worth. It will provide a million megawatt hours a year to the Texas grid. The state has invested nearly seven billion dollars in high-voltage transmission lines to carry wind power and other energy eastward, from the plains to the cities. On some days, wind satisfies almost half of Texas’s electricity demand.
Texas! Oil country!
Solar energy has been slower to catch on, despite abundant and intense sunshine. Austin already contains nearly forty per cent of its power from renewable sources and aims at almost doubling that figure in ten years.
Georgetown, which is thirty miles outside Austin and one of Texas’s most conservative suburbs, gets all its electricity from renewable sources.
So… bottom line sometimes trumps politics, and as renewable energy costs keep falling, the chances for cooperation between blue and red states will increase. Energy may help heal the partisan divide!