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The Trump administration will shortly release its plan to replace Barack Obama’s ambitious attempts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Former US President Obama’s strategy, set in 2015, planned to transition away from fossil fuels towards using more sustainable sources of energy, such as wind and solar power. Coal-fired power plants are the biggest contributor to carbon dioxide emissions in the US, totalling 69 per cent.

Replacing these plants was seen as key to Obama’s efforts to combat climate change and meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement.

However, President Trump plans to give states the power to set their own regulations for coal plants, something which could see a revival of the technology in some areas, according to documents seen by Politico.

The plan would also allow states to create rules in order to burn less coal, but produce the same amount of electricity; however, this proposal would still have seriously negative effects for the environment.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has admitted that pollutants would be higher under Trump’s new plan, which has been poorly received by environmental campaigners. Janet McCabe, who was acting EPA assistant administrator during the Obama-era, regarded the proposal as “another, more official, sign that the government of the United States is not committed to climate policy.”

Earlier this month, Trump also set out a proposal to downgrade standards for fuel efficiency. This is another plan put in place to undo progress on air pollution during the Obama era.

In response, California intends to change its own regulations to ensure any car sold in the state will have to meet its own higher standards, rather than weaker ones set by at the federal level.

“Dirty, gas guzzling vehicles are a direct assault on public health, and foreclose our ability to rein in air pollution and greenhouse gases,” said Mary D. Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board.

Read more: Trump closes in on proposal to undo Obama’s...

Solar company Conergy has been bought by the Green Investment Group (GIG).

The deal, signed for an unspecified amount, means the group acquires a team of 88 and an impressive portfolio of solar developments in the Asia-Pacific region.

The acquisition is the latest move in GIG’s rapid expansion plans. The former state-owned UK bank is now used as an investment vehicle for the Macquarie Group. Since its purchase last year, Macquarie has sought to develop the group’s capabilities in continental Europe, North America, and now Asia.

Only last month, GIG helped a major onshore wind farm in Sweden reach financial close through an upfront investment of 270 million euros.

Neil Arora, Head of Macquarie Capital in Asia and the Middle East said: “We are pleased to enhance our solar energy capabilities from development through to design, engineering, procurement and delivery management, to build on Macquarie Capital’s solar energy track record across Asia Pacific. Today’s acquisition will also further strengthen our battery storage expertise and allow us to pursue other investment opportunities in a rapidly-growing region for the renewables sector.”

Conergy has built 500 megawatts of solar power throughout Asia and 2 gigawatts globally.

The company was founded in Germany during the 1990s and since grown to become a significant player in the solar industry. Its team, dotted around Europe and Asia, is steeped in commercial and technical expertise. In 2017, it was bought out by Goldman Sachs and Tennenbaum.

Daniel Wong, Global Co-Head of Infrastructure and Energy for Macquarie Capital, added: “This acquisition underscores our ambition for the Green Investment Group to advance its position as a world leading developer and investor in green energy projects in Asia and globally - across offshore wind, onshore wind, solar, waste to energy, battery storage and energy efficiency.”

Read more: Green Investment Group buys up Conergy in play...

Coca-Cola and Merlin have teamed up to provide ‘reverse vending machines’ that will be placed on the doorsteps of the most famous UK attractions.  

The trial, which started in late July, encourages families to bring their used plastic bottles in exchange for rewards at the vending machines. The machines will produce a voucher which will entitle people to 50 per cent off 30 Merlin attractions including: Thorpe Park, Chessington World of Adventures and Alton Towers.

The General Manager of Coca-Cola Great Britain, Jon Woods, explained: “We want to reward people for doing the right thing by recycling their bottles and hope to encourage some people who wouldn’t otherwise have done so.”

The announcement comes after Coca-Cola introduced an ‘industry-first’ campaign called World without Waste, designed to help collect and recycle the equivalent of every bottle sold by 2030 worldwide.

Research carried out by Coca-Cola found that 64 per cent of people in the UK would recycle more if instant rewards were introduced.

Supermarket chains, Morrisons and Iceland, have also introduced the reverse vending machines in a bid to reduce waste. The moves highlight the growing pressure for commercial brands to do more on the issue of plastic pollution.

Plastic bottles are a notable source of pollution and are responsible for a third of all plastic in the sea. Statistics show that only 43 per cent of plastic bottles are recycled in the UK, out of an estimated 13 billion distributed each year.

Read more: Coca-Cola offers discounts to UK attractions in...

The body which operates London’s historic Square Mile is introducing a new environmental scheme in the area.

The City of London Corporation has announced that new charges for on-street parking will be brought in this month to promote clean air and reduce emissions, such as nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.

The 1.12 mile area covers London’s oldest and busiest streets, and remains the heart of the UK’s financial sector.

Low emission vehicles, such as electric or hybrids, will now be charged £4 per hour while diesel and petrol vehicles will have to pay a higher amount of £5.20. All other vehicles will be charged £6.80 per hour.

Chris Hayward at the City of London Corporation, said: “We have seen other areas of London penalise worst offenders such as diesel cars. We are taking this one step further by not only applying punitive measures for these worst offenders but by supporting and encouraging motorists to consider other modes of transport and switch to cleaner vehicles in the future.”

“The Square Mile is one of London’s busiest areas, therefore, it is only right that the City of London Corporation continues to prioritise providing a safe and healthy environment for its workers, visitors and residents,” he added.

The new environmental tariffs will use the RingGo app to automatically assess the model of car and allow motorists to pay without cash.

Peter O’Driscoll, UK Country Manager for RingGo, commented: “The Government is promoting Clean Air Zones as the best way to influence motorists’ behaviour. But these take several years to set up, not to mention requiring considerable expenditure. With no physical infrastructure needed, RingGo’s Emissions Based Parking provides similar outcomes at a fraction of the cost and can be set up in a matter of weeks.”

Photo Credit: kloniwotski/Flickr

Read more: Low-emission parking plan unveiled for the City...

Rolls-Royce is developing a battery storage device for use in the shipping industry.

The new lithium-ion battery, called SAVe Energy, is the first energy storage unit the company has supplied itself. In a statement, Rolls-Royce said the product is “a cost competitive, highly efficient and liquid cooled battery system”, which is designed to be scaled according to a ship’s energy requirements.

The project has been part funded by the Norwegian Government and three shipping companies based in the country have partnered on its development.

The system will be suitable for use on ferries, cruise vessels and multi-purpose vessels. It will be capable of providing a variety of services to boost energy performance, such as peak load or spinning reserve, while helping to reduce emissions.

Andreas Seth, an executive vice president at Rolls-Royce, said: “The electrification of ships is building momentum. From 2010 we have delivered battery systems representing about 15 MWh (megawatt hours) in total. However now the potential deployment of our patent pending SAVe Energy in 2019 alone is 10-18 MWh.”

The shipping industry is starting to take steps to address its greenhouse gas emissions, estimated to account for 2 per cent of the entire global contribution. A landmark agreement was signed this year by 173 member states of the International Maritime Organization to reduce emissions by 50 per cent by 2050.

“Battery systems have become a key component of our power and propulsions systems, and SAVe Energy is being introduced on many of the projects we are currently working on. This includes the upgrade programme for Hurtigruten’s cruise ferries, the advanced fishing vessel recently ordered by Prestfjord and the ongoing retrofits of offshore support vessels. As a system provider we can find the best solution considering both installation and operational cost”, added Seth.

Read more: Electric shipping to get the Rolls-Royce service

A new set of clean tech benches are being installed in the London borough of Southwark.

The smart benches allow people to charge phones, use free WiFi, and track levels of air pollution, all powered by a solar panel.

The technology is the brainchild of Milos Milisavljevic, founder of the start-up Strawberry Energy, which is developing the bench across London. The first prototype was trialled in Canary Wharf in 2015. Since then, the company has honed the design to take up less space and use more advanced monitoring technology.

The benches are able to collect power without direct sunlight and can be stored for use during night time.

Real time data is accessible through a mobile app which provides insights into air quality, noise pollution, and other bespoke features.

Southwark Council plans to install 29 of the benches across the borough to complement existing schemes in the works. Nearby Lewisham is building 25 of the benches, along with Islington in the north, which has been trialling the benches since last year.

The leader of Southwark Council, Chancellor Peter John, said: “I welcome the arrival of these new Strawberry smart benches, they will help us to offer people in Southwark modern technology that responds to contemporary needs.”

“Council officers have been collecting air quality data from the benches; this will help us to build a picture of the problem and show us the way forward, here in Southwark,” he added.

Mr Milisavljevic said: “We’re delighted to be working in partnership with Southwark Council to extend the network of smart benches in the borough and hope the addition of new sensors will help the council and local residents have a better picture of air quality down to a street level.”

“We designed the benches with today’s Londoner in mind - providing free, solar powered phone charging, WiFi and air quality monitoring in a single, sleek piece of street furniture,” he added.

Photo Credit: Strawberry Energy

Read more: Solar-powered ‘smart benches’ come to south London

Great Britain is on the verge of abolishing the need for coal-fired power over the summer months, according to analysts.

This is one of the main headlines from a new quarterly report on the country’s energy mix.

Researchers at Imperial College London analysed official data from the National Grid over the months of April, May and June.

“For the third summer in a row, coal is edging closer to extinction in Britain,” commented lead author Dr Iain Staffell, noting that coal supplied a mere 1.3 per cent of electricity over the quarter. Its share also fell below 1 per cent for first time across June.

The times at which coal is running over summer is “at a bare minimum”, Staffell added, highlighting that plants are usually called upon to provide grid stability during periods of low demand.

The report goes on to state that Britain “likely could” run without coal all summer, given that the remaining fleet operated at only 3 per cent of its maximum capacity.

The number of coal-free days across the year is also at an all-time high with no coal power stations used for 812 hours throughout the quarter. Over 1,000 have been clocked up through July, according to a separate piece of research.

Coal’s decline in Britain has been a short and sharp affair, falling by 75 per cent over the past three years. In 2017, coal provided 5.3 per cent of total energy consumption, a historic low.

Ultimately, the switch away from coal has already happened; gas supplied 41 per cent of demand over the quarter, accounting for 82 per cent of emissions. The focus of the low-carbon transition will, therefore, take place elsewhere.

“While it would be a clear symbolic victory to remove coal from the system for entire months at a time, its impact on the climate in summer months is no longer significant,” the report concludes.

Source: Drax/Imperial College London

Read more: Coal power is heading for ‘extinction’ over the...

Industrial structures, such as oil & gas platforms, could play a key role in helping ailing colonies of coral, new research has highlighted.

A group of scientists from Edinburgh University came to the conclusion after detailed analysis and modelling on the benefits of such man-made structures.

The team’s computer model revealed that coral larvae near shipwrecks or oil platforms would help them reach other naturally occurring coral over great distances.

This ability could bolster existing populations leading to the recolonization of damaged reefs.

The article was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Professor Murray Roberts said: “When we first spotted these corals growing on the legs of oil platforms in the late 1990s it was a real surprise, as we expected this to be a very unsuitable environment for them. We now have strong evidence that they’re likely to be dispersing right across the North Sea and into marine protected areas.”

Dr Lea-Anne Henry at the School of GeoSciences, added: “We need to think very carefully about the best strategies to remove these platforms, bearing in mind the key role they may now play in the North Sea ecosystem.”

Many coral reefs are facing unprecedented risks from increased ocean temperatures, human development and invasive species. Warming oceans have led to a 34 per cent increase in highly damaging marine heatwaves over the last century.

A poll of 38 leading scientists last month suggested that former oil rigs could have environmental benefits. The experts agreed that decommissioning oil rigs on a case-by-case basis could benefit marine life.

The issue has been criticised as allowing oil & gas companies to avoid its responsibilities to safely remove the costly and complicated structures.

Doug Parr, Greenpeace UK’s chief scientist, recently told the BBC that "a raft of plastic bottles accumulates marine life, but no-one is arguing we should create more.”

Read more: Oil rigs could be a lifeline to struggling...

Energy giant E.ON has created a new tariff in the UK tailored to low-emission road users.

The Fix and Drive tariff provides registered electric vehicle or hybrid drivers a two-year supply of 100 per cent renewable energy and a yearly reward of £30, equivalent to 850 free miles.

The free miles are based on the assumption that 1 kilowatt hour provides 4.4 miles of drive time.

The new tariff is targeting people who traditionally have higher electricity bills, offering them a rebate, clean energy, and “competitive pricing”, according to the company.

Michael Lewis, chief executive of E.ON UK, commented: “It’s clear that the country needs an increase in electric vehicle charging points, whether at home or workplaces, in car parks or alongside leisure facilities. We’re leading the charge, with both E.ON Drive for businesses and now E.ON Fix and Drive for residential customers.”

“Sales of electric vehicles are increasing year on year and the UK is now one of Europe’s largest markets for them. Drivers need to be able to charge their cars quickly and conveniently, and for many, that means plugging in at home,” he added.

E.ON’s move is a signal that the coming together of home energy use and clean transportation is inching closer. The announcement is also the latest in the energy company’s attempts to support the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Earlier this year, it teamed up with Google to develop a service to help UK households work out the solar potential of their homes. Project Sunroof uses data from Google Earth and Maps to estimate the level of solar power untapped on roofs around the UK. An estimated 10,000 people have requested an analysis in Germany where the project has been operating since last year.

Read more: E.ON offers new energy tariff to tempt electric...

Leading Danish wind developer Vestas has posted revenue of 2.2 billion euros in the second quarter of 2018.

The interim results released today beat forecasts and led to a 7 per cent jump in the company’s share price.

The figures also show an order intake now at 3.8 gigawatts, an increase of 43 per cent on the previous year. The all-time high backlog represents a value of 10.2 billion euros, and combined with service agreements in place pushes the value to 23 billion euros in future earnings.

Vestas’ President and CEO Anders Runevad attributed the good news to the maturity of the wind energy market: “In the first half of 2018, the wind industry strengthened its position as the cheapest form of energy generation in many markets, which drove strong global demand. This development saw Vestas’ second quarter order intake increase 43 per cent year over year, contributing to the continued growth of our order backlog to an all-time high.”

Mr Runevad has helped turn the company around since taking up the top job in 2013. At the time, Vestas was operating at a net loss of 62 million euros.

Data released by the Global Wind Energy Council earlier this year showed the technology was in rude health; worldwide installations hit a massive 52 gigawatts in 2017, fuelled by declining costs and the push for cleaner forms of electricity.

“With long-term perspectives for renewable energy getting stronger, Vestas continues to effectively manage its costs and invest in the solutions that together will help us lead the global energy transition,” he added. 

Total investments are expected to be around 500 million euros this year due to a flurry of activity. Vestas remains the world’s largest supplier of wind turbines, but faces stiff competition since the merger of Siemens and Gamesa last year.

Photo Credit: bathyporeia/Flickr

Read more: Wind energy boom helps boost revenue at Danish...

The footwear industry is taking greater steps towards sustainability.

Reebok officially launched a new line of sneaker this week, which is “made from things that grow”, primarily corn and cotton.

The new shoe, called the NPC UK, has been certified by the US Department of Agriculture as 75 per cent made with bio-based content. The wrapping it comes in is also made from 100 per cent recycled plastic.

Bill McInnes, Reebook’s innovation chief, said the new shoe will signal the start of greater selection from the company to provide sustainable and bio-based footwear.

“Most athletic footwear is made using petroleum to create synthetic rubber and foam cushioning systems,” he said, pointing out that 20 billion pairs of shoes are made every year, with an estimated 300 million ending up in landfill.

“By using sustainable resources as our foundation, and then through ongoing testing and development, we were able to create a plant-based sneaker that performs and feels like any other shoe.”

"And this is just the start for us. We are on an ongoing path to create a different type of footwear — so that you can feel good about what you're wearing and where it came from," he added.

The greater choice of eco footwear from Reebok will be based on circular principles: the NPC shoe is compostable after use, and the compost will then be used as part of the soil to grow more material for the next range of shoes. This contrasts with the established, linear, model of extracting a material, using it and then disposing afterwards.

Reebok has been a wholly owned subsidiary of Adidas for over a decade, and the German-based company has also taken on sustainability initiatives. Through its partnership with Parley for the Oceans, Adidas has sold over one million shoes made from recycled ocean plastic.

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Read more: Reebok produces shoe made out of cotton and corn

IKEA’s first-ever store in India was overwhelmed with visitors when it opened in the southern city of Hyderabad this month.

An estimated 28,000 people passed through its doors each day during its opening week, which led to queues of up to three hours.

Public enthusiasm for the global brand is expected to continue with six million visitors in its first year.

IKEA is matching that popularity with an opportunity to promote sustainability and renewable energy.

The store’s new delivery fleet will gradually transition to become fully electric, with a target of 20 per cent during the first year alone. In addition, the new store already comes fitted with 4,000 solar panels on its roof to power its operations.

IKEA is a member of both the RE100 and EV100 initiatives, which promotes the transition to a low-carbon economy. Members pledge to source 100 percent of their electricity from renewable sources and seek to make electric vehicles “the new normal” by 2030, according to organisers The Climate Group.

Jarnail Singh, India Director at The Climate Group, commented on IKEA’s commitments: “This is a significant addition to their long-term efforts on a sustainable supply chain, and it’s fantastic for customers to know that their merchandise is produced and delivered without much harm to the planet. We look forward to seeing them achieve their RE100 and EV100 goals in India, sooner than stated.”

The Hyderabad store will shortly be followed by a second outlet in Mumbai next year, with a total of 25 new stores in the country by 2025.

Along with clean energy commitments, IKEA has pledged to transform its business along circular principles. At a recent conference in Sweden, the company announced a move to using only use recycled or renewable materials in the future.

“Our ambition is to become people and planet positive by 2030 while growing the IKEA business. Through our size and reach we have the opportunity to inspire and enable more than one billion people to live better lives, within the limits of the planet” Group CEO, Torbjörn Lööf, said at the time.

Read more: IKEA’s first store in India will run on solar...

An innovative tidal energy device which acts like a kite has completed its latest trial below the sea.

Swedish company Minesto has been developing the DG500 system off the coast of north-west Wales.

The technology, given the name Deep Green, produces renewable energy by following the course of tidal streams and ocean currents under calm conditions.

The prototype has a 12-metre wing span which is capable of producing power for around 300 homes. The kite remains tethered to the seabed and follows a figure of eight motion dictated by the tides. The speed created by the device pushes water through a turbine attached to the back, which converts it into energy.  

Minesto’s chief operating officer David Collier commented on the technology’s progress: “This is a very significant step towards our ultimate goal of proving the complete DG500 system. I am very proud of the team as this accomplishment has been made possible only by the hard work and endeavour of everyone that has been involved in the design and development of the Deep Green technology over a number of years.”

Minesto plans to continue its programme of commissioning the device to verify its ability to generate electricity in a timely and efficient manner.

“The commissioning efforts have been performed in a safe and robust manner, which is especially important considering the many innovations involved in this first-of-its-kind project,” he added.

The company was awarded £11 million in 2015 from the European Union’s Regional Development Fund to help develop the Deep Green technology, accounting for 43 per cent of overall costs. The funding has been essential to advancing the project, according to the developers.

In a recent video, project controller Oishan Roberts commented: “We’re looking for a solution to replace fossil fuels. This project that we have now will be the start of what could potentially be one of the largest tidal sites in the world.”

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Photo Credit: Minesto

Read more: Marine energy kite off to a flying start off...

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