Analysis: use of renewable energy technologies saved billions of dollars (2007- 15) because of avoided deaths, fewer sick days and climate-change mitigation

Akshat Rathi* focusses on the debate ‘raging across the world’ about subsidies to the renewable industry. Though the results of a new analysis in Nature Energy are directly applicable to the US, he points out that many rich countries have similar factors at play and are likely to produce similar cost-benefit analyses.

The study, by Dev Millstein of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and his colleagues, finds that the fossil fuels not burnt because of wind and solar energy helped to avoid between 3,000 and 12,700 premature deaths in the US between 2007 and 2015.

They found that the US saved between $35 billion and $220 billion in that period because of avoided deaths, fewer sick days, and climate-change mitigation.

“The monetary value of air quality and climate benefits are about equal or more than state and federal financial support to wind and solar industries,” says Millstein.

Rathi continues: “Creation of a new industry spurs economic growth, creates new jobs, and leads to technology development. There isn’t yet an estimation of what sort of money that brings in, but it’s likely to be a tidy sum. To be sure, the marginal benefits of additional renewable energy production will start to fall in the future. That is, for every new megawatt of renewable energy produced, an equal amount of pollution won’t be avoided, which means the number of lives saved, and monetary benefits generated, will fall. But Millstein thinks that we won’t reach that point for some time—at least in the US”.

 

We add that In 2015, an LSE article referred to an IMF report which quantified the subsidies provided for the fossil fuel industry, finding the UK was to spend £26 billion that year, far more than the subsidies provided for renewables. It would be good to see a similar cost-benefit study for the UK – China and India have already been covered.

One of the biggest criticisms of the renewable-energy industry has been that it is propped up by government subsidies (often disregarding those delivered to the fossil fuel industry). As Rathi adds, there is no doubt that without government help it would have been much harder for the nascent technology to mature.

There has been a financial return on taxpayers’ investment and above all, we repeat, the enormous benefits of avoided deaths, fewer sick days, and climate-change mitigation.

Akshat Rathi is a reporter for Quartz in London. He has previously worked at The Economist and The Conversation. His writing has appeared in Nature, The Guardian and The Hindu. He has a PhD in chemistry from Oxford University and a BTech in chemical engineering from the Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai.

 

Read the full article here: https://qz.com/1054992/renewable-subsidies-are-already-paying-for-themselves/?mc_cid=d6d241ad3c&mc_eid=d89c5d2450

 

 

 

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Working for the common good: Ketumile Masire,1925-2017

Emily Langer in the Independent has written an obituary of Ketumile Masire – a statesman who described himself as ‘a farmer who has been drawn into politics’.

A summary with added links and photographs

Masire herded cattle before enrolling in a primary school at 13 and receiving a scholarship to attend a high school in South Africa that trained many leaders of the first government of independent Botswana. When his parents died he supported his siblings, becoming a headmaster. He later earned a Master Farmers Certificate, and having saved enough money to buy a tractor,  became a BBfarmer, using modern agricultural techniques.

Botswana cattle

He served on tribal and regional councils and was a founder and secretary-general of the Botswana Democratic Party, now the country’s leading political party. He once travelled 3,000 miles of the Kalahari desert to attend two dozen meetings over two weeks.

After serving as minister of finance and development planning and Vice President, Ketumile Masire became President of Botswana (1980-1998): roads and schools were built, healthcare improved, access to clean water expanded, farming techniques advanced and life spans extended.

The discovery of diamond reserves had transformed the country’s prospects and Masire continued to use the revenues for the public good after the death of his predecessor Seretse Khama.  He became ‘a model leader in a model nation on a continent where poverty, corruption and violence had crushed the hopes of many for stability and prosperity’. 

After leading Botswana through a drought that persisted for much of the 1980s, he shared the Africa Prize for Leadership awarded by the Hunger Project in recognition of the food distribution efforts that helped the country avoid starvation during the crisis.

Though South Africa was Botswana’s major economic partner, Botswana opposed apartheid. “He had to walk a fine line in a really rough neighbourhood,” said Chester Crocker, a former US assistant secretary of state for African affairs. “He had to get along with everybody, without sacrificing his principles.”

After leaving office, in addition to tending the cattle on his ranch, Masire advised other African leaders and chaired an international panel that investigated the Rwandan genocide of 1994. He made important contributions to peace efforts in Congo and, more recently, Mozambique. He established a foundation which seeks to improve agriculture, governance and children’s health in the region.

He once said: “We have a saying in Botswana: A man is never strong until he says what he believes and gives other men the chance to do the same. I am proud to say without a doubt – we are a strong democracy.” 

A more chequered account of his life is given in Wikipedia.

 

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Textiles: returning to domestic production, rebuilding local economies

Five years ago Inbusiness reported a British textile manufacturing revival, ‘led’ by Lancashire. It reported that, after decades of decline due to rising foreign competition, tariffs and protectionism, and Britain’s high cost base, some manufacturers are successfully competing with overseas suppliers. This 2012 text prompted a search to see what is happening today.

Leigh Spinners, once a cotton mill, operated by the family firm that built it, now focuses on making  carpets and synthetic turf. John Morrison, managing director explains:”About three years ago we decided to convert to tuft grass, artificial grass,” he explains. “We make 150,000 square metres a year. There is big demand, for school playing fields, and so on”. Its huge listed building is now underutilised and Leigh Building Preservation Trust is working with the Prince’s Trust and Leigh Spinners to restore the building for additional uses.

Lance Mitchell, of Mitchell Interflex in east Lancashire, makes cloth, furnishings, interlining and traditional narrow striped fabrics for deck chairs and might have further diversification in mind as he finds the ‘industrial side of fabrics’ fascinating: “Modern fibres are being developed all the time – McLaren cars are based on a woven product, and the next generation of aircraft, they say, will be woven”. This brings to mind the work done on hemp-based panels for the car industry (‘biocomposites’) piloted earlier at the University of Bangor.

S Dawes Weaving in Nelson makes ‘high end’ jacquard fabrics for the furnishing, upholstery, industrial and apparel markets (including organic cotton), as well as high-performance fabrics for the automotive and defence sectors. In 2015 Dawes upgraded its design capability with the purchase of the Ned Graphics software system along with new Jacquard looms. This was followed by further capital investment last year when they took delivery of a Karl Mayer GOM Sample Warping Machine. June 2017 saw another major investment: a new single end Jacquard machine – one of only 3 in Europe.  Their prices are similar to those of comparable material made in the Far East because of the difference in transportation costs and taxes. Dawes’ designer Joanna Brocklebank (above) oversees the designs for such clients as John Lewis and Laura Ashley.

Community Clothing is a manufacturers’ cooperative (workforce above). On top of intense competition from cheap labour markets one of the biggest challenges the UK factories face is the seasonality of demand. For several months of every year even the best factories are operating at well below full capacity. Community Clothing was founded in 2016 to address this exact issue. By utilising the spare capacity to make a range of stylish, great quality, British-made clothing, Community Clothing are able to create job opportunities and stability, filling British factories all year round.

David Collinge manages John Spencer Textiles, a family-owned company in Burnley, which had formerly specialised in shirt materials but had to find a new market. They began to make fabrics for the Ministry of Defence, for combat clothing, artillery uses and parachutes. They also developed their own brand in furnishings and home textiles. They are to invest £400,000 in new technology and equipment with the support of a £55,000 grant from the N Brown Textiles Growth Programme.

Bolton Textiles Group supplies contract furnishing fabrics and production and design services to retail, hotel, cruise ship, restaurant and bar operators The Bolton Textiles Group comprises four companies, Rufflette, Cliq Designs, Sinclaire and JH Cunliffe & Co, covering textiles, manufacturing, weaving, yarn processing and ‘cut, measure and trim’ services. The companies share two factory sites in historic converted mills in Bolton and Rochdale, producing curtains and curtain tapes, quilted and bedding products and fabric designs.

Lancashire Textiles persevered throughout the difficult times and continues to be a strong and successful business. Its workforce produces superior quality products manufactured in-house to British Standards 5335 1994, 5852 parts 1 and 2 and 7175. It has a vast range of online products and an experienced sales team. Its products range from quilts, pillows, cushions, mattress toppers, mattress protectors, duvet covers and other bed linen, to bath towels and made to measure items.

The latest news from the county is that the Lancashire Textiles Manufacturing Association ran its 7th Student Study Tour on 17th May this year.  The study tours give textile undergraduates from Manchester Metropolitan University an opportunity to see commercial textile production. They visited D H J Weisters in Darwen, which weaves quality fabrics, Blackburn Yarn Dyers (cotton and blended yarns) and John Spencer Textiles in Burnley where they saw a range of fabrics being produced, including curtaining, protective clothing, fashion  and industrial fabrics.

It is often recorded that investment in better machinery brings rewards and a fairly new development in the SME sector is the acquisition of software for a whole range of purposes from marketing management to stock control; Dawes installation of  NED Graphics is one example. Another company recently recommended OrderWise which automatically accounts for stock levels, forecasts demand, forwards orders, records minimum stock requirements and even emails, faxes or prints orders then sent directly to suppliers in their native currency.

27 textile companies in Lancashire have been supported by the N Brown Textiles Growth Programme delivered across the UK and funded by the Regional Growth Fund. Set up by the Manchester Growth Company for the Combined Authority in Greater Manchester and the Alliance Project, this programme has created or safeguarded 443 jobs in Lancashire and encouraged investment by these companies: with over £1.7m of government funding since 2014, the textile companies in Lancashire have invested almost £7m.

 

 

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Good news from Raipur

 

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Swiss voters embrace shift to renewables and ban new nuclear plants

Reuter journalists Michael Shields and John Miller reported from Zurich that Swiss voters have backed the government’s plan to provide billions of dollars in subsidies for renewable energy, ban new nuclear plants and help to bail out struggling utilities in a binding referendum.

The Swiss initiative mirrors efforts elsewhere in Europe to reduce dependence on nuclear power, partly sparked by Japan’s Fukushima disaster in 2011. Germany aims to phase out nuclear power by 2022, while Austria banned it decades ago. “The results shows the population wants a new energy policy and does not want any new nuclear plants,” Energy Minister Doris Leuthard said:

“The law will boost domestic renewable energy, cut fossil fuel use and reduce reliance on foreign supplies”.

Leuthard said the package would cost the average family 40 francs more a year, based on a higher grid surcharge to fund renewable subsidies. Under the law, 480 million francs will be raised annually from electricity users to fund investment in wind, solar and hydro power. An additional 450 million francs will be set aside from an existing fossil fuels tax to help cut energy use in buildings by 43 percent by 2035 compared with 2000 levels.

Solar and wind now account for less than 5% of Switzerland’s energy output, compared with 60% for hydro and 35% for nuclear. Under the new law, power from solar, wind, biomass and geothermal sources would rise to at least 11,400 gigawatt hours (GWh) by 2035 from 2,831 GWh now.

Most parties and environmentalists hailed the result. “The voting public has … paved the way for a future that builds on sustainability, renewable energies and energy efficiency. Today’s decision is good for the climate, the environment, our jobs, the Swiss economy and the whole population,” the Social Democrats said.

The growing number of American visitors to this site (left) will contrast this decision with the stance of Myron Ebell, who led President Donald Trump’s transition team for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He recently complained that the new administration is moving too slowly to unravel climate change regulations.

 

Visitors from 10 countries came to this site in May. Noting the Slovenian contacts we were pleased to read that the European Commission has agreed to finance a grid-integration project between Slovenia and Croatia through the Connecting Europe Facility. It will improve the links between the electricity grids of Slovenia and Croatia, and drive renewable energy development across the region, allowing smaller power producers to participate in the local market, and including storage solutions in order to stabilize security of energy supply. Source: https://www.pv-magazine.com/2017/05/22/eu-supports-integration-of-renewables-between-croatia-and-slovenia-with-e40-million/

 

 

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An all-electric taxi, releasing no emissions into the local environment

The 100% electric Dynamo taxi manufactured in Coventry has been created by Dynamo Motor Company – a division of ADV Manufacturing – in conjunction with Nissan. It was launched at the Private Hire & Taxi Exhibition at the MK Arena in Milton Keynes.

The vehicle, which the firm had spent several years developing, has been designed for use in towns and cities aiming to reduce their emissions levels. It will comply with Transport for London’s stringent operating requirements as well as new zero emission legislation coming into force in January 2018.

The five-seat Dynamo taxi, with full side wheelchair access, will have a range of 100 miles and can be re-charged in 30 minutes when using a Rapid Charge Post. As more of these are being installed throughout the country, its major cities and towns will be connected by charging hubs and drivers of electric vehicles will no longer need to make detailed plans for longer journeys.

Brendan O’Toole, chairman at Dynamo said “We’re at the start of the biggest change in the motoring world since the era of Henry Ford because most of us will be driving electric vehicles in the future. This is a pioneering new chapter in motoring and, if anything, driver selection of electric cars will continue to accelerate since they provide zero emissions for the environment which is important as we all continue to learn more about the damage to our health from pollution.”

The company plans to start selling the regional Dynamo taxi vehicle in the summer and is hoping the London version will be on sale in the autumn.

Ed: though electric vehicles emit no emissions into the local environment we must look forward to a day when they run on electricity generated by solar, wind, hydro and tidal installations. Coal and oil power stations release sulphur dioxide gas, which causes breathing problems and contributes to acid rain and carbon dioxide, which adds to the greenhouse effect and increases global warming. 

Renewable energy storage – by rail

Energy grids supplied by renewable energy sources benefit from energy storage of any kind. “Pumped” hydropower is one of the common solutions, pumping water to higher elevations to take advantage of the power of gravity to power turbines downslope.

A new rail system on the west coast of America, designed and manufactured by a Californian company, Advanced Rail Energy Storage (ARES), offers storage which doesn’t require the use of water and is suitable for a wider variety of areas with minimal environmental impact.

No valleys need to be flooded or large scale excavations undertaken to make reservoirs. It is basically a “grid-scale flywheel or battery, but one which is able to “lock into direct synchronization with the grid providing heavy inertia for added grid stability” according to William Peitzke, ARES’ Director of Technology Development. The system is said to have a higher energy-to-power ratio than flywheels and lower life-cycle costs compared with batteries and faster ramp-up rates than pumped storage alternatives. Francesca Cava, an ARES spokeswoman, claims an 85% efficiency “That’s what you get with steel wheels on steel track.” More detail here.

Wired explains that when the local utility has surplus electricity, it powers up the electric motors that drag 9,600 tons of rock- and concrete-filled railcars up a 2,000-foot hill. When it’s got a deficit, 9,600 tons of railcar rumble down, and those motors generate electricity via regenerative braking in the same way as the Toyota Prius. Effectively, all the energy used to move the train up the hill is stored and recouped when it comes back down.

In 2016, ARES conducted a pilot system test in Tehachapi, California on a 268-meter track. After this test proved the concept, the company was granted permission to construct the grid energy system in Nevada. The fleet of automated 300-ton electric traction drive shuttle trains are due for completion anytime soon. These shuttles will travel up and down a 7.2% grade slope and should provide 50 MW of rapid response power to help stabilize the Californian electrical grid supply, responding to increased or decreased demand within seconds.

Or as the local Pahrump Valley Times puts it: “Using a solitary railroad track placed on a gentle grade, multiple electric locomotive cars can move up the track as they receive excess power from solar and wind power plants during sunny and windy days. The train cars will be active and will be dispatched slowly downhill, using their motor-generators to return power to the electricity grid as needed”.

At the turn of the millennium, California routinely suffered blackouts and power shortages. Since then billions of dollars have been invested in renewable energy and now its problem is not too little power but too much. Wet weather last winter and a windy, sunny spring have contributed to record hydro, wind and solar output and on numerous occasions in recent months the state has been producing more power than it needs.

Following the success of the test on a 268-meter track, ARES was granted permission to construct the grid energy system in Nevada, receiving approval from the Bureau of Land Management for its 5.5-mile track, and construction of the energy train is starting now: Spring 2017.