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Energy in Brief - October 2018

26 October 2018

After a summer’s hiatus, the Stanford Energy Journal is back summarizing a busy few months of energy and climate news. Over the summer, the world was hit with record breaking heat waves, and devastated by wildfires and hurricanes. With appropriate timing, in early October the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its Special Report on 1.5 degrees, warning the world that “limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require ‘rapid and far-reaching’ transitions”. But it's not all bad news. In a typical fashion California is trailblazing forward with a new law requiring 100% clean electricity by mid century. Further, entrepreneurs and researchers are pressing forward with the technology needed to cut global emissions.


Politics and Policy

California has a landmark 100% clean energy goal, but does it have the laws to get it there?

Utility Dive, Sept 11 Critics say that the failure of the California legislature to pass two key bills will make it difficult for the state to meet it’s new lofty 100% clean energy goal. One bill (AB 813) would have changed the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) governance to allow a regional grid system and power market. The other (AB 893) was a last-minute effort to mandate near-term procurement by California LSEs of 5,000 MW of "qualified" renewables, including utility-scale wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass.

New report urges government support for innovative carbon removal technologies

Medium, Oct 25 The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released a report showing how to take carbon out of the atmosphere. The report develops a detailed research and development (R&D) agenda for atmospheric carbon dioxide removal and provides a roadmap for the federal government to support innovation in carbon removal technologies.

… And Y-Combinator wants to help The folks at ycombinator hold no punches, and are putting out the call to innovators: "Phase 1" of climate change is reversible by reducing emissions, but we are no longer in "Phase 1." We're now in "Phase 2" and stopping climate change requires both emission reduction and removing CO2 from the atmosphere. "Phase 2" is occurring faster and hotter than we thought. If we don't act soon, we'll end up in "Phase 3" and be too late for both of these strategies to work.


Energy Transition

NET Power fires up first no-emissions gas-fired power plant

Engineering News-Record, Aug 22 A new demonstration power plant could change the economics of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). The 25-MW combined-cycle natural gas plant in LaPorte, Texas, built by a company called NET Power, incorporates CO2 generated back into the creation of energy and is the world’s only industrial-scale supercritical CO2-based power plant.

Energy Transition to renewables is (almost) unstoppable

Greentech Media, Oct. 22 By 2035 the global energy transition will reach a point of no return, according to a recent report from Wood Mackenzie. By that year, says WoodMac, renewables will likely meet 20 percent of global power demand, up from today's 7 percent



How to tell when we can blame climate change for weather extremes

Nature, July 30 Germany’s national weather agency is preparing to be the first in the world to offer rapid assessments of global warming’s connection to particular meteorological events. By 2019 or 2020, the agency hopes to post its findings on social media almost instantly, with full public reports following one or two weeks after an event.

IPCC special report: "The world would have to curb its carbon emissions by at least 49% of 2017 levels by 2030 and then achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 to meet this target [of 1.5 degrees C]” Nature, Oct 8 Limiting global warming to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels would be a herculean task, involving rapid, dramatic changes in how governments, industries and societies function, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The Nobel Committee Honors the Economics of Market Failure

The New Yorker, Oct 9 This year’s Nobel Prize in Economics has been awarded to William Nordhaus and Paul Romer, who studied the limits of free markets. Nordaus pioneered Integrated Assessment Models, which connect carbon emissions to damages to the global economy. Romer argued that idealized free-market economies are inefficient at producing new technical knowledge.


Business and Innovation

Can direct air CO2 capture be made economically viable?

Physics Today, Sept 1 Critics dismiss the idea of scrubbing meaningful amounts of carbon dioxide from the air, but proponents say the approach could be scaled up for the job. At least three companies have developed working capture systems and lined up serious investments to deploy them.

ARPA-E - DAYS announces $28 million in grants for energy storage

Green Tech Media, Sept. 18    ARPA-E, the Department of Energy’s blue-sky research program, announced $28 million in R&D grants for 10 companies (or research labs) that are focused around delivering grid-scale energy storage. The projects are being funded by ARPA-E's DAYS program (Duration Addition to electricitY Storage), and are targeting “durations of 10 to approximately 100 hours”, and which DARPA-E believes are “opening significant new opportunities to increase grid resilience and performance,” according to the announcement. The full list includes 2 companies with Stanford ties: Brayton Energy and Antora Energy.

Breakthrough Energy Ventures unveils 9 new investments in energy start-ups

Quartz, Sept. 26 Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the $1 billion energy fund started by Bill Gates, along with a bevy of the world’s richest and most well-known entrepreneurs and business people, publicly announced two of its investments this June, and is following up with an announcement of another 7 investments. The investments span a wide range of energy related fields, from battery technology (Form Energy, QuantumScape), energy storage (Quidnet Energy), to the Stanford-related geothermal startup, Fervo Energy.

Shell and NREL launch new cleantech accelerator program

Greentech Media, Sept. 21 Royal Dutch Shell, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), announced a new multiyear, multimillion-dollar cleantech accelerator program. The Shell GameChanger will initially focus on "technologies enabling the grid of the future through long-term energy storage and controls”.


Goran Puljic is a fellow in Stanford's Distinguished Career Institute, with over 30 years of previous experience in the securities and investment business. 

Photograph by: Mike Licht,