One of the more relatable conceits of mainstream climate skepticism is that solutions to climate change should not be more harmful to human civilization than its impacts.
It’s a persuasive argument to the mind of those still undecided on climate change, and a reassuring appeal to caution that calls back a trusty adage: the cure shouldn’t be worse than the disease.
This typically takes shape as an economic argument. Critics of climate action insist that climate solutions such as EVs and home batteries are, and will always be, more expensive than fossil fuels.
Innovative solutions may have promise, but they will take millions in development and years of experimentation before they can deliver cheap power.
And then there’s the rest of the world. Even if we adopt expensive renewable solutions, won’t the rest of the world undermine us with cheap fossil fuels anyway?
This week, all three of those arguments were flipped on their heads as renewables are beating out fossil fuel alternatives in European markets. Meanwhile, American innovators make a breakthrough on modular nuclear energy; and in Australia, too long a recalcitrant climate denial state, lawmakers are moving ahead with a new climate law.
This week, green hydrogen fuel became cheaper to produce than blue hydrogen for the first time.
Green hydrogen is a low-emissions fuel derived from water electrolysis powered by renewables, while blue hydrogen is a by-product of steam reforming natural methane gas. Both produce few emissions at the point of consumption, but the overall emissions associated with blue hydrogen may make it worse than coal.
Until this point, blue hydrogen has been a cheaper and more attractive option for investors. But as the war in Ukraine drags on, Russia is tightening its gas embargo on Europe to force a compromise, keeping natural gas prices high.
However, that’s also why the cost inversion isn’t expected to last in the near term. Gas facilities have a long lead time, meaning that European gas projects approved this year are expected to come online in 2024, at which point the cost of blue hydrogen will wind back down.
The cost inversion, even if short-lived, is giving investors pause about the future economic competitiveness of natural methane gas. New facilities will come online, but geopolitical conflicts with exporting countries could still pose security risks in the future that are increasingly undermining investor confidence.
The delay in gas development also gives green hydrogen critical time to scale up the 41 green hydrogen projects under development from the European Union’s $5.4 billion Hy2Tech program.
Ambiguity between the two hydrogen fuel sources has complicated the energy transition debate since both fossil fuel interests and climate activists are calling for “hydrogen fuel” as an alternative energy source.
For example, the draft version of the Inflation Reduction Act included a production credit for “clean hydrogen.” That language raised some red flags because it doesn’t distinguish between blue and green, leaving yet another door open for the presumptive climate bill to lend support to energy derived from fossil fuels.
The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the first new nuclear reactor design this week, giving a green light to the NuScale modular nuclear reactor.
The NuScale reactor has several advantages over traditional nuclear sites besides its compact size and modularity.
First, it’s a whole lot cheaper to build.
NuScale’s facilities take roughly 36 months to complete, which is considerably faster than a uh…decade-plus. That means faster return for investors, and a project that doesn’t go more than $16 billion and counting over budget.
That’s also why NuScale foresees overnight capital costs of $3,600/KW compared to $9,000/KW from Class IV nuclear generators.
But perhaps the biggest innovation in NuScale’s reactors is that they require considerably less water than nuclear plants in operation today. The NuScale plants source water from a large reservoir, which is then circulated and then cooled to be re-used.
This week, nuclear reactors in France faced their third round of shutdowns this year because their adjacent rivers are too warm to cool the plants.
This is a considerable climate risk for nuclear power that doesn’t promise any easy solutions.
Water use is also coming under tight scrutiny across the world as droughts affect regions that have historically been water-rich, like the United Kingdom, Germany’s Rhine River and the Mekong River and Delta regions of China and Southeast Asia.
Australia’s House of Representatives passed the country’s climate commitments into law this week, charting a path to reduce emissions by 43% compared to 2005 levels by 2030, and to “net zero” by 2050.
The law effectively codifies Australia’s strategy that was abandoned before former Prime Minister Tony Abbott took over in 2014.
Details of the plan are still being worked out, but Australia’s Climate Change Authority will now have the authority to issue guidance on emissions reductions for policymakers across the country. If the national government doesn’t follow that guidance, it will now have to publish an explanation for why it didn’t.
The law also codifies Australia’s side-lined “safeguard” system that set a cap on the country’s largest emitters so that they wouldn’t counteract government-funded emissions cuts from agriculture and other areas.
The law now goes to the Senate where Australia’s Greens will try to get assurances that the new law will prohibit new coal and gas facilities. If they fall short of that, their hope is for the Senate to at least consider the impacts of the country’s status as a leading global coal exporter.
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"HST is the leading cloud-based platform for clean energy development and procurement, with over 20,000 clean energy projects on the network totaling more than 800 GW (260 million American homes worth) in 100 countries. We provide solutions to clean energy developers looking to perform project feasibility, design and energy marketing, and we provide solutions to clean energy buyers looking to buy ..."
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"Carbon Reform is building modular carbon capture and energy-saving indoor air solutions. "
"The Earth is in crisis, and wildfires are one of its most extreme and destructive symptoms: decimating ecosystems and human communities, and emitting massive amounts of pollution. Earth Force is a unique early-stage startup, bringing together people, partners, and new tools to solve problems at the scale of the environmental challenges humanity faces. Together, we are building unique products involving a ..."
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"Travertine is a Carbon Dioxide Removal and industrial chemical production company based in Boulder, CO. We are building a cost-effective, gigaton-scale CDR solution that co-produces sulfuric acid for use in critical element extraction."
"Shifted Energy provides an asset agnostic, machine learning-based virtual power plant aggregation platform, as well as IoT-connected load control switches with integrated submetering suitable for deployment on L1 EVSE, electric resistance, and heat pump water heaters, pool pumps, and (currently in development) irrigators and L2 EVSE. Our VPP platform is just as powerful when connecting through APIs to any third-party ..."
"Numina makes a hardware and software platform that uses computer vision to help urban planners and municipal governments design better (safer) streets and public places. We sense bicycle, pedestrian, and other street traffic, and convert this data into real-time intelligence — without surveillance — to enable all sorts of partners in automation, autonomy, and development in the public right-of-way. We ..."
"VitroLabs, founded in 2016 and headquartered in Milpitas California, is a biotech company developing a scalable tissue engineering platform for the efficient and environmentally friendly production of leather from only a few cells. Combining advanced tissue engineering processes with proprietary advances to achieve commercial scale, VitroLabs is on a mission to produce cell cultivated leather that achieves the look, feel ..."
"Climate change is the defining challenge of our time: a once-in-a-generation test that is rapidly reshaping the world around us. At ACTUAL we are building a software platform to help organizations of all kinds to break through climate paralysis and begin turning their sustainability goals into meaningful, measurable action. Think of ACTUAL as a scaled up take on the “Sim” planning ..."
"BeZero Carbon is a global ratings agency for the Voluntary Carbon Market. Our carbon credit ratings allow all market participants to price and manage risk. BeZero’s carbon ratings and research tools support buyers, intermediaries, investors, and carbon project developers. Founded in April 2020, our 100-strong team combines climatic and earth sciences, sell-side financial research, earth observation, machine learning, data and technology, ..."
"Cleartrace provides the actionable data companies need to proactively decarbonize their operations. By illuminating previously unseen energy data, companies can see and manage the upstream production and downstream consumption of their energy, every hour of the day. Global sustainability leaders including JPMorgan, Nextera and Brookfield trust Cleartrace to deliver 100% traceable and verifiable energy and carbon records as proof of ..."
"CleanChoice Energy is a cleantech company that empowers people and businesses to easily access climate solutions. We use data-empowered technology to offer consumers easy, impactful climate solutions so they can cut emissions, support renewable energy and live cleaner lives."
"Perennial is building the world’s leading verification platform for soil-based carbon removal. Our vision is to unlock soil as the world’s largest carbon sink. To do that, we are building trusted standards, tools, and technologies to help verify climate-smart agriculture. Perennial uses the world’s most advanced remote measurement technology for soil carbon sequestration and emissions. We fuse machine learning, ..."
"Dashboard.earth is a technology start-up working to drive citizen engagement in climate change adaptation. You will be joining us at an exciting and pivotal time. We’ve just released our MVP for the city of Los Angeles and have six months of testing and partner pilots planned before our official release later this year."
"Founded by experienced renewable energy technologists and backed by committed mission-driven investors, Electric Hydrogen is building solutions to help cost-effectively decarbonize the massive industrial sectors that we all rely on. At Electric Hydrogen we’re thinking big and with urgency to decarbonize the physical world."
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