Friday, September 4, 2020

GWPF Newsletter: Appetite For Electric Cars In Britain Collapses As Pandemic Squeezes Finances


Britain Faces Growing Risk Of Blackouts, National Grid Boss Warns

In this newsletter:

1) Appetite For Electric Cars In UK Collapses As Pandemic Squeezes Finances
Financial Times, 3 September 2020 
2) Britain Faces Growing Risk Of Blackouts, National Grid Boss Warns
The Times, 2 September 2020
3) Mining For Renewables Threatens Biodiversity, Scientists Warn
The Daily Telegraph, 1 September 2020
4) Germany Industry Warns Of Bankruptcies & Relocations Over EU Climate Plans
Die Welt, 3 September 2020
5) EU Draft Plan Targets Free Carbon Credit Cut For Most Industries
Reuters, 3 September 2020
6) Covid Pandemic Adds Trouble For Germany's Energy Transition – McKinsey
Clean Energy Wire, 3 September 2020

7) And Finally: Global Warming May Increase Rice Yields, Japanese Scientists Say
EurekAlert & American Society of Agronomy, 2 September 2020

Full details:

1) Appetite For Electric Cars In UK Collapses As Pandemic Squeezes Finances
Financial Times, 3 September 2020 
The number of people in the UK planning to purchase an electric vehicle has collapsed as the pandemic squeezed finances for potential car buyers, according to a leading online automotive portal.

An Auto Trader survey in January found 16% of respondents were planning to buy a battery-only car. This figure fell to 4% in a survey in August © Andrew Aitchison//Getty Images

A survey by Auto Trader of 2,300 consumers in January found 16 per cent were planning to buy a battery-only car. But in an August survey of 2,700 people, just 4 per cent were considering a pure electric car.

While electric cars remain more expensive to buy than petrol rivals, consumers typically recoup savings in fuel and running costs.

Yet almost half of those surveyed by Auto Trader last month who had decided against buying an electric car said changing personal finances meant they could no longer afford the money needed to buy the vehicle at the outset.

One-fifth said they were concerned about spending the money given the economic outlook.

“At a time of economic uncertainty car buyers are reverting to the type of vehicles they are more familiar with, and what they consider to be the most affordable choice, namely petrol and diesel cars,” said Ian Plummer, Auto Trader’s commercial director. 

“Since cost is the primary consideration for most car buyers, the upfront retail price of EVs [electric vehicles] is somewhat off-putting.”

Government subsidies for electric cars were cut in March from £3,500 to £3,000, although the benefit does not apply for used vehicles. The industry has frequently called for long-term certainty over subsidy levels and other benefits, such as tax treatment, to encourage consumers to make the jump to battery cars.

Carmakers are trying to sell more electric cars this year to hit new CO2 rules across the EU that fine them if they fail to lower emissions across their fleet.

The UK government is also banking on a steep rise in electric vehicle buying as it considers banning sales of new petrol or diesel cars at some point after 2030. An original target of 2040 has been moved to 2035, with ministers considering a cut-off date of 2032 or even 2030. 
Full story (£)

2) Britain Faces Growing Risk Of Blackouts, National Grid Boss Warns
The Times, 2 September 2020

Britain will be at increased risk of blackouts under Ofgem plans to cut investment in energy networks, the boss of National Grid has claimed.

John Pettigrew warned that power lines in parts of the country would start to “decay” after the energy regulator rejected its proposals to bill consumers for replacing them.

“It is deeply concerning for us because ultimately you’re increasing the risk on the network,” he told The Times in an interview. “The risk of a loss of supply increases as a result of not spending as much on asset health, because the assets are deteriorating as they age.”

The FTSE 100 utility group and fellow regulated network giants SSE and Scottish Power are at loggerheads with Ofgem over a draft price settlement that would halve their returns from 2021 and disallow billions of pounds of proposed investments.

Network companies’ spending is funded through levies on energy bills and the regulator says the draft settlement will deliver “unprecedented value for money for consumers”.

It says that in some cases companies have simply failed to justify expenditure, while in other cases it would be better to wait and approve spending on big new projects over the next five years as it becomes clearer what is required to hit climate targets.

Mr Pettigrew, 51, argued that Ofgem’s plans would increase risks to security of supply, lead to job losses and hamper efforts to tackle climate change. He said National Grid was prepared to file an appeal against the plans to the Competition and Markets Authority for the first time, if Ofgem did not relent by a final settlement in December.

Full story (£)

see also John Constable - The Brink of Darkness: Britain's Fragile Power Grid


3) Mining For Renewables Threatens Biodiversity, Scientists Warn

The Daily Telegraph, 1 September 2020

Mining for renewable energy materials could threaten biodiversity, researchers have found. 

Scientists at the University of Queensland, Brisbane found a high degree of overlap between areas used for mining essential minerals like lithium, which is used for car batteries, and areas with high levels of biodiversity as yet untouched by industry.
Conservationists are “often naive to the threats posed by significant growth in renewable energies”, the researchers said in the study published in the journal Nature Communications, pointing out that 14 per cent of protected areas contain metal mines or have them nearby. 
Overall, the researchers found that eight per cent of mining areas were within range of areas designated as protected by national governments, and seven per cent were within the same range of key biodiversity areas.

Using this metric, 50 million square kilometres of the earth’s land surface are influenced by mining, with 82 per cent of mining areas focused on elements needed for renewable energy production.

Elements including lithium, cobalt and nickel are essential for rechargeable batteries, which are used for power storage in wind and solar projects, as well as in electric cars.
New mines are planned targeting these substances, adding to the global surface area covered by mining activities. 
“Increasing the extent and density of mining areas will obviously cause additional threats to biodiversity, and our analysis reveals that a greater proportion of mines targeting materials for renewable energy production may further exacerbate threats to biodiversity in some areas,” the scientists wrote. 
Full story (£)
see also Andrew Montford: Green Killing Machines
4) Germany Industry Warns Of Bankruptcies & Relocations Over EU Climate Plans
Die Welt, 3 September 2020

The EU wants to speed up its climate plans. But members states are still arguing about how much additional burden consumers and companies should endure. The German Chambers of Industry and Commerce is making a strong appeal to policy makers, warning about high costs and damages. 

In coming weeks, the EU’s climate policy for the next few decades will be decided. In September, EU member states, the European Parliament and the EU Commission want to decide how quickly Europe’s consumers and companies must reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases in coming years.
EU member states, with the exception of Poland, agreed in December that the continent should be climate-neutral by 2050. The decision was far-reaching, but politically comparatively simple, because the year 2050 is still a long way off.
Politically much more sensitive is the discussion that is currently being held between Brussels and European capitals: How fast should the EU move towards this goal?
The intermediate stages on the way to climate neutrality are decisive for the answer. So far, the EU has committed itself to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 emissions.
Brussels now wants to tighten this interim goal so that Europe can move more quickly towards climate neutrality.
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has promised to tighten the targets. In the Climate Protection Act that the Commission submitted in March, however, only one option is given: it will be increased to 50 to 55 percent, it says.
No consensus in Brussels
But at the moment there is not even an internal agreement, not even parliament: The most recent meeting of the Environment Committee on Tuesday evening shows how divided the parliamentary groups are. A number of members want to raise the target to 65 percent.

Michael Bloss is one of them. “The European Parliament must demand a reduction target of 65 percent in the negotiations,” says the Green politician. “Scientists say this is the value that is necessary to keep global warming below two degrees. Everything else falls short."

The conservative EPP Group sees it differently. “65 percent is unrealistic and unfortunately nobody has come up with a plan for how Europe should achieve them. And goals that cannot be achieved do not help the climate,” says the CDU environmental politician Peter Liese.

There is a similar discussion in the Commission. Vice-President Frans Timmermans, who is responsible for climate issues, wants to raise the reduction target to 55 percent. Other commissioners advocate 50 percent.

The member states are still fighting for a common position. Because Germany holds the EU Council Presidency, Environment Minister Svenja Schulze has to mediate. An agreement should be reached by the meeting of EU environment ministers on October 23.

In this complicated situations Germany’s main industry and business group has issued a warning. The German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) warns decision-makers in Brussels and Berlin to think about the risk to the economy when setting stricter climate targets.

In an unpublished analysis seen by Die WELT, the trade and industry association outlined the consequences of stricter climate targets for Germany’s economy. More speed on the way to climate neutrality will inevitably lead to faster rising energy prices.

For many companies, this development, if it goes too fast, could threaten their very existence and lead to bankruptcy, the association warns. “In some industries, rapidly rising costs and stricter requirements could accelerate the structural change that is already underway to an extent that leads to irreparable structural breaks,” the authors write. [...]
Feared loss of international competitiveness
What is certain, is that the price of carbon certificates will rise significantly if the CO2 reduction targets are tightened. If the target is tightened to 55 percent, the price for the certificates could even rise to 80 percent and the company’s costs to 49 million euros or 166 percent.

In view of these additional costs, economic opportunities are only possible if companies find the right framework conditions,” the deputy director of the DIHK, Dr. Achim Dercks explains.

For the German economy, this includes effective protection measures against distortions in international competition. Otherwise, relocation of industries to locations with lower CO2 costs will not benefit anyone – least of all climate protection."

The business representatives also demand that with every tightening, the support of companies in international competition must also be adjusted.

This includes, for example, the free allocation of carbon certificates, the price of which should actually be reduced now, or compensation payments for energy-intensive companies. The EU Commission intends to limit these payments.

Translation GWPF
Full story (in German) 

EU Draft Plan Targets Free Carbon Credit Cut For Most Industries
Reuters, 3 September 2020

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Most industries covered by the European Union’s carbon market would see free credits cut by the highest possible rate over the next five years under draft plans, potentially costing some of the biggest polluters millions of euros.

The carbon market is the EU’s main policy for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, by forcing power plants and factories to buy credits to cover their emissions.

These credits are trading near record highs as speculators have bought into the idea that tougher EU climate targets will boost demand, while analysts predict further rises.

Although industry gets some free credits, to help avoid “carbon leakage”, when companies relocate outside the EU to avoid carbon costs, the bloc has agreed to reduce them over the next decade to curb pollution and meet climate goals.

EU industry emitted around 570 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent under the carbon market regime last year. Buying enough credits to cover those emissions would cost roughly 16 billion euros at today’s EU carbon price.

Of 52 industrial products deemed to be at risk of “carbon leakage”, 43 will face the maximum possible reduction in the benchmark which determines their free credits over the next five years, a European Commission draft seen by Reuters shows.

Those sectors would receive 24% fewer free credits on average over the period 2021-2025, per tonne of product produced, compared with the amount they would currently get.

Industries whose free credit benchmarks would be cut at the maximum rate include producers of refinery products, coke, iron casting, lime, ammonia, and pulp and paper products.
Full story

6) Covid Pandemic Adds Trouble For Germany's Energy Transition – McKinsey
Clean Energy Wire, 3 September 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has created new problems for Germany’s energy transition, according to management consultancy McKinsey.
The pandemic had particularly slowed the rollout of wind power, the group said in a press release on its latest publication of the "Energiewende-Index," which tracks the progress of Germany's transition. It added that the number of jobs in renewable energies was declining. Thomas Vahlenkamp, co-author of the index, warned that up to 15 percent of all renewable energy projects in Europe could be delayed or cancelled because of the pandemic.
Energy markets were also negatively affected, he added, because lower prices made the use of conventional fuels more attractive while lower power prices decreased the yield of wind and solar parks.

McKinsey said that eight of the 15 energy transition targets chosen by the consultancy are still realistically achievable, but three of them are on the brink of failure - the consultancy classifies the the share of renewable power, total household energy costs, available capacity for import, security of power supply and industry power prices as "realistic", and says that targets for the renewable share of total energy use, renewable heating, and a secure back-up supply are still realistic but could fail in the medium term. CO2 emissions and jobs in renewable energies are classified as "in need of adjustment".
McKinsey says five other indicators remain unrealistic, namely reducing primary energy consumption, the transition in the transport sector, costs for grid management, grid extensions, and household power prices.
7) And Finally: Global Warming May Increase Rice Yields, Japanese Scientists Say
EurekAlert & American Society of Agronomy, 2 September 2020
As global warming continues to affect many regions, rice farmers may have a longer window for growing rice.

Rice seeds are arranged on the plant in groups, called spikelets. This field of rice is ready for harvest. Credit: Hiroshi Nakano
Rice is the most consumed staple food in the world. It is especially common in Asia, where hunger concerns are prevalent.
Rice is classified as an annual plant, which means it completes its life cycle within one growing season then dies. However, in some tropical areas, rice can continue to grow year after year when taken care of properly.
Just as grass grows back in a lawn after it is mowed, rice can be cut after it is harvested, and the plant will regrow. The farming practice of cutting the rice above ground and allowing it to regrow is called ratooning.
Although Rice ratooning allows farmers to harvest more rice from the same fields, it requires a longer growing season compared to traditional single-harvest rice farming.
In many areas of the world where rice is grown, a long growing season isn’t a problem due to the tropical climates. But in Japan, cooler weather means rice ratooning has been a rare farming practice.
Hiroshi Nakano and a research team set out to learn more about the potential of ratooning to help Japanese rice farmers. Nakano is a researcher at the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization.
Average temperatures in Japan have been higher in recent years. As climate change continues to affect the region, rice farmers may have a longer window for growing rice. “Rice seedlings will be able to be transplanted earlier in the spring, and farmers can harvest rice later into the year,” explains Nakano.
“The goal of our research is to determine the effects of harvest time and cutting height of the first harvest on the yield of the first and second rice crops,” says Nakano. “Ultimately, we want to propose new farming strategies to increase yield as farmers in southwestern Japan adjust to climate change.”
During the study on rice ratooning, researchers compared two harvest times and two cutting heights of the first crop. After the first harvest, they collected the seeds from the cut off portions of the rice plants. Researchers measured the yield by counting and weighing the seeds. The second harvest of rice was done by hand and the yield was determined in the same way.
The total grain yield and the yields from the first and second crops were different depending on the harvest times and cutting heights. This wasn’t too surprising, since the team already knew harvest time and height affected yield.
Rice plants harvested at the normal time for the first crop yielded more seed than the rice plants harvested earlier. “That’s because the plants had more time to fill their spikelets with seed,” explains Nakano.
“At both harvest times, rice harvested at the high cutting height had a higher yield than the low cutting height,” says Nakano. That’s because the plants cut at a higher height had access to more energy and nutrients stored in their leaves and stems.
“Our results suggest that combining the normal harvest time with the high cutting height is important for increasing yield in rice ratooning in southwestern Japan and similar climate regions,” says Nakano. “This technology will likely increase rice grain yield in new environments that arise through global climate change.”
Learn more about this research in Agronomy Journal, a publication of the American Society of Agronomy. This work was supported by the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO).

The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at

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