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Wed, Aug

A tidal energy project has smashed previous records for power generation over a 12 month period.

The tidal stream device has been in continuous operation off the choppy waters of Scotland’s north-east coast, around the Orkney Islands. During that time it has generated 3 gigawatt hours of electricity, enough to meet the annual demand of 830 UK households, or 25 per cent of demand on the islands.

Scotrenewables Tidal Power, the company developing the prototype, claim the achievement could be a turning point for technology. Another tidal device near Orkney, called MeyGen, is the largest of its kind in the world after reaching completion earlier this year.

The company states that the amount of power produced by the SR2000 is greater than the entire wave and tidal energy sector in Scotland in the 12 months prior to its launch.

Andrew Scott, Chief Executive Officer of Scotrenewables Tidal Power said: “The SR2000’s phenomenal performance has set a new benchmark for the tidal industry. Despite being an R&D project, and it being our first full scale turbine, its first year of testing has delivered a performance level approaching that of widely deployed mature renewable technologies”.

The device has been easy to access for routine maintenance over the past year, which has kept outage times to a minimum. Operating costs have also been reduced through the use of small, lightweight support vessels.

Scotrenewables is moving forward with the next phase of the project, building a new 2 megawatt commercial unit later this year. The device is being supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 scheme.

A recent report from research body ORE Catapult concluded that tidal stream could provide major economic benefits to the UK. With appropriate support, the technology could contribute 1.4 billion to the economy and create 4,000 jobs.

Read more: Scottish tidal project breaks new records for...

Power company Drax has converted another of its coal units to run on biomass.

The original coal plant has been in operation since 1975 and remains the largest power station in the UK.

The company has gradually upgraded the existing units to run on biomass instead of carbon intensive coal. Since 2010, it has spent £700 million converting three units and this week marks the completion of the fourth. The cost of converting the latest unit was significantly lower than in previous years, coming in at £30 million.

Andy Koss, Drax Power’s CEO, remarked: “This is another major milestone in the transformation of the power station. It will extend the life of the plant, protecting jobs, whilst delivering cleaner, reliable power for millions of homes and businesses.”

The news means that Drax now operates on two-thirds biomass with only two remaining units running on coal. The company expects to wean itself off the technology way ahead of the government’s 2025 deadline to completely phase-out coal in the country.

“It is testament to the engineering expertise, skill and ingenuity we have at Drax. The team has developed some very innovative solutions for this upgrade, using all the knowledge we’ve gained throughout the work we have done so far to transform the business using sustainable biomass,” Koss added.

Drax has shown an enthusiasm for transitioning away from coal as a result of the growth in renewable energy. Recent research suggested the coal power would soon be surplus to requirements over the summer months.

Nigel Adams, the local MP for Selby where the plant is based, said: “I’m delighted to see Unit 4 in operation as a biomass unit, continuing the good work Drax is doing with its Beyond Coal strategy, protecting jobs and ensuring it continues to play a vital role in the Northern Powerhouse economy.”

Photo Credit: Paul Glazzard/CC

Read more: Largest UK coal plant close to running on 100%...

Adidas has revealed a new clothing line with Stella McCartney which aims to focus on the importance of protecting nature.

In keeping with Adidas’s pledge to increase sustainability, the new AW18 line will include eco-friendly fabrics such as recycled polyester, organic cotton, and recycled ocean plastic.

Stella McCartney said: “More than half of our apparel and a third of our footwear in AW18 are made with eco-innovative and recycled materials.”

The line is designed to allow female athletes to exercise in any weather conditions. The clothing pieces will feature nature-inspired prints which act as a reminder to look after the world we live in.

In addition, last week, Ms McCartney unveiled the new sustainably designed ‘Loop Sneakers’ on her Instagram page, which are also recyclable.

Ming Xi, supermodel and global ambassador of Adidas by Stella McCartney, revealed “I am really inspired by the brands ambition to make a difference and its devotion to sustainability.”

Adidas launched a ‘Sustainability Roadmap’ along with 2020 targets which include reducing waste, water and energy at their strategic suppliers by 20 per cent.

Alongside this, Stella McCartney has promoted the idea of circular fashion to reduce waste in the industry. Earlier this year, she spoke of the urgent for the fashion world to address the problem, saying the level of material being produced was “swamping the planet”.

The textile industry is an important sector in the world’s economy and presently little is done to ensure sustainability; less than 1 per cent of clothing is recycled into new clothes. The idea of circular fashion is being introduced to address this to work towards a more sustainable future.  

Read more: Adidas and Stella McCartney launch new line to...

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...

On Monday, a New York City lawmaker announced a bill to order massive energy use cuts to big buildings, the biggest source of carbon dioxide.

The legislation, outlined in the Blueprint for Efficiency, requires the city to cut energy in the biggest buildings by 20 per cent by 2030 to keep on a path to ultimately reaching an 80 per cent reduction target by 2050.

Electricity and heating in buildings makes up almost 70 per cent of the city’s carbon emissions. Costa Constantinides, a member of the city council who leads the committee on environmental protection, said “If we are going to make a real impact on climate change, it’s going to be on the buildings.”

This is a historic move by the city and if the legislation is implemented it will be among the world’s largest cities to mandate strict retrofits on existing buildings to reduce climate-warming emissions.

“Nobody has done this in the world,” said Peter Sikora, a senior advisor at the grassroots non-profit New York Communities for Change.

This agreement follows months of talks between environmental groups and the powerful Real Estate Board of New York. If the legislation is applied then the proposal will include 50,000 buildings across the city.

“Our iconic skyline will be a model for how a major American city can fight the effects of climate change, as the federal government turns a blind eye to its growing danger. While we still have to craft the bill, we have a clear holistic view on how that legislation will look.” said Constantinides.

NYC has already proposed a ‘Carbon Challenge’ where leaders in the private, intuitional and non-profit sectors have committed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 30% or more over ten years.

Constantinides, who has been in office since 2014, has also sought alternatives to fossil fuels for the city, promoting a range of renewable energy sources such as solar, biodiesel and wind power.

Read more: New York announces historic legislation to cut...

Rotterdam is now a pilot city for the world’s first ever floating farm, built by property company Beladon.

The offshore farm has been built in the centre of Merwehaven harbour and will be facilitated by 40 Meuse-Rhine-Issel cows which will be milked automatically by robots.

The cows will live in a garden-like environment to ensure the highest standards of animal welfare. It is projected to make around 800 litres of milk per day and is set to open by the end of 2018.

Despite built-up urban areas, such as Merwehaven harbour, not appearing as the most appropriate places to build and run a farm, the reduction of travel from production to consumer will result in less transport pollution.

The world’s population is also growing: 55 per cent of people live in cities, with this figure expected to rise to 68 per cent by 2050, demonstrating the need for vertical structures to support cities.

Beladon is known for their floating buildings, designed to connect people to the environment without affecting the landscape around them.

Peter Van Wingerdam, an engineer at Beladon who created the idea for the farm, said: “With increasing demand for healthy food, fast-growing urbanisation and climate change, we can’t rely on the food production systems of the past anymore.”

Minke Van Wingerdam, Peter’s wife and business partner, said that the floating farm is “easily scalable,” with larger operations promising “obvious efficiencies.”

The farm will contribute to a circular food program and the use of space, water, transport, nutrients and energy will be kept as low as possible. It will also aim to reuse and recycle to ensure the sustainability of the farm.  

Read more: Beladon creates the first ever ‘floating farm’...

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...

A group of leading investors has weighed in on the issue of sustainable palm oil.

91 investors with assets under management worth $6.7 trillion has written to the certification body Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) about the issue.

The group, including CalPERS, Hermes and Aviva, is calling for wider, more stringent standards, to cover more areas of forestry production and workers’ rights.

“Our investment portfolios include companies that have significant exposure to deforestation risks and therefore, have made robust no-deforestation policies and strong commitments to sourcing sustainably certified palm oil,” the investors wrote. 

RSPO is preparing to release its latest guidance on sustainable palm oil in November, which will direct production over the next five years.

Currently, 19 per cent of the world’s palm oil is certified by the body, but the group points out that its draft standards do not contain sufficient protections for peatlands, high carbon stocks and worker rights.

"Strengthening the RSPO standards is vitally important,” said Beth Richtman, CalPERS managing investment director, sustainable investments. “Without stronger standards, deforestation and land rights abuses could continue in palm oil production leading to financial risks for investors. Without stronger standards, companies trying to lower their risk and improve the sustainability of their supply chains are operating in the dark. RSPO needs to be the bright light that incentivizes and guides the palm oil industry into one that is truly sustainable in all meanings of the word.”

The production of palm oil is now a global industry worth $37 billion, according to the non-profit organisation, Ceres. It is now a main ingredient in a whole range of widely used products, from cosmetics to processed foods.

Julie Nash a director at Ceres commented that companies need assurances that their supplies will be free from deforestation.

“Without that, their businesses are vulnerable to reputation and market risks. This new guidance has the opportunity to help companies implement no-deforestation pledges, but it must meet industry norms for zero deforestation,” she added.

Read more: Investors worth $6.7 trillion call for stronger...

The circular economy has inspired new plans to move towards a sustainable textile industry.

Globally, one rubbish truck of textiles is thrown away every second. This has resulted in UK landfill sites being inundated with unwanted clothing items costing an estimated £82 million a year, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

The production of clothes is a dynamic process with a constant conveyor belt of new material which leaves behind a mass of unwanted items. Despite the industry’s efforts to become more socially ethical, a lack of commitment to the environment remains.

Fashion is also considered as one of the most polluting industries globally and by 2050 it is expected to use up to 25 per cent of the world’s carbon budget.

The circular economy seeks to incorporate sustainability into the textile industry. Circular fashion, coined in 2014, are clothes, shoes or accessories designed to be biodegradable and recyclable with a high longevity, according to Dr Anna Brismar at Green Strategy, a consultancy.

C&A have launched sustainable jeans in a bid to demonstrate the effectiveness of a circular business model. The jeans are made from non-toxic materials which can be safely recirculated back into industrial process.

Recent research from Nottingham Trent University has explored the idea of clothing rental as another option. The academics point to a survey at the Westfield Shopping Centre in London which suggested renting could become a key trend in the future.

Girl Meets Dress is a British company assessed by the researchers, and a leading provider of luxury dresses for hire. It allows customers to choose among 4,000 designer pieces and return them within either a 2 or 7 day period, in order to combat waste in the industry.

“While we found there were opportunities, certainly at the luxury end of the market, there was resistance to the rental of lower priced items, which were just too easy to buy,” said Naomi Braithwaite, a senior lecturer in fashion marketing and branding at Nottingham Trent.

“If consumers are to engage, rentals need to be convenient, cheap and accessible and fulfil the desire for having something new.”

However, she pointed out that there other issues to consider, such as the impact of dry cleaning and transportation.

“Clothing rental has the potential to reduce waste and extend the lifespan of garments, but to achieve a more sustainable industry a systemic change in business practice and consumer behaviour is needed,” she concluded.

Read more: Renting clothes could support sustainability in...

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

The UK Government could soon implement a coffee cup levy to combat the use of throwaway plastic.

The ‘latte levy’, totalling 25p, would work in a similar way to the 5p plastic bag charge, and implemented across the UK.

A record 162,000 people responded to a recent Government consultation on the issue, highlighting the strength of feeling on tackling plastic waste.

Robert Jenrick, the exchequer secretary to the Treasury, said: “Tackling the scandal of plastic pollution is one of our top priorities and we know the public is right behind us. I’ve been overwhelmed by the public support and the responses we’ve received will be invaluable as we develop our plans for using the tax system to combat this.”

Presently, the amount of plastic waste in the UK annually amounts to nearly 5 million tonnes. It has been reported by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) that around 2.5 billion disposable cups are thrown away each year. This has resulted in over 6 million tonnes of plastic being dumped in the oceans already this year. The EAC first recommended the 25p charge in a report earlier this year. However, the government was initially reluctant to implement one, preferring the option of allowing coffee chains to offer discounts on reusable cups.

Louise Edge, a senior plastic pollution campaigner at Greenpeace, said: “The so-called latte-levy on disposable cups seems inevitable now, but that should be just the tip of the iceberg.”

The UK government has previously banned microbeads from cosmetics and is exploring increasing the 5p plastic bag charge. They are also reviewing banning plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds as public support grows for the tackling plastic pollution.

Companies such as Starbucks and Pret A Manger have previously responded to the demand for sustainability by introducing incentives to use reusable cups.

Read more: ‘Latte levy’ back on the menu to restrict...

Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has dropped the proposal to decrease greenhouse gas emissions after facing a potential leadership challenge

Australia was on its way to meet obligations created under the Paris Agreement with their ‘National Energy Guarantee’ policy aimed to reduce carbon emissions by 26 per cent by 2030.

However, Turnbull was forced to back down on Monday as speculation grew surrounding a challenge to his leadership after opposition from his Coalition government. A group of Conservative MPs, led by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, threatened to vote against the legislation which would have resulted in a crisis of confidence.

Abbott said: “I am just interested in trying to ensure that Australians have the lowest possible power prices and that people’s jobs are safe…what that means is that we stop running a power system to reduce emissions.”

On Sunday, the energy policy was discussed in an emergency meeting as, at the same time, a poll demonstrated a substantial decrease in support for the government.

As a result, on Monday, Turnbull announced that he would not be including any targets aimed at reducing emissions in the National Energy Guarantee policy.

Turnbull commented “Now in politics you have to focus on what you can deliver and that’s what we’ve done and will continue to do.”

Previously, Australian governments have struggled to succeed in implementing climate policies. However, the debate continues as after abnormally early bushfires in New South Wales, environmental scientists have attributed climate change as one of the leading causes.

Turnbull has faced some criticism for his withdrawal of the legislation. Bill Shorten, the opposition leader, said “Mr Turnbull has demonstrated that he is not the leader this nation needs.”

This follows US President Trump’s decision to reject a suite of environmental policies designed to address climate change.

Read more: Australian PM to reject climate policy after...

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...

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