Energy transition

Tracking the Energy Transition: Renewables Rose in 2020, IEA Sets a Roadmap, and Spain Bans Oil and Gas Production Beginning in 2043

Are you trying to stay up to date about developments aimed at energy transition efforts in our industry? This roundup of news presents some of the recent announcements.

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Credit: Metamorworks/Getty Images/iStockphoto.

2020 Was a Good Year for Renewables
Following the oil market collapse brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, renewable energy became the only energy growth sector. And, it grew in record numbers, according to the Houston Chronicle. Renewable energy installations not only increased during the pandemic, they exceeded even the most bullish of expectations, with wind installations increasing 90% and solar increasing 23%, according to EIA data.

IEA Releases “First Comprehensive” Energy Roadmap to Net Zero by 2050
The International Energy Agency has released Net Zero by 2050: A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector, which it is calling the world’s first comprehensive study to lay out a cost-effective transition to a net-zero energy system while ensuring stable and affordable energy supplies, providing universal energy access, and enabling economic growth. The roadmap sets out more than 400 milestones to guide the world’s governments in acting on IEA’s insights, building their own national roadmaps, and implementing policies needed to achieve their net-zero goals. Read the report here.

Spain Bans New Oil and Gas Exploration and Production
A wide-ranging climate bill passed by the Spanish parliament bans all fossil-fuel production in the country beginning in 2043 and prohibits the sale of gasoline- and diesel-fueled vehicles by 2040. With the passage of the bill, Spain joins France, Ireland, and Denmark, who have already passed similar legislation. Coincidentally, Spanish oil company Repsol is investing heavily in renewable energy and made its US debut in the renewables market with a deal to acquire 40% of solar and battery storage project developer Hecate Energy. Repsol also began construction of the first of two wind farms in the 860-MW Delta 2 cluster in the northeastern Spanish region of Aragon.

Elsewhere in Europe, Amsterdam became the first city in the Netherlands to ban advertising for products that use fossil fuels as part of its effort to encourage residents to choose lower-carbon lifestyles.

Equinor and SSE Plan To Develop CCS Power Station in Scotland
Equinor and UK-headquartered SSE Thermal have confirmed that they will jointly develop what could be one of the UK’s first power stations equipped with carbon-capture technology. A new 900-MW gas-fired power station at Peterhead, Scotland, will include a carbon capture and storage (CCS) project designed to capture up to 1.5 million tons/year of carbon dioxide (CO2)—the equivalent of taking around 60 million cars off the road every year, according to SSE. SSE also said that the plant will be ideally placed for CO2 access to the Acorn CCS project, which will use legacy oil and gas infrastructure to transport CO2. The Acorn and Peterhead CCS projects have secured funding through the UK government’s $307.9 million Industrial Decarbonization Challenge Fund.

US Government Approves First Large-Scale Offshore Wind Farm
The Biden administration approved the construction and operation plan for the 800-MW Vineyard Wind 1 wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts, clearing the way for the United States’ first utility-scale wind-energy project to begin development during the second half of 2021. The project, which is expected to begin exporting power to the grid in the second half of 2023, will contribute to the Biden/Harris administration’s goal of generating 30 GW of energy from offshore wind by 2030.

Lightsource BP Gets Go-Ahead for Largest Solar Complex to Date
Lightsource BP, which is 50% owned by BP, has secured approval to begin work on its 400-MW Wellington North PV project in New South Wales, Australia. When combined with the 200-MW Wellington project already under construction, the total 600-MW complex will be the company’s largest yet. Solar and offshore wind are the two key planks of BP’s strategy to produce a net 50 GW of renewable energy by 2030.

California/NASA/Private Sector Coalition Will Launch Methane-Tracking Satellites
A coalition that includes the State of California, NASA, satellite company Planet, and four other institutions will use technology developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to pinpoint large emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG), including methane, from individual sources such as refineries and power plants, from space. Operating under a nonprofit organization called Carbon Mapper, the coalition plans to launch its first two satellites in 2023. The organization is funded by philanthropic groups, including one of Michael Bloomberg’s. According to Carbon Mapper, its satellites will see and measure emissions at the scale of individual facilities for the first time, as opposed to other satellite technology, which has monitored GHG over larger geographic areas.

CNPC Plans $1.5-Billion Investment Vehicle for Renewable Energy
The China National Petroleum Company (CNPC) and two other stakeholders have announced plans to create CNPC Kunlun Capital, a new investment vehicle for to help CNPC implement its new strategy to focus more on green and low-carbon energy development. The new entity, which will have a registered capital of $1.54 billion, will focus on investments in what are termed “emerging industries.” It will be operated on a three-way shareholding structure, with CNPC, PetroChina, and CNPC Capital holding 51%, 29%, and 20%, respectively. All three companies have committed to injecting the full funds into the new company within 3 years. The recent reorganization of CNPC into four subsidiaries, with one covering new energy, marks the first time CNPC has placed new energy development on par with oil and gas in terms of business priorities.

Supplies of Critical Minerals for Key Clean Energy Technologies Need To Pick Up
The International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its recent report, The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions, that there is a looming mismatch between the world’s climate ambitions and the availability of critical minerals such as copper, lithium, nickel, cobalt, and rare-Earth elements that are essential for clean energy technologies such as electric vehicles and wind turbines. Mineral demand for use in batteries for electric vehicles and grid storage could multiply at least 30 times by 2040, according to the report. The rise of low-carbon power generation to meet climate goals could also mean a tripling of mineral demand from this sector by 2040. Wind takes the lead, bolstered by material-intensive offshore wind and followed closely by solar photovoltaic (PV). The expansion of electricity networks also will require a huge amount of copper and aluminum. The IEA report offers six key recommendations for policymakers to foster stable supplies of critical minerals to support accelerated clean energy transitions.