Time Is Running Out

The United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC) delivered a sobering warning on the state of the global environment this week. It concludes the near-term impacts of climate change are more perilous than previously thought and, unless action is taken to de-carbonize the world’s economy, global mean temperatures will rise by 1.5 degrees by 2040.

Given that we are already two-thirds of the way to a 1.5 degree rise, avoiding such damage will require coordinated global action at a speed and scale that has “no documented historic precedent.” It would require a 45% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050. The report was written and edited by 91 scientists from 40 countries who analyzed more than 6,000 scientific studies. CNN (“Planet has only until 2030 to stem catastrophic climate change, experts warn”.)

This chart from the IPCC shows how global temperatures would respond to a sudden and drastic reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Even with immediate action, global temps will still overshoot that goal, but could reduce back to the target over time

Analysis of the impact of warming temperatures

The New York Times also has a good analysis of the impact of warming temperatures. NYT (“Why Half a Degree of Global Warming Is a Big Deal”.)

Energy Storage

A major issue with renewable power is intermittent generation. With falling battery costs and the billions being invested in developing next-generation batteries, we may be at the point where battery storage becomes feasible on a commercial level. The cost of lithium-ion battery packs has fallen by 75% in the last eight years. In a virtuous cycle, the rise of EV’s and the consequent, increasing production of batteries is increasing economies of scale. According to McKinsey, we could see a further 50-75% cost reduction by 2025. IHG forecasts that grid-connected storage could reach 52 GW in that same time frame and 175 GW by 2030.

A number of utilities are also looking at using the batteries in EV’s (vehicle to grid or V2G) to help provide storage to offset peak demand. A pilot program in the UK is paying drivers circa $100 per month to allow access to their batteries. In combination with smart grids and machine learning, EV batteries can be used to provide a more sustainable power flow while ensuring the EV battery has sufficient power for the driver when needed. Financial Times (“Grid storage batteries help electric vehicles go truly green”.)