In order to avert climate catastrophe we’re going to have to make boring changes to our built infrastructure. Politicians find it hard to argue for these sorts of enhancements because voters don’t get to see a ribbon cutting ceremony; however changes to infrastructure can make a massive difference. In the USA alone enhancing electrical transmission over power lines can reduce carbon emissions comparable to the entire chemical industry. And power lines are boring. As we find ways to use power lines (and other existing infrastructure) we need to encourage and reward politicians who want to improve them to save our planet.
Technical losses are the simplest to address through the deployment of more advanced technologies and by upgrading existing infrastructure, both for long-distance transmission of power and distribution at the local level. Improvements in transmission can be made, for example, by replacing inefficient wires, using superconductors that reduce resistance in wires, and thus lost energy, and controlling power flow and high-voltage direct current.
Similarly, improvements in distribution can be achieved by better managing the load and distribution of power, as well as how distribution lines are configured. Innovation, such as adopting digital technologies for routing power flows, can also play a role.
Solutions for nontechnical losses are more challenging and may only partially cut associated emissions. The causes of high losses are diverse and can originate in, for example, extreme events, such as the hurricanes that struck Haiti and Puerto Rico in recent years, or war, or a combination of weak governance, corruption and poverty, as seen in India. For either type of losses, countries with large shares of fossil fuel generation and the most inefficient grid infrastructure can cut the greatest emissions and reap the largest environmental benefits from reducing transmission and distribution losses.
Everyone already knows that burning coal for energy is absolutely horrible for the planet and were still learning just how bad coal power plants really are. The positive news is that once the plants are closed positive changes are quick to be found. A recent study found that shutting down coal power plants can be connected to the saving of 26,610 lives in the USA alone. There are other benefits too like cleaner air for plants, which in turns increases crop yields. This is yet more evidence that we need to do everything in our power to shutdown the use of coal.
An estimated 26,610 lives were saved in the US by the shift away from coal between 2005 and 2016, according to the University of California study published in Nature Sustainability.
“When you turn coal units off you see deaths go down. It’s something we can see in a tangible way,” said Jennifer Burney, a University of California academic who authored the study. “There is a cost to coal beyond the economics. We have to think carefully about where plants are sited, as well as how to reduce their pollutants.”
Renewable energy comes in many forms with new innovative approaches being discovered very so often. A more recent approach to carbon neutral renewable energy can be found where two bodies of water meet. In an innovative approach, scientists have found a way to create electricity from locations where fresh water bodies (usually rivers) meet salty ocean water. The process has been proven to work; however, it requires a large quantity of water to make it profitable. The next phase will be to try out the process at scale and to ensure there are no negative impacts on the local ecosystem.
There are several ways to generate power from that mixing. And a couple of blue energy power plants have been built. But their high cost has prevented widespread adoption. All blue energy approaches rely on the fact that salts are composed of ions, or chemicals that harbor a positive or negative charge. In solids, the positive and negative charges attract one another, binding the ions together. (Table salt, for example, is a compound made from positively charged sodium ions bound to negatively charged chloride ions.) In water, these ions detach and can move independently.
By pumping the positive ions—like sodium or potassium—to the other side of a semipermeable membrane, researchers can create two pools of water: one with a positive charge, and one with a negative charge. If they then dunk electrodes in the pools and connect them with a wire, electrons will flow from the negatively charged to the positively charged side, generating electricity.
Fraking is really bad for all of us, it’s the process of using water to force dirty oil out of the ground. This practice destabilizes the ground causing earthquakes and the end result is more wasteful oil ultimately being consumed, which in turn, produces waste that gets released into the atmosphere. There’s nothing good about fraking. Scotland banned fraking in its territory last month and now it looks like the United Kingdom as a whole is on track to ban it too. With any luck the country will divert subsidies to the finite petroleum industry to the infinite renewable energy sector.
Environmentalists argue that the process contaminates water supplies, hurts wildlife, causes earthquakes and contributes to global climate change.
It is banned in many countries, including France and Germany, and the United Kingdom’s other constituent members — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — are opposed to it.
Public mistrust of shale gas extraction is rising sharply.
According to the National Audit Office, opposition among Britons has risen to 40 percent from 21 percent since 2013.
“Public concern has centred on the risks to the environment and public health, from fracking-induced earthquakes, and the adequacy of the environmental regulations in place,” it said.
Toronto’s garbage trucks are being fuelled by the very thing they are picking up on their routes. The trucks pick up food waste (in a separate bin from recycling and trash) and transport them to a holding facility where the food further decomposes.
Since 2015, Toronto has been working to harness the biogas emitted from organic waste. After partnering with Enbridge to build a processing facility on the Dufferin site, biogas is now ready to fuel the majority of Toronto’s collection trucks. It’s one of the first cities in North America to do this.
The switch to biogas or renewable natural gas (RNG), will reduce the city’s carbon footprint, Khan says. The trucks that pick up your waste will drop it off at the plant and then go to a station where they will be fuelled with the biogas.
“It’s one of the most significant actions the city can take… because we’re not using resources to withdraw and clean fossil fuels, we’re using the waste that’s already produced,” said Khan.