Weekend reads: - Smart Energy Decisions

Energy Efficiency, GHG Emissions, Sourcing Renewables  -  January 30, 2021

Weekend reads: BlackRock CEO urges corporate focus on ESG; Decarbonizing Europe's buildings

It's the weekend! Kick back and catch up with these must-read articles from around the web.

The top 5 takeaways from BlackRock head Larry Fink’s 2021 letter to CEOs (Fast Company) It has become an annual tradition. For years now, investment management company BlackRock’s CEO Larry Fink writes a letter an annual letter, aimed at other business leaders that is eagerly anticipated by investors, companies—and increasingly—the global sustainability movement. Having worked in sustainability for more than 30 years, it’s an odd experience to hang on every word of one of the world’s top capitalists. But BlackRock has nearly $9 trillion under management, so its decisions have important implications for the markets, and for the companies in which it owns stock. And Fink’s letters have been pushing sustainability for several years. This year’s letter—when paired with political shifts in Europe and the U.S.—will have an outsized impact. If demands from shareholders like BlackRock aren’t enough to move companies to improve on ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) concerns, then the regulators will.

Minnesota governor accelerates state's carbon-free power target 10 years, to 2040 (Utility Dive) Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, D, on Thursday proposed a series of policies that would bring the state to 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040, a decade earlier than the goal he proposed in 2019. His proposed policy goals follow a report from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency issued earlier this month, finding the state is not on track to meet its previous goals of reducing economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2025, and 80% by 2050. Overall, greenhouse gas emissions have declined 8% since 2005, according to the agency's latest data, which measures emissions through 2018.

Transmission week: why we need more big power lines (Volts) Hello, Volties, and welcome to Transmission Week here at Volts! It’s been delayed almost as many times as Infrastructure Week, but it’s finally here. All week, we’re going to be digging into the US energy transmission system. For those of you new to the subject, “transmission system” refers to the big, high-voltage power lines that carry electricity over long distances, usually perched along tall metal towers. To use a road analogy, transmission lines are like the interstate system, whereas lower-voltage “distribution systems” are like the nests of highways and streets that serve local populations. I’ve always been fascinated by distribution systems, but I’ve never really taken a deep dive into the transmission side of things. Until now!

Buildings consume more than a third of the EU's energy. Here’s how to decarbonize them (World Economic Forum) The building sector is the critical segment to tackle if the European Union wants to achieve its COP21 commitment. It is Europe’s single largest energy consumer, accounting for approximately 40% of EU energy consumption (36% of CO2 emissions). Around 25% of the current building stock could be considered “future-proof”, leaving 75% of buildings that still need to be renovated. On average, the annual deep-energy efficiency renovation rate barely reaches 0.2% for both residential and non-residential buildings in the EU. Based on the current renovation rate, we estimate it would take approximately four centuries to renovate the building sector in Europe to be in line with the COP21 trajectory.

‘Energy’ Is Its Name. But What Can the D.O.E. Actually Do on Climate? (New York Times) Jennifer M. Granholm, who faced a confirmation hearing Wednesday morning as President Biden’s nominee to head the Department of Energy, is widely expected to play a central role in the administration’s efforts to confront climate change. But that raises a question: How much can an energy secretary realistically do to help reduce America’s planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions? The agency controls some powerful levers that could help advance clean-energy technologies: a network of 17 national laboratories that conduct cutting-edge research, tens of billions of dollars in unused federal loan guarantees, and regulatory authority to encourage energy-efficient appliances and new transmission lines. But there are also major challenges in managing this sprawling, often unwieldy agency.


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