Weekend reads - Smart Energy Decisions

Energy Efficiency, Utilities, Sourcing Renewables, Wind  -  January 9, 2021

Weekend reads: Sustainability resolutions for 2021; Hydrogen trends to watch this year

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

21 New Year's resolutions for sustainability professionals in 2021 and beyond (edie) At last, 2020 has drawn to a close and while the first parts of a new year might not create a respite from a global pandemic and an economic crash, it does create the ideal opportunity to look at the climate crisis with a reinvigorated approach.

A Monster Wind Turbine Is Upending an Industry (The New York Times) Twirling above a strip of land at the mouth of Rotterdam’s harbor is a wind turbine so large it is difficult to photograph. The turning diameter of its rotor is longer than two American football fields end to end. Later models will be taller than any building on the mainland of Western Europe. Packed with sensors gathering data on wind speeds, electricity output and stresses on its components, the giant whirling machine in the Netherlands is a test model for a new series of giant offshore wind turbines planned by General Electric. When assembled in arrays, the wind machines have the potential to power cities, supplanting the emissions-spewing coal- or natural gas-fired plants that form the backbones of many electric systems today.

Top Utility Trends of 2020 (Utility Dive) 2020 has been a year of tremendous disruption for electric utilities, and for the world in general. But while the COVID-19 pandemic may have temporarily slowed some of the larger trends driving the power sector, the overall transition to a cleaner, more distributed future continues. This can be seen in the continued expansion of renewables, storage and distributed energy resource options across the country, along with new state and federal policies to drive them.  2020 also saw continuing challenges for coal and gas, increasing sophistication of cyber threats, emerging trends in rate design, and the continued rise of electric vehicles. Increased electrification is also raising questions about the role of utilities and future impacts on the power grid. The stories below provide a flavor of these and other major trends driving the power sector today.

Hydrogen: 3 things to watch in 2021 (E&E News) A flood of investments and energy industry pledges made 2020 a breakout year for low-carbon hydrogen. But 2021 may be when the hype gives way to hard questions. Last year, the colorless gas captured the imagination of many companies for a variety of uses: Major truck manufacturers banded together to promote a transition to hydrogen fuel-cell models. A hydrogen plane startup pulled in over $21 million from investors that included Amazon.com Inc. and a Bill Gates-backed fund. Several gas and electric utilities launched pilot projects to produce hydrogen from zero-carbon sources. Hydrogen has had false starts in the past: In the early 2000s, the Bush administration anointed fuel-cell cars as the future of transportation. But under President Obama, the Department of Energy backed off the technology, and it has failed to catch on with most automakers.

Can a city truly be 100% renewable? It’s complicated. (Grist) In 2014, Burlington, Vermont, the birthplace of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and the stomping grounds of Senator Bernie Sanders, announced that it had reached an energy milestone. The city of 42,000, which hugs the shore of Lake Champlain, produced enough power from renewable sources to cover all its electricity needs. Burlington, the city government proclaimed, was one of America’s first “renewable cities.” Since then, Burlington has been joined by Georgetown, Texas, Aspen, Colorado, and a few other small towns across the country. And though some cities have a head start — Burlington benefits from a huge amount of hydroelectric power and ample wood for biomass burning — many that rely on fossil fuels for power are joining in.

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