Plus all the top key green business news from around the world
Tesla takes decision to ‘temporarily suspend production’ at California site
Tesla yesterday issued a statement confirming it has decided to temporarily suspend production at its factory in Fremont, California, from March 23. “Despite taking all known health precautions, continued operations in certain locations has caused challenges for our employees, their families and our suppliers,” the company said, adding that its factory in New York will also temporarily suspend production, except for those parts and supplies necessary for service, infrastructure, and critical supply chains. Operations at others facilities are currently continuing, including Nevada and maintenance of the company’s Supercharging network.
The EV giant added that its cash position at the end of Q4 2019 was $6.3bn before its recent $2.3bn capital raise. “We believe this level of liquidity is sufficient to successfully navigate an extended period of uncertainty,” it said.
The announcement is the latest in a string of similar moves from across the EV industry as government’s around the world enact strict social distancing measures. Earlier this week Nissan confirmed its factory in Sunderland, which produces its LEAF EV, would shutter for the forseeable future.
Row brewing over US stimulus plans
A major battle is brewing over the make-up of an imminent US economic stimulus, with the Trump administration seeking immediate support for the oil industry and a group of Democrats arguing any airline bailout should be pegged to new emission reduction efforts.
President Trump yesterday proposed $3bn from Congress to top up the country’s strategic petroleum reserves, in amove designed to prop up US oil producers as oil prices crashed globally. Trump said falling crude prices benefited US consumers filling up their cars, but noted that it also “hurts a great industry, and a very powerful industry”.
Meanwhile, a group of Senate Democrats this week set out proposals for any airline bailout package to include measures to curb emissions from the industry.
The airline industry this week called on the government to provide over $50bn in assistance, including both grants and loans, as passenger numbers continued to plummet. But senior Democrat Senators Sheldon Woodhouse and Ed Markey insisted the bailout had to come with green trings attached. “Carbon offsets should be a condition for any such bailouts,” Whitehouse tweeted on Tuesday afternoon. “Airlines that want public support should live public values.”
Oil industry group inks Norwegian CCS agreement
Norwegian CCS R&D hub, Technology Center Mongstad (TCM) has signed a contract with OGCI Climate Investments – the $1bn investment fund from the industry-backed Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) – to test carbon capture technology at TCM’s facilities from March 2020.
TCM has provided advisory services to OGCI Climate Investments on the assessment of carbon dioxide (CO2) capture technologies since 2019. And now the facility will undertake a series of technology tests in support of the Net Zero Teeside project in the UK, which is being developed by a number OGCI member companies, including BP, Eni, Equinor, Shell and Total.
From the mid-2020s, the project plans to capture up to six million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year, equivalent to the annual energy use of up to two million homes in the UK. The CO2 capture test being conducted by TCM this month is described as “an important step to enabling the project to achieve these goals”.
“We are honored to work together with OGCI Climate Investments, on CO2 advisory services and now also technology testing. The Net Zero Teesside project is one of Europe’s leading CCS-ventures and our long-standing expertise on carbon capture is well suited for this project,” said Managing Director at TCM, Ernst Axelsen.
South Korean government proposes Green New Deal investment blitz
South Korea this week announced plans to introduce a Green New Deal investment programme and set a net zero by 2050 target, which would make it the first East Asian economy to introduce such a goal.
The ruling Democratic Party of Korea published the plans in its manifesto ahead of upcoming elections, outlining wide-ranging decarbonisation plans.
“Reaching net-zero carbon emissions is very ambitious in a highly industrialised country where climate change has never been high on the political agenda,” said Daul Jang, government relations and advocacy specialist at Greenpeace Korea. “That the ruling party makes this one of the major pledges for the coming election is a significant change.”
South Korea previously launched a low carbon stimulus in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and green groups will be hoping it could repeat the approach following the current global pandemic – albeit at a larger scale.
Impossible Foods raises $500m
Impossible Foods closed a $500m funding round late last week, with the company confirming on Monday that the new funding will be deployed across the business as it works to execute on its global expansion plans.
The meat-free burger pioneer has now raised over $1.3bn over eight years, as it has carved out a leading position in the boomingmarket for plant-based meat alternatives.
In an interview with Forbes, chief financial officer David Lee said the company was well positioned to ride out the current economic crisis. “With what’s happening in the world, it’s important to reassure our customers that we are built to withstand short-term shocks,” he said. “We’re able to stand tall. We have the ability with long-term investors.”
Dutch renewables overtake coal power for the first time
Dutch coal power output plunged by more than a third last year, according to official statistics that show the country’s reliance on the most polluting power source is falling fast.
Statistics agency CBS revealed that while overall electricity use rose six per cent last year, coal generation fell by from 27 billion kWh to 17 billion kWh. In contrast, gas generation surged over 20 per cent to 71 billion kWh and renewables output rose to 22 billion kWh, outstripping coal for the first time.
Coronavirus hits China and Indian coal output in China down
China’s coal output in the first two months of 2020 fell 6.3 per cent year-on-year, as the coronavirus outbreak impacted production across the country. China churned out 489.03 million tonnes of coal over January and February, down from 513.67 million tonnes in the same period last year, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) confirmed on Monday, while production of coke fell 5.5 per cent on the year for the same period.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported industry data showing that India’s coal imports fell 14.1 per cent year-on-year to 17.01 million tonnes in February in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak
The global economy is now widely expected to see a sharp fall in carbon emissions this year, as the pandemic and escalating lock downs drastically reduce fuel and energy demand. However, climate campaigners remain concerned that subsequent stimulus measures could drive a rapid uptick in emissions once lock downs are lifted.
Swedish pension fund divests from fossil fuels
Swedish public pension fund AP1 this week became the latest major financial firm to announce it is to divest from fossil fuels. The company said that in response to the financial risks associated with oil, gas, and coal assets it would become the first Swedish public pension fund to divest.
“This is fantastic news and a very welcome and important decision by AP1,” said Rolf Lindahl, campaigner for Greenpeace Sweden. “We have a long standing demand that public investments should benefit the future development of society, not counteract it. Ridding the funds of ecologically and economically risky businesses shows responsibility toward people, society and environment.”
Greenpeace said it had been informed that the decision means that AP1 will sell off stakes in 130 companies involved in fossil fuels, at an estimated value of around 4.5 billion Swedish Krona.
“The decision from AP1 to leave the fossil industry is an important signal to the other AP-funds and investors and capital managers at large,” said Lindahl. “It’s time to leave the fossil era and invest our savings in sectors with the future ahead of them.”