Shaping a Sustainable Future

Jun 5, 2024

Renewables Surpass 30% of World’s Electricity

In a landmark year for global energy, over 30% of the world’s electricity now comes from renewable sources, marking a pivotal shift away from fossil fuels.

According to a report by energy thinktank Ember, wind and solar power have played key roles, with solar energy emerging as the fastest-growing source for the 19th consecutive year.

Solar energy generated twice as much new energy as coal last year. In the United States, wind and solar grew to 16%, above the global average of 13%, and ahead of neighbors Mexico (12%) and Canada (7%). However, nuclear remains the largest source of low-carbon electricity at 18%.

The country aims for 59% renewable electricity by 2030, just one percentage point below the International Energy Agency (IEA) Net Zero Emissions scenario, which sets a global benchmark of 60% renewable electricity by the same year.

Leading this global transition is the European Union (EU), producing 44% of its electricity from renewables. Greece, Hungary, and the Netherlands are among the EU’s frontrunners, with Greece achieving the world’s second-highest share of solar power at 19%.

Although droughts driven by drastic climate change have led to a temporary rise in coal power, figures remain optimistic, predicting a 2% drop in fossil fuel generation this year.

Safe to say, we’re on the right track — but the race to a cleaner future is far from over!

Could EV Batteries Bolster Electric Grid?

Once considered a costly component, electric car batteries are now being reimagined as valuable assets that could transform the energy landscape.

Automakers like Ford, General Motors, and BMW are exploring ways these batteries can help utilities manage power supply and demand, potentially lowering utility bills for car owners — and offering perks like reduced lease payments or free parking.

By storing excess renewable energy, electric vehicles (EVs) could support the grid during peak times, with carmakers acting as intermediaries.

Matthias Preindl, an associate professor who studies power electronic systems at Columbia University, believes there’s potential for millions of EVs to create a vast energy system connected to the grid.

Companies like The Mobility House, backed by Mercedes-Benz and Renault, are already implementing this concept.

They buy cheap renewable power, store it in EVs, and resell it when demand rises. Renault’s R5 electric car and BMW’s Neue Klasse vehicles are pushing the envelope with bidirectional charging capabilities, allowing cars to draw and supply electricity.

Ford’s F-150 Lightning pickup also leads in two-way charging, with other automakers following suit.

Despite challenges such as battery degradation concerns and regulatory hurdles, initiatives are underway to unlock the full value of EV batteries, promising to drive adoption and combat climate change.

Looks like EV batteries might just become the grid’s new best friend.

Urban Trees Combat City Heat

In the sweltering heat of modern cities, the humble tree emerges as a silent savior.

With global temperatures rising and urban heat islands intensifying, new research highlights the critical role of trees in cooling our cities and improving public health.

A recent study by Springer Link reveals that increasing tree cover in cities like LA could cut heat-related emergency room visits by up to 66%.

UCLA environmental researcher Edith de Guzman and her team found that neighborhoods with more trees are significantly cooler, leading to substantial health benefits. Their study analyzed four LA heat waves and demonstrated that enhancing tree cover and adding reflective surfaces can lower temperatures and reduce heat-related ER visits.

As cities grow, prolonged heat waves can cause physiological stress, particularly for the elderly and young, and contribute to ozone formation, worsening asthma. Efforts to increase tree cover must be strategic and collaborative, focusing on vulnerable neighborhoods while involving residents in the process.

Alongside trees, other cooling strategies like rooftop gardens and reflective surfaces are being explored to make cities greener and more reflective.

Ultimately, these investments are not just about aesthetics. They directly link to public health outcomes, saving lives and mitigating the impacts of a warming world.

So next time you see a tree in the city, give it a nod — it’s out there fighting the heat, one leaf at a time.

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