Heavy industries must decarbonise dramatically to reach net zero. Replacing fossil fuels with green hydrogen, created with renewable energy, is one way to reduce emissions. Examples of green hydrogen being used in various industries are emerging, but as the FT’s Sylvia Pfeifer reports, this carbon-free innovation faces a major challenge to scale up.
For some, nuclear power may conjure images of mushroom clouds or bring back memories of disturbing nuclear disasters like Chernobyle and Fukushima. But despite public fear around nuclear power, the technology has proved to be an emission-free, reliable way to produce large amounts of electricity on a small footprint.
As a result, sentiments about the technology are beginning to change. Both the U.S. government and private companies including X Energy, NuScale and, Bill Gates-backed, TerraPower are pouring money into developing, what they say will be smaller, safer nuclear reactors. CNBC visited Idaho National Laboratory to see the Marvel microreactor firsthand and learn what such developments could mean for the future of nuclear power.
After humankind discovered nuclear fission, the first applied use was the atomic bomb. The study of fission for electricity production came later. In December 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave his fateful Atoms for Peace speech, an impassioned plea to reconstitute the power of the atomic bombs dropped in World War II for a more noble cause.
“Against the dark background of the atomic bomb, the United States does not wish merely to present strength, but also the desire and the hope for peace,” Eisenhower told the United Nations. Almost 70 years later, the tension between those end uses still underlies the space today. From the 1950s through the 1970s, the United States dramatically increased its nuclear energy generation.
But the Three Mile Island accident in 1979 and Chornobyl meltdown in 1986 changed the landscape, spurring fear that nuclear energy could not be controlled safely. Since the 1980s, nuclear energy capacity and generation in the U.S. has largely stayed flat. Today, the country’s fleet of nuclear power reactors produces only 19% of the country’s electricity, according to the government’s Energy Information Administration.
In more recent times, the Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan in 2011 — and earlier this year the capture of nuclear power plants in Ukraine by invading Russian forces — have added to public concerns. But despite its fraught origin story and the psychological effect of high-profile accidents, nuclear energy is getting a second look. That’s largely because nuclear energy is clean energy, releasing no greenhouse gasses.
Meanwhile, the world is seeing more of the effects of climate change, including rising global temperatures, increased pollution, wildfires, and more intense and deadly storms. “We need to change course — now — and end our senseless and suicidal war against nature,” Antonio Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations, said in Stockholm on Thursday. “There is one thing that threatens all our progress. The climate crisis. Unless we act now, we will not have a livable planet,” Guterres said. “Scientists recently reported that there is a 50-50 chance that we could temporarily breach the Paris Agreement limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next five years.”
Fossil fuels still supply about 80% of the world’s power. How can energy be produced and used more sustainably to meet climate targets? We answer your questions. film supported by @Infosys
Timeline: 00:00 – Why energy needs to become more sustainable 00:33 – How much energy should come from renewables? 01:19 – Why isn’t nuclear power used more widely? 02:19 – How can solar power be made more efficient? 03:34 – Will biofuels become widely used? 04:30 – Do electric vehicles make a difference? 05:10 – How heating and air conditioning can be more sustainable
Space launch costs are dropping rapidly. Solar panels are cheaper than ever. Could space-based solar power soon be price-competitive with nuclear? Promoted as a zero-carbon solution, classified military space planes have also been conducting experiments into wireless power transmission. The FT’s Peggy Hollinger looks at whether space-based solar power can move beyond science fiction.
The community living on the Scottish Isle of Eigg were the first in the world to set up their own off-grid energy system powered by wind, water and the Sun. The tiny island has shown it’s possible to rely almost entirely on renewables. Since it was launched in 2008, they have received visitors from several other countries wanting to learn more about the project. Community Energy Malawi, who help to set up renewable energy systems across Malawi, used their experience to set up a solar minigrid in Sitolo village, a community that previously relied on fossil fuels and firewood.
A selection of three essential articles read aloud from the latest issue of The Economist. This week, the first big energy shock of the green era, how covid-19 will move from pandemic to endemic (11:29) and our Charlemagne columnist assesses the odds of “Polexit” versus a “dirty remain” (17:21).
On Sept. 5, 2021, for the first time, a large high-temperature superconducting electromagnet was ramped up to a field strength of 20 tesla, the most powerful magnetic field of its kind ever created on Earth. That successful demonstration helps resolve the greatest uncertainty in the quest to build the world’s first fusion power plant that can produce more power than it consumes, according to the project’s leaders at MIT and startup company Commonwealth Fusion Systems.
It’s been hailed as fuel of the future. Hydrogen is clean, flexible and energy efficient. But in practice there are huge hurdles to overcome before widespread adoption can be achieved.
Video timeline: 00:00 How hydrogen fuel is generated. 02:04 How hydrogen fuel could be used. 02:46 Why hydrogen fuel hasn’t taken off in the past. 03:40 Is hydrogen fuel safe? 04:31 Hydrogen’s advantage over batteries. 05:00 How sustainable is hydrogen fuel? 06:13 Why the hype about hydrogen may be different this time.
Political battles at the most local levels are slowing the pace of decarbonization Property owners in the windy and sunny parts of the U.S. are pushing back against large-scale renewable energy development, opposition that researchers say could slow the transition to a cleaner economy. Photo: Aaron Yoder/WSJ