A selection of three essential articles read aloud from the latest issue of The Economist. This week: how green bottlenecks threaten the clean energy business, meet the voters that are turning former Labour strongholds Conservative in England (9:45) and, as curtains rise again, the theatre is set to look very different (16:55).
Bioo is generating electricity from the organic matter in soil and creating biological batteries to power agricultural sensors, a growing $1.36 billion global market. Eventually, Bioo envisions a future where biology could help to power our largest cities.
So-called green bonds have become more popular in recent years, and this fast-growing segment of the $128.3 trillion global bond market could grow even more. When an issuer sells a green bond, they’re making a nonbinding commitment to earmark the sale’s proceeds for environmentally friendly projects. That could include renewable energy projects, constructing energy efficient buildings or making investments in clean water or transportation. Green bonds fall under the wider umbrella of sustainable bonds, which include fixed-income instruments whose proceeds are set aside for social or sustainability projects. Big household names such as Apple and PepsiCo are diving into this space. A handful of massive banks and governments around the world are also issuing sustainable bonds, including China, Russia and the European Union. This may be contributing to the space’s rapid growth. A report from Moody’s said new sustainable bond issuance may top $650 billion in 2021. That would represent a 32% jump from 2020.
Miles below the Earth’s surface, there’s enough thermal energy to power all of humanity for the foreseeable future. It’s called geothermal energy, and it’s poised to play an increasingly large role as a source of always available, renewable power. Now, there are a number of startups in the geothermal space, working to figure out how to access this heat in difficult to reach geographies, at a price point that makes sense. And it’s even gotten the attention of oil and gas industry giants, who are interested in greening their portfolios while sticking to their core competencies – extracting energy resources from deep within the Earth.
In the past decade, wind power capacity has tripled, and it’s projected to double in the decades to come. Wind is now America’s top renewable source of electricity generation, and the domestic offshore industry is finally taking off, as major manufacturers debut ever larger and more powerful turbines. While the industry faces some challenges with permitting, public opposition from various interest groups, and the obvious intermittency issues, there’s no doubt that wind is poised to play a major role in the energy transition. The question is just how fast it will grow.
The meltdown at a nuclear power station in Fukushima, Japan, ten years ago stoked anxieties about nuclear energy. But nuclear is one of the safest, most reliable and sustainable forms of energy, and decarbonising will be much more difficult without it.
Norrbotten in Sweden is blessed with natural resources but more recently has been turning heads because of its growing roster of innovative start-ups. We bear witness to the region’s effort to change heavy industries into clean businesses.
Norrbotten County is the northernmost county or län of Sweden. It is also the largest county by land area, almost a quarter of Sweden’s total area.