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COP26: India pledges net zero emissions by 2070

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Photo: Alastair Grant - Pool/Getty Images

India will cut its carbon emissions to net zero by 2070, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged at the COP26 climate summit Monday.

Why it matters: This is the first time the country has committed to net zero emissions and comes amid a broader discussion among global leaders to address climate change.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Oct 22, 2021 - Energy & Environment

The new offshore wind seascape

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. David Hardy. Photo: Courtesy of Ørsted Offshore North America

Global offshore wind heavyweight Ørsted already sees a regulatory sea-change under President Biden, but also says Congress has an important role to play.

Why it matters: A number of companies are planning to build what will be the first large-scale U.S. offshore projects.

These technologies could bring America to net zero emissions by 2050

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The newest section of a project from Third Way, the Bipartisan Policy Project and Clean Air Task Force examines how energy breakthroughs could accelerate America's transition to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Why it matters: The report chapter, provided first to Axios, is part of a broader effort known as the Decarb America Research Initiative, which explores the best ways to move the U.S. toward a net zero carbon emissions future by 2050.

Joby Aviation has designed an aircraft for today's systems

A Joby Aviation Inc. electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft outside the New York Stock Exchange on Aug. 11, the company's first day of trading. Photo: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Joby Aviation, which is working to certify its electric vertical take-off and landing air taxi (eVTOL), is simultaneously thinking within and outside the box.

Why it matters: First, the plane looks like the result of a merger between a helicopter and dragonfly. Second, and here is where the traditional part comes in, Joby is designing its plane and planning its flight operations for today's air traffic system, rather than waiting for the FAA to certify new "vertiports" where eVTOL aircraft can land and take off vertically.

  • Pilots for Joby would have the same types of flight certificates they do now, provided under what are known as Part 135 rules, opening the company up to a larger talent pool.

Between the lines: This approach gives Joby a leg up on the competition, as does its takeover of Uber Elevate, which will allow it to show up on the Uber app as an aerial trip option for users, while also operating its own air taxi app.

  • It wasn't until late last week, when I tried out the Joby flight simulator in Washington, that I realized what sets this company apart: Its aircraft design.

Details: As a pilot of small planes since I was 14 (I soloed on my 16th birthday), I jumped at the chance to fly Joby's full-scale flight simulator, which the company set up for journalists and policymakers in D.C.

  • Like many pilots of fixed-wing aircraft, I'm intimidated (actually, terrified) by the idea of piloting a helicopter. This is because the instincts needed to master one will quickly get you into trouble in the other.
  • A plane in the air naturally wants to keep flying straight and nearly level. A helicopter, not so much.
  • Thus I was delighted by the fact that Joby's plane may look like a helicopter hybrid, but it handles like an elegant, intuitive, fixed-wing aircraft — with some noteworthy exceptions.

How it works: In the simulator, I took off from Washington Reagan International Airport and climbed to about 500 feet. I then took my hands off the controls as instructed (an Airbus-like joystick in one hand, and a "speed" control — not a throttle — in the other), and was astonished that the plane just sat there, maintaining altitude, airspeed and its angle of attack.

  • I practiced forward flight, and a transition to a helicopter-like landing at the Pentagon heliport, under the guidance of Greg Bowles, Joby's head of government affairs.
  • The plane's redundancy is comforting, with multiple small, simple electric motors across the aircraft, making a single point of failure less impactful. Another safety feature is the flight software's prevention of any pilot inputs that would put the plane outside the envelope of safe flight, similar to how modern commercial aircraft work.
  • Joby's planes seat four, plus the pilot, whereas competitors like Beta Technologies will seat slightly more with six passengers, and fly farther, at about 250 nautical miles.

Between the lines: Joby's aircraft has already proved to have a range of 150 miles, and NASA sound testing has shown it has a far smaller noise footprint when compared to today's fleet of executive helicopters and small planes.

  • In other words, when air taxis fly between locations in urban areas, it's unlikely to provoke noise complaints.
  • Joby is working toward an airworthiness certification in 2023, with operations starting in 2024, that would allow it to operate its electric air taxi within the air traffic environment that exists today, Bowles said.
  • Joby views itself as an aircraft builder and airline, and will be operating air taxi operations with conventional Cirrus aircraft first, before integrating the eVTOL planes into its fleet, Bowles said.

Yes, but: It remains to be seen whether consumers will pay for electric air taxis in droves in order to drive costs down, or find them safe, and what markets will be best suited for them.

  • In its slide deck for analysts this past summer, Joby pitched Southern California as an ideal market. The company believes there's at least a $500 million market in the L.A. area alone.

Biden administration outlines "ambitious" plans for coastal wind farms

The Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Block Island, R.I. Photo: David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The Biden administration plans to identify and lease federal waters along seven coastal areas to offshore wind power developers over the next few years, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: The new plan constitutes an aggressive push by the federal government to reach its goal of 30 gigawatts of offshore wind-generating capacity in U.S. waters by 2030.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Oct 11, 2021 - Energy & Environment

A new plan to boost community solar

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Data: Solar Energy Industries Association; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

The Energy Department is launching new efforts to boost "community solar" — a form of development that provides access to people ill-equipped to install rooftop systems.

Driving the news: DOE just launched the "National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP)," which brings together the agency, developers, local and state governments and more.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Sep 21, 2021 - Energy & Environment

First look: Study sees renewables boosting Appalachia

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Data: RMI; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

A new analysis finds that greatly accelerating wind and solar power deployment would bring major economic benefits to rural areas, with Appalachia seeing especially strong gains.

Driving the news: The clean energy think tank RMI is out with new regional-level projections shared first with Axios and shown above.

White House aims to protect workers from extreme heat

Two pear pickers in Hood River, Ore. on Aug. 13. Photo: Michael Hanson/AFP via Getty Images

The White House announced a slew of actions Monday, including the start of a rule-making process at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), to protect American workers from extreme heat.

Driving the news: The U.S. just had its hottest summer on record, with triple-digit-temperatures killing hundreds in the Pacific Northwest and exposing outdoor workers to dangerous conditions.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Sep 15, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Clean energy startup Arcadia raises $100 million

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Arcadia, a startup that provides people avenues to access renewable energy without having to change power companies, has raised $100 million to fuel its expansion.

Driving the news: New investors Tiger Global Management and the Drawdown Fund led the Series D round for the company founded in 2013 that has now raised $180 million overall.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Sep 8, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Mining data to mine battery metals

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A startup is using artificial intelligence to find new sources of metals that power electric vehicles and renewable energy technologies.

Why it matters: The world desperately needs new supplies of lithium, cobalt and other metals to accelerate the shift to EVs and renewable energy, and machine learning can help narrow the search.