May 10, 2022
🍩 Hello again! Today's Smart Brevity count is 1,076 words, 4 minutes.
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🎶 Yesterday marked the 1995 U.S. release of Jamiroquai's album "The Return of the Space Cowboy," which provides today's intro tune...
1 big thing: Biden launches new transmission push
First look: The Energy Department is today launching a new $2.5 billion revolving fund to spur construction of major transmission projects, Ben writes.
Why it matters: New and upgraded transmission is needed to link expanding renewable power to demand centers. But financing and permitting are notoriously tough.
Driving the news: DOE just issued a formal "notice of intent" for the "Transmission Facilitation Program" (TFP) in the bipartisan infrastructure law. It's a way to gather input ahead of a solicitation for proposals.
How it works: The program provides DOE tools including loans and authority to purchase power off-take capacity in new projects — capacity it would resell to replenish the fund.
- The contracts, the subject of the first solicitation, are meant to help give investors confidence.
- "It's always that challenge of, you may have generation but you need to have buyers on the other end," Patricia Hoffman, DOE's top grid official, tells Axios.
The big picture: It's among several pieces of the new law aimed at spurring transmission and grid upgrades to boost reliability and clean energy.
- The White House climate targets include 100% zero-carbon power by 2035 and a 50% cut in economy-wide emissions by 2030.
- "Transmission is very important to achieving the administration's goals to achieve low-cost and low-carbon electricity sources and connecting those sources to consumers," Hoffman said.
- The program is part of DOE's wider "building a better grid" initiative.
The intrigue: The new program is the first time DOE can enter into these capacity contracts outside the federally owned Power Marketing Administrations, Hoffman said.
- "What is exciting about this is, it is a solution that that industry has an opportunity to take advantage of," she said.
- "I've seen a lot of excitement around this because it's new. It has the ability to move things forward," said Hoffman, who is acting director of DOE's Grid Deployment Office.
Yes, but: The U.S. probably can't meet White House climate targets without the big clean energy tax credits and other deployments tools in President Biden's stalled "Build Back Better" legislation.
What's next: The department expects to begin a process under TFP early next year that adds the program's loan and public-private partnership financing tools, DOE said.
2. Report shows increasing odds of a 1.5°C-degree year
There is a 50% chance that, during the next five years, the global average surface temperature will exceed 1.5°C above the preindustrial average for the first time in an individual year, the World Meteorological Organization reported yesterday, Andrew writes.
Why it matters: Under the Paris Agreement, countries are seeking to limit the long-term increase in global average temperatures to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels, to minimize the potential for devastating climate change impacts.
- These might include the loss of warm-water coral reefs and even deadlier heat waves.
Between the lines: The new report, which provides climate projections for the five-year period between 2022 and 2026, does not say that the 1.5-degree target will be consistently breached during the long term, meaning about 30 years, which is the target's meaning under the Paris Agreement.
- Led by the UK Met Office for the WMO, which is a United Nations agency, with contributions from other climate centers, the report shows that the odds of exceeding the 1.5-degree threshold during the short run are rapidly increasing.
- The WMO found the chance of a single year seeing temperature anomalies at or above 1.5°C compared to preindustrial levels was just 10% for the 2017-2021 forecast period. Last year, this outlook pegged the odds at 40%.
- Still, Leon Hermanson, who led the report, said in a statement that the increased odds of exceeding 1.5-degrees in a single year demonstrates, "That we are edging ever closer to a situation where 1.5°C could be exceeded for an extended period."
3. 🏃🏽♀️Catch up fast: finance, oil, EVs
💵 "Arcadia has privately raised $200 million from investors including J.P. Morgan Asset Management to scale its climate-data and software platform." (Wall Street Journal)
🛢️ Crude prices tumbled sharply early this week even as the EU weighs plans to ban Russian crude. Reuters notes that "demand concerns related to coronavirus lockdowns in China, a strong dollar and growing recession risks" are weighing on prices.
📉 "Shares of Rivian Automotive closed Monday at a new low following a CNBC report that Ford Motor is selling 8 million shares of the electric vehicle start-up." (CNBC)
4. Activists seek White House crypto crackdown
Environmentalists are urging the White House to launch major regulatory efforts to stem carbon emissions linked to bitcoin mining, Ben writes.
What they're saying: Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, Environmental Working Group and others say permits for digital mining operations should face "stringent environmental reviews."
They also call for a registry of mining operations, federal energy efficiency standards for digital currencies, and steps to "limit financial transactions which increase climate pollution."
The League of Conservation Voters, Friends of the Earth and others joined the letter.
What we're watching: Input from other stakeholders to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, so watch this space.
5. Charted: U.S. renewables milestone
Combined U.S. wind and solar power hit 20% of the U.S. electricity mix on a monthly basis in April, per new data from the clean energy think tank Ember, Ben writes.
The big picture: "The record is being predominantly driven by a wind boom in the Great Plains and Midwest, across states like Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas," the group said.
Yes, but: The solar industry says the Commerce Department's probe of potential new tariffs on equipment imports from Asia is a major threat to continued growth that's already hurting projects.
6. Faith leaders get specific on climate demands
An interfaith coalition, with UN support, is pressing banks they do business with to quickly halt financing for oil-and-gas projects, Ben writes.
Driving the news: The World Council of Churches, the Muslim Council of Elders and the New York Board of Rabbis jointly said their financial services and insurance providers should...
- End "all financing towards any new oil and gas projects exploration and extraction projects," and halt the expansion of existing projects this year.
- End financial services and portfolio exposure to coal by 2030 in Europe and the OECD, and by 2040 worldwide.
Why it matters: It signals pressure on banks to pair long-term net-zero pledges with stronger near-term steps.
What they're saying: “For too long, the financial services sector has enabled the world’s fossil fuel addiction," UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a separate statement.
Thanks so much for reading and see you back here tomorrow.