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State of The Transition, November 2016: Steps forward continue to outnumber steps back

Alternative Energy


The global energy transition remains in a state of net forward momentum as of the end of November. However, evidence that the society is in danger of reaching its eventual target of complete or near-complete energy decarbonisation too late to save the planet from runaway global warming was particularly clear this month. As if we didn’t know it before the events of November, this is going to be a tight race.

The Paris Agreement, a global decarbonisation pact adopted by every independent nation on Earth, entered into force on November 4th. I summarised the state of play in international climate politics, as it stood after the Marrakech climate summit, in a blog on November 21st. In essence, every government but the Trump regime-in-waiting sees the Paris process as “irreversible”. In the Marrakech Declaration 195 of them essentially told the climate-denying President-elect that he will lead a rogue state in a minority of one on the climate issue if he walks away from the treaty.

360 US companies wrote to Trump adding that withdrawal from the Paris accord would put US prosperity at risk. Corporate front runners around the world this month performed consistently with such an analysis. In Europe, notably, Dong Energy profits soared in the third quarter as a result of successful offshore wind projects and the selling off of their gas grid. The company began life as Denmark’s national oil company. This month their CEO, Henrik Poulsen, announced Dong’s intention to divest all remaining oil and gas assets and focus just on renewables, mostly offshore wind. The company sees “strong investor demand”, Poulsen said.

One example of that was HSBC’s UK pension scheme investing £1.85bn in a fund recently established by the UK’s largest fund managers, LGIM, with no coal, reduced oil and gas exposure, and a focus on low carbon investments. Said LGIM’s head of sustainability, Meryam Omi: “This is a powerful message that we are sending to companies that they need to step up to meet the challenges of moving to a low carbon economy.” The chief investment officer at HSBC’s UK pension scheme, Mark Thompson, added that this would be “the new normal.”

Another mover in this general direction is the UK’s National Grid, which is disposing of its UK gas grid, recognising the rapid expansion of renewables, and making investments in batteries and smart meters accordingly. CEO John Pettigrew says that “2015 was the last year we operated the system in the way it has operated for the past 50”, with coal power plants being paid to meet peaks of demand. Now adjustments focus on paying companies to reduce demand. Soon, in a country where solar generation has exceeded coal for months at a time of late, batteries and smart meters will add to the capability to keep lights on and emissions down.

In America, Tesla shareholders voted through a $2.6bn merger deal with SolarCity, approving CEO Elon Musk’s vision by an 85% majority, despite Wall Street scepticism. Musk has now created the world’s first EV-battery-solar conglomerate. Others will not be far behind, I predict. In October Mercedes-Benz unveiled its latest EV at the Paris Motor Show, and parent Daimler announced it will be building a €500 million battery factory in Germany. In November Mercedes-Benz announced plans to introduce a residential energy storage product to the US market in 2017, and set up a new energy company, Mercedes-Benz Energy Americas, to market it.

The writing on the wall when it comes to electrification of road transport can be seen in a regular flow of announcements these days. Notably this month, Daimler joined with VW, BMW and Ford to announce a €1 billion project to build 400 EV charging stations, a staging post to the thousands they and other EV converts envisage across Europe.

As for where the electricity comes from for EVs going forward, renewables seem set to win on simple economics. In some southwestern American states, new wind farms can be built today for just $22 a megawatt-hour and solar projects are less than $40 a megawatt-hour. The average lifetime cost for US natural gas plants is $52 and for coal $65. Trump may want to dig coal, but who is going to pay to burn it?

All this may seem obvious to converts to renewables in the utility industry. But most of the oil and gas companies continue to dig in and try to find ways to justify and defend the status quo. Shell boss Ben van Beurden is among the oil leaders who are lobbying for a major role for gas far into the future. He came out with a remarkable example of tunnel vision this month. The ability to make money from renewables “has been remarkably absent”, he told a conference in Paris. In attendance was the CEO of Saudi renewables developer Acwa Power, Paddy Padmanathan. “I did talk to him for a few minutes as he was leaving to point out that we are investing and we are making profits,” Padmanathan said. “And we are making profits with solar energy priced at $0.05 per kWh.”

Sometimes one has to wonder about the kind of advice people like van Beurden are getting. Why would he discount the developments at Dong Energy, for example? That former-oil-and-gas now-renewables company undermines every oilman who likes to say that oil companies cannot profitably entertain major changes in their business model.

And of course the oil industry hardly stands up to close inspection when it comes to profitability, as my blogs spanning 2016 have chronicled. As the Wall Street Journal has put it, oil companies are “binging on debt” – not least Shell – and often borrowing money just to pay dividends.

As well as increasingly unattractive economics, the oil and gas industry faces a burgeoning catalogue of environmental problems. Previous blogs this year amount to a depressing story, notably when it comes to gas leakage. In November, one little noticed development was particularly instructive of the winds of change, I would suggest. In Monterey county, California, the citizens voted on November 9th to ban fracking completely. There have been other such bans, both in the US and abroad. Two things made this one singular. First, Monterey is a county long extolled as a major oil target. Second, the oil and gas industry engaged in a multi-million dollar lobbying blitz to defeat the proposed ban. My prediction is that there will be ever more of this kind of adverse citizen reaction to their routine operations around the world, as the clean energy transition becomes ever more tangible and credible to the public, and as the environmental problems routinely associated with oil and gas operations become ever more exposed.

But now comes the fate-of-civilisation question. Will the continuing collage of progress that we have seen in November, as in all the other months of 2016, be enough to beat the climate change clock? This month the North Pole reached a scarcely credible 36 degrees F (20˚C) warmer than normal for the time of year, with the extent of Arctic ice at an unsurprisingly record low. This sits most uncomfortably alongside UNEP’s warning to the world this month, in its Emissions Gap report, that nations will have to go much further with emissions reductions plans than they have, before 2020, if there is to be any chance of keeping below the 1.5˚C global warming that the Paris Agreement aims at. Even 2˚C, the upper limit of ambition, is very questionable.

Yet China is still burning way too much coal, according to reports in November by Bloomberg, Carbon Tracker, and others. At the same time, it has scaled back solar and wind ambitions. With Trump in the wings, the world needs Chinese leadership badly. As I describe in The Winning of The Carbon War, there has been much evidence of that since 2014: China has worked very closely with Obama’s America both in delivering the Paris Agreement, and shepherding it into force. Now they have to go it alone.

The same disparity between Paris commitments and policy action can be found in Europe, where, for example, officials are mulling removal of priority access for renewables to the grid ahead of other forms of energy. In the UK, the numbers of civil servants working on climate has been cut, even as the government bends over backwards to support shale drillers and waste billions attempting a nuclear renaissance.

Jeremy Leggett blog

35 Comments on "State of The Transition, November 2016: Steps forward continue to outnumber steps back"

  1. Boat on Wed, 7th Dec 2016 7:24 am 

    I was not a Trump fan nor voted for Trump but judge the man on his actions and his ability to push then through. There will be plenty of time to cheer or boo for each issue after the fact.

  2. Cloggie on Wed, 7th Dec 2016 7:58 am 

    Jeremy Leggett – “Winning the Carbon War.”

  3. Cloggie on Wed, 7th Dec 2016 9:15 am 

    Overview from the coal industry about underground coal gasification:

    Could play a significant part during the transition towards a 100% renewable energy future.

  4. rockman on Wed, 7th Dec 2016 9:18 am 

    “China has worked very closely with Obama’s America”

    Yes indeed: during the first 4 years of President Obama’s term US coal exports to all countries increased from 60 million ston to 125 ston. U.S. coal exports also made steady inroads into the Asian market. Almost all the U.S. coal exported to Asia went to the world’s top four coal importers: China, Japan, India, and South Korea. During the president’s first term those exports to those countries increased 600%. And most of that increase came from govt leases administered by President Obama.

    And President Obama had plans for even more Asia coal exports: he authorized three new coal-export ports for the Pacific coast: two in Washington state and one in Oregon. They could eventually ship up to 100 million tons of coal per year — an amount equivalent to the total volume of coal the U.S. exported in the fourth year of his first term according to the EIA. But when local opposition delayed that plan President Obama expedited the expansion of Texas coal export terminals. As a result the first export of western coal from govt leases from Texas has begun.

    Given the precedence President Obama has set for supplying the world with increasing amounts of US coal he’s provided excellent cover for President-elect Trump to carry on his policy. Given his stated desire to increase US jobs and exports it easy to imagine the new president pushing thru those west coast coal export terminals. I just hope he does the fair thing and give President Obama credit for getting the ball rolling.

    Also: “The Paris Agreement…entered into force on November 4th”. Unless I missed the change there is no enforcement provision in the Paris Agreement.

  5. Apneaman on Wed, 7th Dec 2016 9:34 am 

    Old dutch the only thing coal gasification coverts is the carbon to a greenhouse gas to further warming you clueless fucking moron.

    He3re’s some more stored carbon getting converted to gas (rot or burn).

    Spread by trade and climate, bugs butcher America’s forests

    “The scourge of insect pests is expected to put almost two-thirds of America’s forests at risk over the next decade.

    The problem is projected to cost several billion dollars every year for dead tree removal and jeopardize longstanding U.S. industries that rely on timber.

    Forests from New England to the West Coast are jeopardized by invasive pests that defoliate and kill trees. Scientists say they’re driving some tree species toward extinction and causing billions of dollars a year in damage.”

  6. Apneaman on Wed, 7th Dec 2016 9:36 am 

    Weather Channel Spanks Neo Nazi Climate Deniers at Breitbart

  7. Cloggie on Wed, 7th Dec 2016 11:48 am 

    the only thing coal gasification coverts is the carbon to a greenhouse gas to further warming

    Any other open door, you imbecile?

    For an Albertan ex-oil worker you have a very big mouth.

    Why don’t you go study history, shit on the compost heap or do something else useful.

  8. Canabuck on Wed, 7th Dec 2016 2:34 pm 

    CO2 is now at 400 ppm. Historically, the number is 2000 to 4000 for most of the last 50 million years. Think about that.
    The Earth didn’t die back then, and it won’t if we goto 800 ppm now.

  9. penury on Wed, 7th Dec 2016 2:38 pm 

    Who knows? Trump could be correct. I am betting that no difference either way would be made if the U.S. ignored the treaty or actually did something the treaty called for.

  10. Cloggie on Wed, 7th Dec 2016 3:00 pm 

    About the state of the transition in Holland…

    Today the minister of economic affairs presented the “Energy agenda” in parliament. nothing unexpected:

    – Netherlands carbon free by 2050
    – All new cars electric by 2035
    – Natural gas will disappear from Dutch households
    – New houses and buildings will be heated via district heating or geothermal
    – Cooking electric only
    – Massive expansion of wind parks in North Sea
    – CO2 is to be stored in empty gas fields in the North Sea

    The accord is carried by all major groups in Dutch society. The government talks of a “national reconstruction”.

    The surprise is that large groups in parliament opine that the plan isn’t ambitious enough. Many want the electrification of the car park to begin in 2025.

  11. Kenz300 on Wed, 7th Dec 2016 3:41 pm 

    Climate Change will be the defining issue of our lives.

    Future generations depend on our actions.

  12. GregT on Wed, 7th Dec 2016 4:53 pm 

    “The Earth didn’t die back then, and it won’t if we goto 800 ppm now.”

    The Earth will be just fine, us humans, not so much.

  13. denial on Wed, 7th Dec 2016 10:32 pm 

    my bet is on the birds populating earth and evolving after humans are gone they can fly to places and move easily….

  14. Theedrich on Thu, 8th Dec 2016 2:17 am 

    What fun talking about how fuel-chaste we are going to be.  Of course, that’s all in the future, so it’s easy to pride oneself on one’s forthcoming rectitude and moral superiority vis-à-vis the unwashed masses.  Just so long as one is not oneself bothered by such inconveniences as having to saddle up a horse to go to the supermarket.

    The new world of pervasive automation, medievally low wages, drowning by ThirdWorldization and other consequences of Peak denial might just change a few flaky minds — and not just on the political Right.  But not many.  The Left loves war too much, and never has trouble demonizing other groups.  Consider that the sinking of the Titanic and Pearl Harbor were U.S.-caused ensnarements to allow American entry into both World Wars.  Libya and Syria were due to the Wonderwoman who just lost the 2016 presidential election — a loss which proves that there is a god.  But the urge to wage war grows especially when poverty deepens.  So after the utopian “green energy” solutions fail, as they must, the herd will probably elect another Savior to purge Evil from the earth.  Maybe with nukes.

  15. Cloggie on Thu, 8th Dec 2016 6:23 pm 

    Consider that the sinking of the Titanic and Pearl Harbor were U.S.-caused ensnarements to allow American entry into both World Wars.


    The truth about WW1 and WW2 finally begins to sink in, mainly thanks to revisionism, broadcasted via the internet.

    Here a brand new article on Pearl Harbor:

  16. Apneaman on Thu, 8th Dec 2016 6:55 pm 

    old dutch and old douche, two right wing, limp wristed faggots united in their conspiracy, hate and cowardness – somebody do somethin wa wa wa wa start a revolution so I can feel better wa wa wa. You two should get a room and suck eachother off in private. Your disappointment will never end. You’ll go to the grave with it. Your last moments will be anger, fear and hate……..just like most of your sad life. Me, I’m laughing my ass off at this retarded species.

    Roll out the barrel will have a barrel of fun…………….

  17. Cloggie on Thu, 8th Dec 2016 7:11 pm 

    Poor Friday, has great trouble to come to terms with the new political reality and can’t believe what’s happening. Even the Economist has understood that the times are changing and that the leftist-liberal order is evaporating, for ever.

    Our own Friday, where would we be without him. If he wouldn’t volunteer to be the forum’s leftist punching ball, he should be invented.

    Friday represents the Last of the Mohicans of a dying wannabee globalist order.

    Friday belongs in a museum.

  18. makati1 on Thu, 8th Dec 2016 7:36 pm 

    Ap, trying to enjoy our last moments is all we really can do about the situation. There are too many Boats and Cloggies and Davys out there in denial-land. The herd is running ever faster for the cliff. Best to just sit back and watch the show.

  19. Apneaman on Thu, 8th Dec 2016 7:58 pm 

    Old dutch, not one thing has changed. The only changes that matter are posted by me – the daily disasters and easily observable changes. Unlike your posts, mine are not an opinion. Gatlinburg Tennessee burning to the ground in late autumn when peak wildfires use to be seen in July is not my opinion it’s a fact same as Fort McMurray going up in flames and water in the streets in south Florida on a regular basis when it never happened before and AGW jacked rain bombs that were once just heavy rain are now blowing away rainfall records and causing billions in damage and it happened all over Europe this year too. Way too many to list and it ain’t just this year. Look at the record for any of it and the escalation since the early 1990’s is plain as fucking day. Both poles are in melt down and in the Arctic it’s polar night so there is no sun. yet it’s lost ice. Do you understand the energy required to do that? No you don’t, you spin tales of a grand resurgence of white dominance that ain’t going to happen. What is going to happen is what I just described. I have been predicting all this shit on this site for 3 years now and have been proved out right except it’s coming even faster. Mak recognized this the other day when he acknowledged that my long standing claim that unstoppable feedback are underway was validated by a handful of articles about a study and very obvious observations and measurement that it’s true. What have you predicted? You even thought Hillary would win. Trump is as fucking clueless as you and the rest of the right wing retards. Bring the denial on and watch it all unravel even faster. The humans have NO future fantasy tard.

    Apparently nature made y’all useless retards whose primitive brains are useless solving or managing 21st century problems.

    Republicans Brains are wired to deny science & reality

    That primitive chimp like brain might come in handy since we be going medieval shortly.

    ClogO, btw, I enjoy watching you fumble around trying to deny and explain away the unraveling biosphere. Keep it up. Very amusing.

  20. Apneaman on Thu, 8th Dec 2016 8:18 pm 

    Weather affects oil pipeline spill cleanup in North Dakota

    No worries this will soon be a thing of the past once Trumps new EPA team gets settles. Pipeline spills will be classified as a matter of national security and it will henceforth be illegal for any mention of them in the press – punishable by enhanced torture at Guantanamo. Problem solved! Complain about your drinking water and there’s a seat on the plane to Guantanamo for you too.

  21. Apneaman on Thu, 8th Dec 2016 8:38 pm 

    mak, I’m fine with Boat and Davy. They are normal dudes trapped like the rest of us trying to get by as best they can. Clogged and the other fascists are another matter entirely. Their type want blood. Preferably with somebody else out in the street starting it. Armchair revolutionaries. Clogged is 72 and lives in safe wealthy welfare paradise Netherlands and cries like a hard done by orphan slave who has been abused and used his whole life when the truth is more like he never without. Wants to see the blood run before he goes just like all the other white victims. Their victimhood is their identity. For clogged it’s obvious that he is carrying some serious multigenerational hate and has fantasies of some European/German wrongdoing being righted.

  22. makati1 on Thu, 8th Dec 2016 9:30 pm 

    Ap, Boat and Davy are a product of their upbringing and family ties. I usually just ignore their posts. And now, I put Cloggie on my ignore list. I usually do not read their comments, and try to focus on the intelligent, open-minded ones.

    Perhaps the truth you keep putting under their noses just scares them shitless and they cannot face the demise of all they believe and hold important in their lives. And it will likely happen in their lifetimes.

    I have no oil price or stock markets or debts to worry about. My family is older, on their own and doing well, so far. Meanwhile, a nice cold San Miguel, a bag of pretzels and a good book is the way to wait for the end, I think. Sunny and 87F here today.

  23. Boat on Thu, 8th Dec 2016 9:48 pm 


    Your right, I was brought up to live and let live. Not hate, not blame. We have one thing in common, we live in carbon sinks. I’ve seen yours, my god what an arm pit of human closterphobia.

  24. makati1 on Thu, 8th Dec 2016 9:58 pm 

    Boat, the 3rd world is coming to your town. Be patient. I was brought up to face the future, not deny it.

  25. GregT on Thu, 8th Dec 2016 10:14 pm 

    “Your right, I was brought up to live and let live.”

    Sure you were Boat. I guess that’s why you’re so supportive of the continuation of the destruction of the one and only planet that all human beings will ever have to call home.

    Real winner you are Kevin.

  26. GregT on Thu, 8th Dec 2016 10:15 pm 

    Oh, and Kevin. It’s ‘you’re’ right, not ‘your’ right. Dumb fuck.

  27. GregT on Thu, 8th Dec 2016 10:29 pm 

    I’ve seen yours, my god what an arm pit of human closterphobia.

    I seriously doubt that you’ve seen anything at all Kevin, outside of Texass. Your comments are indicative of someone that is not only seriously lacking in any semblance of intelligence, but of someone that has no clue at all about the world outside of his tiny little cubicle.

    And by the way Kevin. That would be ‘claustrophobia’, not ‘closterphobia’. How anybody can be so consistently wrong on pretty much everything is beyond comprehension. You are one of a kind Boat. A real fucking winner.

  28. Cloggie on Fri, 9th Dec 2016 4:04 am 

    And now, I put Cloggie on my ignore list.

    No you won’t.

    I repeat what I have said before. This forum is so excessive negative, so full of total doom, that it can’t be explained from resource depletion and climate change worries alone.

    Yesterday there was a topic about water scarcity, which prompted me to post a video showing an example of how you could efficiently grow crops with a staggering 95% less water usage. The only artifact you needed to make it work were stupid Styrofoam plates with holes in it to put plants in. Rather than in soil the plants grows on water and the Styrofoam prevents that the water evaporates. That’s all. A perfect solution for environments where water is scarce. Davy next torpedo’s the idea by branding it as “techno-optimism”. A stupid Styrofoam plate!

    Nobody here is interested in any solution whatsoever. It is almost as if most here are behaving like rabbits, captured in the poachers light, waiting for the blow on the head with the club. Offering solutions is rejected as a sin against the climate religion.

    The only explanation I can think of is that peak-oil and climate change are merely a fig leaf for the fear of the real doom that indeed can’t be averted: the total collapse of Anglo society, which can only end, either in a possible very bloody falling apart of the US, or worse, the birth of the next USSR with every white-with-an-attitude in the Gulag (that’s what Friday hopes).

    makati says: Boat, the 3rd world is coming to your town. Be patient. I was brought up to face the future, not deny it.

    There you go. The real reason. The last time I saw a cocky self-confident can-do American was in the eighties. Peak-oil isn’t going to bite any time soon, there is enough backup from other fossil sources for decades if not centuries. Climate change could indeed be an issue in the long term, but won’t bite in any catastrophic way during the life time of the resident doomers.

    What IS going to bite during the lifetime of us all is the Soviet style downfall of the US empire. And that’s what really scares the shit out of the posters. Between the many doomer posts of makati, there was the rare candid admission that he fled to the Ps to avoid a civil war in the US.

    There is no difference between the real fear of most of the posters here and of the folks attending Trump gatherings.

  29. Davy on Fri, 9th Dec 2016 7:31 am 

    I am proud to be on an extremist “usually ignore” list because for me that represents intellectual success. If one bases their life on status then they ignore those who diminish that status. There is plenty I ignore but I am always ready to learn and grow intellectually. I ignore unhelpful or useless short comments. Who cares about someone’s careless short opinion or obsessive disdain for an individual? Gang-banging gets old. I have been guilty of attacking dumbasses but usually it was when they attacked me first. Being American I am a big target and deserve plenty but please there are limits. Lately I have lost interest in personal attacks or should I say grown up some. Say something of substance or you are just another pissed off idiot chirping mindlessly like a bird. People who do not invest skin here I ignore. People who stop by to chat and think they are important because they invest a few comments, screw that noise. The world has too much noise. It is too easy today to make a digital comment. What shows value is commitment and effort. What I am looking for is value. Comments that are redundant without innovation I skip. Whining is a waste of my time. Extremist are the biggest whiners. It is all how bad others are. Populism is easy for lonely people this is why many embrace extremism. Extremism is popular because it involves emotion and we love our blood to boil. I am looking for the truth. I enjoy asking people who throw shit to smell their hands. I want to engage my mind so it does not suffer atrophy too quickly. I am looking for an edge to help me and my love ones with survival in the face of what is an increasing risk of collapse. I am honest with board members and always ready to help if asked. I see something amazing happening and I am intellectually curious about it. I want to watch this grand event unfold and I am under no illusions I will be safe. Those who think they are safe I chuckle at. This is an intellectual endeavor and a way of life. I don’t just talk about fantasy farms I have one I work on daily. I try to say something and add some diversity to an obscure blog. We are not going to make a difference in the big picture but we can shape each other and that is what matters to me.

  30. Cloggie on Fri, 9th Dec 2016 8:14 am 

    I am proud to be on an extremist “usually ignore” list because for me that represents intellectual success.

    Indeed. The practical use of investing time in forum participation is debate, preferably with (civilized) opponents.

    It is like with chess. If you want to become a good chess player, you should seek fanatical opponents who are determined to beat you.

    If you want to test your views on regardless which topic, you should seek those smart opponents who have different views on the topic, so you learn the weak points in your theories.

    If makati refuses to debate with those who hold different views, that only means that he is not interested in testing his opinions and if necessary amend them.

    Makati wants to broadcast his message of doom. He is a True Believer and not a seeker of truth. He is an Evangelist, although his message isn’t all that joyful.

  31. Davy on Fri, 9th Dec 2016 8:42 am 

    makati broadcast his message of makati. Doom just suits this effort. The doom is our doom not his. His message is he is a success and will live to 100 and we will die soon and horribly. He is a fake and lives a lie. He is the reason many times in the last 4 years this board has turned ugly and nasty. He is a populist extremist who appeals to emotions with an agenda that revolves around hatred and discontent. He loves people to like him but would never admit it matters. We all know the type. All families have them and that is why he is thousands of miles from his family.

  32. Cloggie on Fri, 9th Dec 2016 8:55 am 

    Summary Dutch transition plan as presented yesterday:

    (loads very slow)

  33. peakyeast on Fri, 9th Dec 2016 8:59 am 

    I think what humanity needs now is a social contract.

    Those who deny we have problems and to try to solve said problems – they accept that those who try to solve the problems and warn of them have the right to shoot their fucking heads off when the shtf.

    Because if they are wrong about dismissing these problems that is an error to which the solution will be the aforementioned removal of excess people.


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