Solving the rock-hard problem of nuclear waste disposal

A tunnel in Finland’s nuclear waste repository.

Enlarge / A tunnel in Finland’s nuclear waste repository. (credit: Posiva)

Even if all nuclear power plants were shut down today, there’s a mountain of radioactive waste waiting to be disposed of. Yet only Finland has an approved solution for nuclear waste disposal, while projects in the US, UK, and Germany have failed for decades, and progress is also slow in other countries. With growing calls to extend the life of existing nuclear power stations and build new ones, that mountain of radioactive waste sitting in temporary, vulnerable, and expensive storage will keep growing.

The challenge is daunting. “High-level” nuclear waste, which includes spent nuclear fuel, stays radioactive for hundreds of millennia, so a waste facility must keep it safely away from aquifers, violent weather, war, plane crashes, sea level rise, future ice sheets, volcanic activity, and even curious future humans for a time span that dwarfs all of previous human history.

Ultimately, it’s the geology of a proposed disposal site that determines if it’s a safe place to entrust nuclear waste for millennia. We talked to people involved in the Finnish, US, and UK programs about what investigations of the rock and groundwater at those sites revealed about their suitability—or lack thereof.

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#energy, #geology, #nuclear-power, #nuclear-waste, #science

California to consider keeping last nuclear plant open

Image of two domed concrete shells in front of the ocean.

Enlarge / The two reactors of the Diablo Canyon facility. (credit: Tracey Adams)

On Friday, California Governor Gavin Newsom sent a series of aggressive climate proposals to the state legislature. And, in a separate but related move, his administration is circulating potential legislation that would allow the state’s last nuclear power plant to continue operating past its planned shutdown in 2025. The proposed legislation is remarkably complicated despite its seemingly simple goal and is already facing a backlash from environmental groups, yet it has to be passed by the end of the month when the current legislative session expires.

Big goals

California already has one of the most ambitious sets of climate goals among the US states. But Newsom’s plan would accelerate the targets already in place. It would set 2045 as the latest date by which the state would reach net carbon neutrality and make that target legally binding. To make that easier, it would boost the 2030 greenhouse gas emissions cuts from 45 percent to 55 percent relative to the 1990 baseline.

As part of that, California will rapidly cut carbon emissions from electrical generation, with 90 percent clean energy in 2035, and 95 percent in 2040. Concurrently, it will put more areas in the state off-limits to oil extraction and start supporting carbon capture and sequestration.

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#california, #carbon-emissions, #energy, #nuclear-power, #science

US regulators will certify first small nuclear reactor design

NuScale's reactor-in-a-can.

Enlarge / NuScale’s reactor-in-a-can. (credit: NuScale)

On Friday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that it would be issuing a certification to a new nuclear reactor design, making it just the seventh that has been approved for use in the US. But in some ways, it’s a first: the design, from a company called NuScale, is a small modular reactor that can be constructed at a central facility and then moved to the site where it will be operated.

The move was expected after the design received an okay during its final safety evaluation in 2020.

Small modular reactors have been promoted as avoiding many of the problems that have made large nuclear plants exceedingly expensive to build. They’re small enough that they can be assembled on a factory floor and then shipped to the site where they will operate, eliminating many of the challenges of custom, on-site construction. In addition, they’re structured in a way to allow passive safety, where no operator actions are necessary to shut the reactor down if problems occur.

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#energy, #nuclear-power, #nuclear-reactor, #nuscale, #science, #small-modular-reactor

Tesla bundles battery users to make it look like lower power demand

Image of a battery installed on a home's wall.

Enlarge (credit: Tesla)

Last week, Tesla announced a program for California-based owners of its home battery products. Sign up with the company, and you’d become part of what the company calls a “virtual power plant.” You would be able to use your battery to keep the grid stable during periods of high demand and be well-compensated for the electrons.

While this may conjure images of Powerwall batteries across the state sending electricity to the grid during a crisis, that doesn’t appear to be what’s happening here. Instead, the batteries will be taking part in a utility’s program that’s designed to reduce demand, which the utility company will presumably do by using the battery to supply some of the demand inside the battery owner’s house. It’s a clever way for homeowners to take advantage of a program that’s otherwise limited to commercial users.

It’s an emergency

Tesla’s announcement of the program says that it will be part of Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E, a California utility) Emergency Load Reduction Program, which we’ll focus on in the next section. At the moment, we’ll look at what participants will end up doing.

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#batteries, #demand-management, #energy, #grid-services, #grid-stability, #science, #tesla

To Prevent Nuclear Annihilation, Resume Negotiations Immediately

The war in Ukraine shows the urgency of nuclear arms control

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#energy, #politics, #technology, #the-science-agenda

Biden administration tries to boost domestic solar manufacturing

Image of a woman standing in front of solar panels.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

On Monday, the Biden administration announced a suite of policy changes intended to boost the use of solar power within the US. While each individual policy change is relatively minor, combined, the changes address everything from manufacturing and importing to installation and integration with the power grid. While the administration is continuing to try to negotiate a deal that expands renewable energy via legislation, none of the initiatives announced today requires anything beyond executive action.

Who makes the panels?

At present, China dominates the manufacturing of solar cells and panels. But the Trump administration included solar hardware in its tariff war with the country. The Biden administration chose to eliminate the tariffs on the solar cells most often used in utility-scale installations but maintained them on other classes of cells. Complicating matters further, the US Commerce Department recently started an investigation into whether other countries in Asia were being used as conduits to ship panels around the tariffs.

Combined, these issues raised worries that tariffs would limit the growth of solar in the US, which is a problem given that it’s the cheapest way to generate power in many areas of the country and is central to the government’s plans to limit carbon emissions.

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#biden-administration, #department-of-energy, #energy, #policy, #renewable-energy, #science, #solar-power

Making blockchain stop wasting energy by getting it to manage energy

Image of solar panels.

Enlarge / Managing a microgram might be a case where blockchain is actually useful. (credit: Getty Images)

One of the worst features of blockchain technologies like cryptocurrency and NFTs is their horrific energy use. When we should be wringing every bit of efficiency out of our electricity use, most blockchains require computers to perform pointless calculations repeatedly.

The obvious solution is to base blockchains on useful calculations—something we might need to do anyway. Unfortunately, the math involved in a blockchain has to have a very specific property: The solution must be difficult to calculate but easy to verify. Nevertheless, a number of useful calculations have been identified as possible replacements for the ones currently being used in many systems.

A paper released this week adds another option to this list. Optimization problems are notoriously expensive in terms of computations, but the quality of a solution is relatively easy to evaluate. And in this case, the systems being optimized are small energy grids, meaning that this approach could partly offset some of a blockchain’s horrific energy usage.

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#blockchain, #computer-science, #energy, #science

Can we cut the US’s carbon emissions in half this decade?

Image of a power plant.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

’’About a year ago, President Joe Biden set an ambitious climate target: The US should cut its greenhouse gas emissions roughly in half by 2030. That’s consistent with what we’d need to do to reach some of the goals of the Paris Agreement, but it provides very little time to get our emissions under control.

That raises some obvious questions. Is it even possible? If so, how? To find out, a group of energy experts used six different models of the US energy economy, tasking each with reaching a state where emissions are consistent with our goals. The good news is that all the models provide routes to getting there. While the exact details vary from model to model, their common features strongly hint at where our focus needs to be.

Route finding

Greenhouse gas emissions come primarily from energy use, both for generating electricity and powering transportation. Industrial processes can also release either carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gasses, some of which have an even higher warming potential. It’s possible to track the costs and benefits of altering the weight of each of these sources. In some cases, it can involve switching an industrial process to alternate materials or from fossil fuels to a renewable source. Alternately, it could include offsetting continued emissions through things like carbon capture or reforestation.

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#carbon-dioxide, #climate-change, #earth-sciences, #energy, #renewable-energy, #science

Rechargeable Molten Salt Battery Freezes Energy in Place for Long-Term Storage

The technology could bring more renewable energy to the power grid

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#energy, #technology

“Elephant in the room”: Clean energy’s need for unsustainable minerals

“Elephant in the room”: Clean energy’s need for unsustainable minerals

Enlarge

Earth Day was April 22, and its usual message—take care of our planet—has been given added urgency by the challenges highlighted in the latest IPCC report. This year, Ars is taking a look at the technologies we normally cover, from cars to chipmaking, and finding out how we can boost their sustainability and minimize their climate impact.

In South America’s Atacama Desert, salt flats are dotted with shallow, turquoise-colored lithium brine pools. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, children chip at the ground for cobalt. In China, toxic chemicals leach neodymium from the earth.

This is the energy mineral rush. People around the world are scrambling, drilling, drying, and sifting to get at a range of metals needed for our energy transition. Renewable energy technologies are central to the fight against climate change, but they’re heavily reliant on minerals—naturally occurring, solid materials made from one or more elements. But extracting and refining them presents humanitarian, environmental, and logistical challenges.

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#energy, #features, #green, #minerals, #rare-earth-minerals, #renewable-energy, #science

Biden to use infrastructure money to keep nuclear plants open

Image of two domed reactor buildings.

Enlarge / An aerial view of the Prairie Island Nuclear Power Plant, near Red Wing, Minnesota. (credit: Getty Images)

Nuclear plants occupy an odd position in the US’s energy landscape. They’re currently the most expensive form of generation out there, and many of the plants are a decade or more past their planned life span. At the same time, nuclear power is the US’s largest single source of low-carbon electricity generation, accounting for almost as much as the wind, solar, and hydro combined.

So the vast expansion of cheaper wind, solar, and natural gas has been driving nuclear plant closures—a dozen over the past decade. But those closures are making it harder for the US to limit its carbon emissions. Now, the federal government has decided it has to step in with money to keep those plants open.

On Tuesday, the US Department of Energy announced it was releasing guidance that would help nuclear plant operators apply for a slice of $6 billion available under its new Civil Nuclear Credit Program. The money will be coming out of the funds allocated through the infrastructure law that was the centerpiece of President Joe Biden’s legislative accomplishments.

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#biden, #department-of-energy, #energy, #nuclear-power, #science

Companies used carbon credits created in oil extraction projects

The sun sets beyond an oil pumping unit, also known as a pumping jack, at a drilling site operated by Tatneft OAO near Almetyevsk, Russia.

Enlarge / The sun sets beyond an oil pumping unit, also known as a pumping jack, at a drilling site operated by Tatneft OAO near Almetyevsk, Russia. (credit: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg)

Daimler Trucks, eBay, and a US energy company were among the recent buyers of carbon offsets created by projects that involved injecting carbon dioxide underground in order to extract more oil.

Three US-based extraction projects were eligible to generate credits because their processes involved the capture of CO2. But this was used as a way to extract fresh oil that would otherwise have been inaccessible, a procedure known as “enhanced oil recovery” (EOR).

The offsetting rules that the credits were created under ignored the emissions associated with the extracted oil.

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#carbon-credits, #energy, #fossil-fuels, #oil, #policy, #science

Texas’ power failure: Limited chance for profits vs. huge social costs

Wind turbines stretch across Texas scrubland.

Enlarge / Winterizing every wind turbine in Texas makes economic sense. So why wasn’t it done? (credit: Ted Horowitz / Getty Images)

Just over a year ago, a cold front moved into Texas and stayed there. As demand for electricity soared, various generating sources fell off line, leading to extensive grid failures that left customers without power for days. Nearly every form of power generation suffered from failures, as did the system supplying generators with natural gas. The total cost in terms of lost business and lives is estimated at roughly $130 billion.

Initial analyses provided some suggestions on how Texas could restructure its grid to provide better protection against future events like this. But a new study has asked a related question. Texas has economic incentives that should induce commercial generators to install winterization equipment on their own. Why weren’t those incentives enough to get generating companies to install cold-weather hardware?

The new analysis finds that the financial incentives for winterization carry a high degree of risk. And the total incentives for winterization are far lower than Texas paid for the failure to winterize.

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#blackout, #energy, #ercot, #grid-failure, #science, #texas

Bitcoin’s massive energy use faces $5M shame campaign from environmental groups

A technician inspects the backside of bitcoin mining at Bitfarms in Saint Hyacinthe, Quebec, on March 19, 2018.

Enlarge / A technician inspects the backside of bitcoin mining at Bitfarms in Saint Hyacinthe, Quebec, on March 19, 2018. (credit: Lars Hagberg / AFP)

Bitcoin has a voracious appetite for energy, a foundational characteristic of the cryptocurrency that some environmental groups say they are hoping to change.

A new pressure campaign, called Change the Code Not the Climate, launched Tuesday, and it’s seeking to encourage bitcoin luminaries like Elon Musk, Jack Dorsey, and Abby Johnson, CEO of Fidelity Investments, to push for changes that would slash bitcoin’s energy use. 

The campaign is being organized by advocacy organizations Greenpeace and the Environmental Working Group. Chris Larsen, who cofounded Ripple Labs, a cryptocurrency and payments company, has pledged $5 million to fund the campaign, though his participation is reportedly not on behalf of the company.

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#bitcoin, #blockchain, #climate-change, #energy, #policy

How Ukraine Unplugged from Russia and Joined Europe’s Power Grid with Unprecedented Speed

Engineers achieved “a year’s work in two weeks” to safely do so

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#energy, #technology

Russia’s New Nuclear Missiles Squeeze Response Time

As treaties end, Russia focuses on hypersonic weapons that could “tighten the noose” on current U.S. defenses

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#defense, #energy, #engineering, #policy, #spacephysics, #technology

Radioactive Material Is Basically Everywhere and That’s a Problem

The RadSecure program aims to remove dangerous substances from medical facilities and other industries

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#energy, #environment, #health, #social-sciences, #spacephysics, #technology

The Risks of Russian Attacks near Ukraine Nuclear Power Plants

Commercial plants have built-in safety systems, but aren’t designed with warfare in mind

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#energy, #environment

The Risks of Russian Attacks near Ukraine’s Nuclear Power Plants

Commercial plants have built-in safety systems but aren’t designed with warfare in mind

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#energy, #environment

Renewables are cheaper than ever—why are household energy bills only going up?

Renewables are cheaper than ever—why are household energy bills only going up?

Enlarge (credit: Iberdrola Renewables)

Not for the first time, global energy markets are in turmoil. Internationally traded gas prices more than quadrupled in 2021. In their wake, many energy suppliers have gone bust and household bills across Europe are set to soar. Energy prices are driving up the cost of living and inflation, but this is also a moment to realize the old saying: “never waste a good crisis.”

Some of the causes of sky-high energy bills are unavoidable—there is little that most governments can do about the wholesale price of gas itself. Fossil fuel companies make huge investments that take years to mature, breeding periods of moderate prices followed by supply squeezes when prices rocket. Gas prices softened over the previous decade, and the arrival of the pandemic in 2020 depressed demand.

Regions without domestic gas supplies or which have depleted most of their gas reserves in recent decades get a lot of their gas by importing it. European periphery countries, including the UK and many parts of the Mediterranean, assumed they could rely on global supplies of liquefied natural gas. But tankers from the big gas producers such as Qatar can turn to Europe or Asia depending on who pays the highest price. Now there is a scramble, and Asian demand dominates.

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#energy, #renewables, #science

New Charging Technique Puts Crumbling Batteries Back Together

The method could extend the lifetime of lithium-metal batteries by 30 percent, a new study suggests

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#electronics, #energy, #technology

Study: Few places will struggle to balance renewables and conservation

Solar power and habitat preservation are likely to conflict, but only in some areas.

Enlarge / Solar power and habitat preservation are likely to conflict, but only in some areas. (credit: Zhi Hao)

Compared to fossil fuel plants, renewable power facilities cover a lot of ground. That ground can be put to additional uses; many wind farms are also farms, and even solar plants can work well with agriculture. But these sorts of developments are definitely not compatible with conserving sensitive habitats for wildlife or plants. Even wind farms, which have a relatively small on-ground footprint, require access roads and regular servicing.

Early studies on the matter suggest this might be a serious problem, as they found that a number of renewable power facilities had been built on land that had been identified as a sensitive habitat. But new work from researchers at the University of Southampton indicates that the problem isn’t as severe as it seems. The actual footprint of existing wind and solar farms on sensitive habitats is small and should be able to be kept small in most countries.

Carbon-free footprints

To understand present problems, you must have an idea of what land has been developed and what needs to be conserved. The researchers used two different sources to identify the footprints of current renewable power facilities. For sensitive habitats, the team started with a database of all existing protected areas. It supplemented that with maps of the ranges of all land vertebrates listed as threatened on the “Red List,” as well as the World Wildlife Fund’s list of ecoregions. The protected areas were considered a starting point, and areas for potential expansion were identified based on their ability to protect the most threatened species.

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#conservation, #energy, #green-energy, #habitat, #policy, #renewable-energy, #science, #solar, #wind

Recycled Lithium-Ion Batteries Can Perform Better Than New Ones

A novel method of recycling such batteries could help meet skyrocketing demand

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#energy, #renewable-energy, #technology

Tesla forced to turn down €1.1 billion in EU support for German battery plant

A Tesla logo superimposed over a mess of numbers and figures.

(credit: Tesla / Aurich Lawson)

Tesla has been forced to turn down more than €1.1 billion in European subsidies for its planned battery plant near Berlin after delays to the flagship project breached a key condition of the funding.

The electric car maker had applied for the money through an EU program established to develop the battery industry on the continent.

The EU requires any sites in receipt of the funds to be the “first industrial deployment” of the technology, according to official documents, meaning the batteries cannot already be made at another Tesla plant.

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#batteries, #cars, #energy, #eu, #tesla

Bill Gates’ nuclear power company selects a site for its first reactor

Computer rendering of the reactor site design.

Enlarge / In TerraPower’s design, the nuclear reactor is separated from the power generation process by molten salt heat storage. (credit: TerraPower)

On Tuesday, TerraPower, the US-based nuclear power company backed by Bill Gates, announced it has chosen a site for what would be its first reactor. Kemmerer, Wyoming, population roughly 2,500, has been the site of the coal-fired Naughton Power Plant, which is being closed. The TerraPower project will see it replaced by a 345 megawatt reactor that would pioneer a number of technologies that haven’t been commercially deployed before.

These include a reactor design that needs minimal refueling, cooling by liquid sodium, and a molten-salt heat-storage system that will provide the plant with the flexibility needed to integrate better with renewable energy.

Public-private

While TerraPower is the name clearly attached to the project, plenty of other parties are involved, as well. The company is perhaps best known for being backed by Bill Gates, now chairman of the company board, who has promoted nuclear power as a partial solution for the climate crisis. The company has been selected by the US Department of Energy to build a demonstration reactor, a designation that guarantees at least $180 million toward construction and could see it receive billions of dollars over the next several years.

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#bill-gates, #energy, #nuclear-power, #science, #terra-power

Can we use big batteries to power our trains?

An eastbound manifest freight swoops through an S curve in Lombard Canyon, just east of Toston, Montana, on September 11, 2011. The tracks here snake along the Missouri River between Toston and Lombard.

Enlarge / An eastbound manifest freight swoops through an S curve in Lombard Canyon, just east of Toston, Montana, on September 11, 2011. The tracks here snake along the Missouri River between Toston and Lombard. (credit: Mike Danneman / Getty Images)

With the rapid pace of development in electric vehicles, we will likely get to a place where eliminating carbon emissions from one form of transport is possible. But cleaning up the remaining major modes—planes, trains, and ships—appears to be considerably more challenging. A new analysis suggests we have a good idea of how to improve one of those.

The study, performed by California-based researchers, looks at the possibility of electrifying rail-based freight. It finds that the technology is pretty much ready, and under the right circumstances, the economics are on the verge of working out. Plus, putting giant batteries on freight cars has the potential to create some interesting side benefits.

Giving freight a jolt

Right now, most freight in the US is moved by diesel-powered locomotives. In a typical year, these locomotives produce about 35 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, and the rest of the pollutants they make are estimated to cause 1,000 premature deaths and $6.5 billion in health damages.

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#batteries, #energy, #freight, #green, #rail, #renewable-energy, #science

What Is a Smart Grid, and How Might One Protect Our Energy Future?

Our electric grid is old and fraying, but new technology could insulate us from the possibility of widespread blackouts and cyberattacks.

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#energy, #technology

Fossil fuels doomed in New York as regulator blocks new gas power plants

Fossil fuels doomed in New York as regulator blocks new gas power plants

Enlarge (credit: iStock)

New York took an aggressive stance toward fossil fuels this week, effectively killing the development of new fossil fuel power plants in the state. The Department of Environmental Conservation denied permits for two proposed natural gas power plants, saying they were incompatible with the state’s climate law, which calls for an end to fossil fuel-generated electricity by 2040. 

Though the proposed plants would be more efficient than those currently in operation, the state agency said the plants would generate “significant” amounts of pollution and that their construction now, less than 20 years from the targeted net-zero emissions date, would be “inconsistent” with what is required by the climate law.

New York’s climate law requires polluters to account for two sources of emissions: from the plants themselves and from the natural gas supply chain. Once the latter was included—figures which in the past were nearly always ignored when determining a power plant’s pollution—the emissions quickly exceeded the DEC’s thresholds, the decisions say.

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#climate-change, #electrical-grid, #energy, #fossil-fuels, #new-york-state, #policy, #power-plants

Coal bucks 15-year decline in US with 22% increase as natural gas prices rise

Heavy equipment moves coal into piles at PacifiCorp's Hunter coal-fired power plant outside of Castle Dale, Utah.

Enlarge / Heavy equipment moves coal into piles at PacifiCorp’s Hunter coal-fired power plant outside of Castle Dale, Utah. (credit: GEORGE FREY / AFP)

The US is expected to burn 22 percent more coal than last year, marking the first annual increase in the use of the polluting fossil fuel since 2014, the Energy Information Administration said.

“The US electric power sector has been generating more electricity from coal-fired power plants this year as a result of significantly higher natural gas prices and relatively stable coal prices,” the government agency said. Coal is selling for record prices, though, and economists say that skyrocketing energy costs are fueling inflation.

President Joe Biden has set a target of reducing economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 50–52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The news is a setback for those plans, but the EIA predicts that the bump in coal use will be transitory, with 2022 consumption down 5 percent from this year.

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#coal, #eia, #energy, #natural-gas, #policy, #renewable-energy

The decreasing cost of renewables unlikely to plateau anytime soon

Image of a wind turbine.

Enlarge

Past projections of energy costs have consistently underestimated just how cheap renewable energy would be in the future, as well as the benefits of rolling them out quickly, according to a new report out of the Institute of New Economic Thinking at the University of Oxford.

The report makes predictions about more than 50 technologies such as solar power, offshore wind, and more, and it compares them to a future that still runs on carbon. “It’s not just good news for renewables. It’s good news for the planet,” Matthew Ives, one of the report’s authors and a senior researcher at the Oxford Martin Post-Carbon Transition Programme, told Ars.

The paper used probabilistic cost forecasting methods—taking into account both past data and current and ongoing technological developments in renewables—for its findings. It also used large caches of data from sources such as the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and Bloomberg. Beyond looking at the cost (represented as dollar per unit of energy production over time), the report also represents its findings in three scenarios: a fast transition to renewables, a slow transition, and no transition at all.

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#climate, #economics, #energy, #forecasting, #modelling, #oil-and-gas, #renewables, #science, #solar, #wind

New report suggests Texas’ grid was 5 minutes from catastrophic failure

Image of a woman bundled against the cold on a bed in a furniture store.

Enlarge / HOUSTON, TX – FEBRUARY 18, 2021: Dialina Ganzo, 29, rests on a bed while taking shelter at a Gallery Furniture store that opened its door and transformed into a warming station after winter weather caused electricity blackouts. (credit: Go Nakamura / Getty Images)

With autumn arriving in much of the US, it won’t be long before parts of the country start experiencing cold weather again. Texas residents can be forgiven for the thought triggering a bit of PTSD, given that last winter saw the near-collapse of the state’s power grid, leaving many residents without any power for several days of below-freezing weather.

A long list of factors contributed to the mess, and in the immediate aftermath, it was difficult to understand their relative importance. But now, grid regulatory and governance groups have put together a preliminary report on the event, along with some recommendations for avoiding future calamities. A central conclusion is that the grid failure was tightly coupled to the failure of the natural gas supply—in part because natural gas processing facilities were among the places that saw their power cut.

The basic stats

The preliminary report has been put together by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in combination with the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, a nonprofit set up by utilities to help set standards and practices that keep the grid stable. The draft itself isn’t being released at this point, but the two have posted a detailed presentation that describes the report’s contents. A final version will be released in November.

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#electric-grid, #energy, #ercot, #ferc, #science, #texas

China to stop building coal plants in developing nations

Image of railway tracks leading to a power plant.

Enlarge / Coal plants at the end of the line? (credit: Ryan Pyle / Getty Images)

Chinese President Xi Jinping used his speech to the United Nations General Assembly to announce a major new step towards controlling global emissions. After reiterating his own country’s climate pledges, Xi said that China would start making it easier for other countries to keep emissions in check: new support for renewable energy projects and an end to construction of coal plants.

China finances a lot of infrastructure projects in developing economies as part of its foreign policy efforts; these often have the side benefits of involving Chinese companies and engineers. When these projects involved production of electricity, they often involved China’s most heavily used source: coal. As such, the number of coal plants slated for construction in the developing world was large and raised legitimate questions about the prospect of meeting any global carbon emissions targets.

China had already committed to having its emissions peak at the end of this decade and to reach carbon neutrality by 2060. But until this point, its development banks were continuing to finance coal plants, and its companies would often construct them. In a recorded speech played at the UN today, however, Xi indicated that this would stop: “China will step up support for other developing countries in developing green and low-carbon energy and will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad.”

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#china, #climate-change, #coal, #energy, #renewable-energy, #science, #un

How to meet the demand of EV infrastructure and maintain a stable grid

As electric vehicles (EVs) become the new standard, charging infrastructure will become a commonplace detail blending into the landscape, available in a host of places from a range of providers: privately run charging stations, the office parking lot, home garages and government-provided locations to fill in the gaps. We need a new energy blueprint for the United States in order to maintain a stable grid to support this national move to EV charging.

The Biden administration announced 500,000 charging stations to be installed nationally and additional energy storage to facilitate the shift to EVs. Integrating all of this new infrastructure and transitioning requires balancing the traffic on the grid and managing increased energy demand that stretches beyond power lines and storage itself.

The majority of EV infrastructure pulls its power from the grid, which will add significant demand when it reaches scale. In an ideal situation, EV charging stations will have their own renewable power generation co-located with storage, but new programs and solutions are needed in order to make it available everywhere. A range of scenarios for how renewables can be used to power EV charging have been piloted in the U.S. in recent years. Eventually, EVs will likely even provide power to the grid.

These technological advances will happen as we progress through the energy transition; regardless, EV infrastructure will heavily rely on the U.S. grid. That makes coordination across a range of stakeholders and behavior change among the general public essential for keeping the grid stable while meeting energy demand.

The White House’s fact sheet for EV charging infrastructure points to a technical blueprint that the Department of Energy and the Electric Power Research Institute will be working on together. It is critical that utilities, energy management and storage stakeholders, and the general public be included in planning — here’s why.

Stakeholder collaboration

Charging infrastructure is currently fragmented in the U.S. Much of it is privatized and there are complaints that unless you drive a Tesla, it is hard to find charging while on the road. Some EV owners have even returned to driving gas-powered vehicles. There’s reason to be hopeful that this will rapidly change.

ChargePoint and EVgo are two companies that will likely become household names as their EV networks expand. A coalition made up of some of the largest U.S. utilities — including American Electric Power, Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Entergy, Southern Company and the Tennessee Valley Authority — called the Electric Highway Coalition, announced plans for a regional network of charging stations spanning their utility territories.

Networks that swap out private gas stations for EV charging is one piece of the puzzle. We also need to ensure that everyone has affordable access and that charging times are staggered — this is one of the core concerns on every stakeholder’s mind. Having charging available in a range of places spreads out demand, helping keep power available and the grid balanced.

Varying consumer needs including location and housing, work schedules and economic situations require considerations and new solutions that make EVs and charging accessible to everyone. What works in the suburbs won’t suit rural or urban areas, and just imagine someone who works the night shift in a dense urban area.

Biden’s plan includes, “$4 million to encourage strong partnerships and new programs to increase workplace charging regionally or nationally, which will help increase the feasibility of [plug-in electric vehicle] ownership for consumers in underserved communities.” Partnerships and creative solutions will equally be needed.

An opportunity to fully engage technologies we already have

“Fifty percent of the reductions we have to make to get to net-zero by 2050 or 2045 are going to come from technologies that we don’t yet have,” John Kerry said recently, causing a stir. He later clarified that we also have technologies now that we need to put to work, which received less air time. In reality, we are just getting started in utilizing existing renewable and energy transition technologies; we have yet to realize their full potential.

Currently, utility-scale and distributed energy storage are used for their most simplistic capabilities, that is, jumping in when energy demand reaches its peak and helping keep the grid stable through services referred to as balancing and frequency regulation. But as renewable energy penetration increases and loads such as EVs are electrified, peak demand will be exacerbated.

The role that storage plays for EV charging stations seems well understood. On-site storage is used daily to provide power for charging cars at any given time. Utility-scale storage has the same capabilities and can be used to store and then supply renewable power to the grid in large quantities every day to help balance the demand of EVs.

A stable power system for EVs combines utilities and utility-scale storage with a network of subsystems where energy storage is co-located with EV charging. All of the systems are coordinated and synchronized to gather and dispatch energy at different times of the day based on all the factors that affect grid stability and the availability of renewable power. That synchronization is handled by intelligent energy management software that relies on sophisticated algorithms to forecast and respond to changes within fractions of a second.

This model also makes it possible to manage the cost of electricity and EV demand on the grid. Those subsystems could be municipal-owned locations in lower-income areas. Such a subsystem would collect power in its storage asset and set the price locally on its own terms. These systems could incentivize residents to power up there at certain times of the day in order to make charging more affordable by providing an alternative to the real-time cost of electricity during peak demand when using a home outlet, for example.

Behavior change

The greatest challenge for utilities will be how to manage EV loads and motivate people to stagger charging their vehicles, rather than everyone waiting until they are home in the evening during off-peak renewable generation periods. If everyone plugged in at the same time, we’d end up cooking dinner in the dark.

While there’s been talk of incentivizing the public to charge at different times and spread out demand, motivators vary among demographics. With the ability to charge at home and skip a trip to the “gas station” — or “power station,” as it may be referred to in the future — many people will choose convenience over cost.

The way we currently operate, individual energy usage seems like an independent, isolated event to consumers and households. EVs will require everyone — from utilities and private charging stations to consumers — to be more aware of demand on the grid and act more as communities sharing energy.

Thus, a diverse charging network alone won’t solve the issue of overtaxing the grid. A combination of a new blueprint for managing energy on the grid plus behavior change is needed.

#automotive, #charging-station, #column, #electric-vehicles, #energy, #energy-management, #energy-storage, #opinion, #tc, #transportation, #vehicle-to-grid

Rezilion raises $30M help security operations teams with tools to automate their busywork

Security operations teams face a daunting task these days, fending off malicious hackers and their increasingly sophisticated approaches to cracking into networks. That also represents a gap in the market: building tools to help those security teams do their jobs. Today, an Israeli startup called Rezilion that is doing just that — building automation tools for DevSecOps, the area of IT that addresses the needs of security teams and the technical work that they need to do in their jobs — is announcing $30 million in funding.

Guggenheim Investments is leading the round with JVP and Kindred Capital also contributing. Rezilion said that unnamed executives from Google, Microsoft, CrowdStrike, IBM, Cisco, PayPal, JP Morgan Chase, Nasdaq, eBay, Symantec, RedHat, RSA and Tenable are also in the round. Previously, the company had raised $8 million.

Rezilion’s funding is coming on the back of strong initial growth for the startup in its first two years of operations.

Its customer base is made up of some of the world’s biggest companies, including two of the “Fortune 10” (the top 10 of the Fortune 500). CEO Liran Tancman, who co-founded Rezilion with CTO Shlomi Boutnaru, said that one of those two is one of the world’s biggest software companies, and the other is a major connected device vendor, but he declined to say which. (For the record, the top 10 includes Amazon, Apple, Alphabet/Google, Walmart and CVS.)

Tancman and Boutnaru had previously co-founded another security startup, CyActive, which was acquired by PayPal in 2015; the pair worked there together until leaving to start Rezilion.

There are a lot of tools out in the market now to help automate different aspects of developer and security operations. Rezilion focuses on a specific part of DevSecOps: large businesses have over the years put in place a lot of processes that they need to follow to try to triage and make the most thorough efforts possible to detect security threats. Today, that might involve inspecting every single suspicious piece of activity to determine what the implications might be.

The problem is that with the volume of information coming in, taking the time to inspect and understand each piece of suspicious activity can put enormous strain on an organization: it’s time-consuming, and as it turns out, not the best use of that time because of the signal to noise ratio involved. Typically, each vulnerability can take 6-9 hours to properly investigate, Tancman said. “But usually about 70-80% of them are not exploitable,” meaning they may be bad for some, but not for this particular organization and the code it’s using today. That represents a very inefficient use of the security team’s time and energy.

“Eight of out ten patches tend to be a waste of time,” Tancman said of the approach that is typically made today. He believes that as its AI continues to grow and its knowledge and solution becomes more sophisticated, “it might soon be 9 out of 10.”

Rezilion has built a taxonomy and an AI-based system that essentially does that inspection work as a human would do: it spots any new, or suspicious, code, figures out what it is trying to do, and runs it against a company’s existing code and systems to see how and if it might actually be a threat to it or create further problems down the line. If it’s all good, it essentially whitelists the code. If not, it flags it to the team.

The stickiness of the product has come out of how Tancman and Boutnaru understand large enterprises, especially those heavy with technology stacks, operate these days in what has become a very challenging environment for cybersecurity teams.

“They are using us to accelerate their delivery processes while staying safe,” Tancman said. “They have strict compliance departments and have to adhere to certain standards,” in terms of the protocols they take around security work, he added. “They want to leverage DevOps to release that.”

He said Rezilion has generally won over customers in large part for simply understanding that culture and process and helping them work better within that: “Companies become users of our product because we showed them that, at a fraction of the effort, they can be more secure.” This has special resonance in the world of tech, although financial services, and other verticals that essentially leverage technology as a significant foundation for how they operate, are also among the startup’s user base.

Down the line, Rezilion plans to add remediation and mitigation into the mix to further extend what it can do with its automation tools, which is part of where the funding will be going, too, Boutnaru said. But he doesn’t believe it will ever replace the human in the equation altogether.

“It will just focus them on the places where you need more human thinking,” he said. “We’re just removing the need for tedious work.”

In that grand tradition of enterprise automation, then, it will be interesting to watch which other automation-centric platforms might make a move into security alongside the other automation they are building. For now, Rezilion is forging out an interesting enough area for itself to get investors interested.

“Rezilion’s product suite is a game changer for security teams,” said Rusty Parks, senior MD of Guggenheim Investments, in a statement. “It creates a win-win, allowing companies to speed innovative products and features to market while enhancing their security posture. We believe Rezilion has created a truly compelling value proposition for security teams, one that greatly increases return on time while thoroughly protecting one’s core infrastructure.”

#agile-software-development, #alphabet, #amazon, #apple, #articles, #artificial-intelligence, #automation, #ceo, #cisco, #computer-security, #crowdstrike, #cto, #cyactive, #devops, #ebay, #energy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #financial-services, #funding, #google, #ibm, #jp-morgan-chase, #kindred-capital, #maryland, #microsoft, #paypal, #security, #software, #software-development, #startup-company, #symantec, #technology

House bill would eliminate natural gas, impose sweeping changes on economy

House bill would eliminate natural gas, impose sweeping changes on economy

Enlarge (credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden’s climate ambitions will face a critical test on Monday as a major portion of the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill comes up for a vote. If it passes, the sprawling legislation will push the American economy to rein in its carbon emissions by spurring advancements in clean energy, electric vehicles, grid modernization, and more.

Nearly $500 billion worth of grants, incentives, and programs will be voted on by the members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. After that, the legislation will be merged with the other portions of the reconciliation bill as soon as Wednesday. Senate Democrats have been meeting to draft their version of the bill, and Congressional Democrats hope to send a finalized piece of legislation to Biden by the end of the year.

So far, Republicans are united in their opposition, and the reconciliation bill’s passage appears to hinge on whether Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) approves of key portions. Manchin, who represents coal-rich West Virginia and who owns millions of dollars of stock in a coal brokerage, has expressed reservations about the bill eliminating fossil fuels.

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#climate-change, #climate-policy, #energy, #energy-policy, #infrastructure, #policy

This Room Could Wirelessly Charge All Your Devices

New technology delivers power to electronic devices in a test space

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#electronics, #energy, #technology

In the US, wind power is getting bigger and better, report says

A wide angle shot of wind turbines at the foot of a mountain.

Enlarge (credit: Bloomberg / Getty Images)

Wind power isn’t the largest part of the United States’ energy mix, but it grew over the last year, according to the Wind Technologies Market Report. The renewable energy source grew to more than 8 percent of the country’s electricity supply—reaching 10 percent in a growing number of states—and saw a whopping $25 billion in investments in what will translate to 16.8 gigawatts of capacity, according to the report.

Put out by the US Department of Energy, the sizeable report draws upon a variety of data sources for its finding, including government data from the Energy Information Administration, trade data from the US International Trade Commission, and hourly pricing data from the various system operators. “The report itself covers the entire gamut of the US wind industry,” Mark Bolinger, a research scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and one of the authors of the report, told Ars.

Bigger is sometimes better

According to the report, the performance of wind power operations in the US has improved a great deal. We can measure this based on capacity factor, a ratio of the amount of energy a turbine actually produces compared to the amount it could have produced if it ran at its peak constantly. For recently constructed wind power projects, the average capacity factor has now cleared 40 percent. The biggest gains in this area, however, are seen in the US’ “wind belt,” a region that receives a large amount of wind, stretching from the Dakotas to Texas.

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#energy, #renewables, #science, #wind, #wind-power

Tesla wants to sell electricity in Texas

Elon Musk’s Tesla is looking beyond electric vehicles, solar panels and energy storage and wants to now supply electricity directly to customers, according to an application filed with Texas electricity regulators earlier this month. Energy Choice Matters first reported on the application.

The application, filed with the Public Utilities Commission of Texas on August 16, is a request to become what’s called a “retail electric provider” under its subsidiary Tesla Energy Ventures. On the deregulated, idiosyncratic Texas power market, REPs generally purchase wholesale electricity from power generators and sell it to customers. Over 100 REPs currently compete on the open market.

The company also filed separate applications for several utility-scale batteries in the Lone Star state: a 250-megawatt battery situated near its Gigafactory outside Austin, and a 100 MW separate project outside Houston. These projects are unrelated to the company’s efforts to become an electric provider, but taken as a whole, they reveal an ambitious roadmap for Tesla’s energy businesses.

Imagine: Tesla could not only sell electricity to customers, but it could also broker customers selling their excess energy – generated from Tesla Powerwall or Solar panel products, of course – back to the grid. It’s certainly one way to fulfill Musk’s vision of turning every home into a distributed power plant.

The latest request to the PUC comes just six months after an unprecedented winter storm shut down large parts of Texas’ power grid for days, leaving millions without power during a string of sub-freezing days. A handful of REPs shut down after the storm, which jammed wholesale electricity prices up to $9,000 per megawatt-hour (the seasonal average is around $50).

Musk, who moved many operations to Texas from California, including SpaceX’s sprawling facility in Boca Chica, criticized the state’s grid operator on Twitter at the time:

He said the company was not “earning that R” – referring to the R in the acronym, which stands for Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

Tesla Energy Ventures told PUC regulators that it would use Tesla’s existing energy division to help drive sales, including leveraging the company’s mobile app and website. “Specifically, [Tesla Energy Ventures] will target its existing customers that own Tesla products and market the retail offer to customers through the mobile application and Tesla website,” the application says. “In addition to the Tesla mobile application and Tesla website, the applicant’s existing ‘Tesla Energy Customer Support’ organization will be trained to provide support and guidance to customers in customer acquisition efforts.”

Ana Stewart is listed as president of Tesla Energy Ventures. She’s been with Tesla since 2017 as the director of regulatory credit trading. Prior, she worked at Tesla-acquired SolarCity.

The application is listed under docket number 52431.

#automotive, #elon-musk, #energy, #powerwall, #tesla, #transportation

Where the sun always shines: Putting solar in space

Image of the International Space Station.

Enlarge / See these solar panels in space? They’re way too heavy to economically provide power to Earth. (credit: NASA)

“This is an idea that’s older than even the space program,” Caltech’s Harry Atwater told Ars over Zoom. Citing Asimov and Clarke, Atwater conjured an image of gleaming solar panels floating above the Earth on a large metal truss, all wired in to hardware that converts the current to a form suitable to beam back down to Earth. Unlimited clean power, delivered around the clock.

He then went on to explain why the system he was working on would end up looking nothing like that vision, even if it would ultimately accomplish the same thing.

A long gestation

In August, Caltech announced that a member of its board of trustees had given over $100 million meant to foster the development of space-based power. The timing was somewhat odd, given that the donor, Donald Bren, had started the process over a decade ago. At the time, Bren had described his interest in space-based power to the university administration, which began identifying faculty who had research interests that might be relevant to the project.

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#caltech, #energy, #renewable-energy, #science, #solar-energy, #space

Most of the power sector’s emissions come from a small minority of plants

Most of the power sector’s emissions come from a small minority of plants

Enlarge (credit: Picture Alliance / Getty Images)

The world seems to be simultaneously on fire and flooding, and the latest expert report indicates that we’ve just about run out of time to avoid even more severe climate change. All of that should leave us in a place where we are looking for ways to cut carbon emissions as quickly and economically as possible.

Some good news in that regard came via the recent release of a paper that looks at how much each individual power plant contributes to global emissions. The study finds that many countries have a significant number of power plants that emit carbon dioxide at rates well above either the national or global average. Shutting down the worst 5 percent of this list would immediately wipe out about 75 percent of the carbon emissions produced by electricity generation.

CARMA revisited

It’s easy to think of power generation in simple terms, like “renewables good, coal bad.” To an extent, that’s accurate. But it also compresses all power generation, from “somewhat bad” to “truly atrocious,” into a single category. And it’s clear from a variety of research that this isn’t entirely accurate. Depending on their vintage, many plants convert fossil fuels to power at different degrees of efficiency. And some of the least efficient plants are only brought online during periods of very high demand; the rest of the time, they’re idle and produce no emissions at all.

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#carbon-emissions, #climate-change, #energy, #green-energy, #science

Wave Power Charges Ahead with Static Electricity Generators

An ocean-powered buoy brings technology closer to the dream of obtaining energy from the sea

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#energy, #environment, #oceans, #renewable-energy, #technology

Siga secures $8.1M Series B to prevent cyberattacks on critical infrastructure

Siga OT Solutions, an Israeli cybersecurity startup that helps organizations secure their operations by monitoring the raw electric signals of critical industrial assets, has raised $8.1 million in Series B funding.

Siga’s SigaGuard says its technology, used by Israel’s critical water facilities and the New York Power Authority, is unique in that rather than monitoring the operational network, it uses machine learning and predictive analysis to “listen” to Level 0 signals. These are typically made up of components and sensors that receive electrical signals, rather than protocols or data packets that can be manipulated by hackers.

By monitoring Level 0, which Siga describes as the “richest and most reliable level of process data within any operational environment,” the company can detect cyberattacks on the most critical and vulnerable physical assets of national infrastructures. This, it claims, ensures operational resiliency even when hackers are successful in manipulating the logic of industrial control system (ICS) controllers.

Amir Samoiloff, co-founder and CEO of Siga, says: “Level 0 is becoming the major axis in the resilience and integrity of critical national infrastructures worldwide and securing this level will become a major element in control systems in the coming years.”

The company’s latest round of funding — led by PureTerra Ventures, with investment from Israeli venture fund SIBF, Moore Capital, and Phoenix Contact — comes amid an escalation in attacks against operational infrastructure. Israel’s water infrastructure was hit by three known cyberattacks in 2020 and these were followed by an attack on the water system of a city in Florida that saw hackers briefly increase the amount of sodium hydroxide in Oldsmar’s water treatment system. 

The $8.1 million investment lands three years after the startup secured $3.5 million in Series A funding. The company said it will use the funding to accelerate its sales and strategic collaborations internationally, with a focus on North America, Europe, Asia, and the United Arab Emirates. 

Read more:

#articles, #asia, #computer-security, #cryptography, #cyberattack, #cybercrime, #cybersecurity-startup, #cyberwarfare, #data-security, #energy, #europe, #florida, #israel, #machine-learning, #north-america, #nozomi-networks, #phoenix, #ransomware, #security, #united-arab-emirates

Crypto community slams ‘disastrous’ new amendment to Biden’s big infrastructure bill

Biden’s major bipartisan infrastructure plan struck a rare chord of cooperation between Republicans and Democrats, but changes it proposes to cryptocurrency regulation are tripping up the bill.

The administration intends to pay for $28 billion of its planned infrastructure spending by tightening tax compliance within the historically under-regulated arena of digital currency. That’s why cryptocurrency is popping up in a bill that’s mostly about rebuilding bridges and roads.

The legislation’s vocal critics argue that the bill’s effort to do so is slapdash, particularly a bit that would declare anyone “responsible for and regularly providing any service effectuating transfers of digital assets” to be a broker, subject to tax reporting requirements.

While that definition might be more straightforward in a traditional corner of finance, it could force cryptocurrency developers, companies and even anyone mining digital currencies to somehow collect and report information on users, something that by design isn’t even possible in a decentralized financial system.

Now, a new amendment to the critical spending package is threatening to make matters even worse.

Unintended consequences

In a joint letter about the bill’s text, Square, Coinbase, Ribbit Capital and other stakeholders warned of “financial surveillance” and unintended impacts for cryptocurrency miners and developers. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Fight for the Future, two privacy-minded digital rights organizations, also slammed the bill.

Following the outcry from the cryptocurrency community, a pair of influential senators proposed an amendment to clarify the new reporting rules. Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) pushed back against the bill, proposing an amendment with fellow finance committee member Pat Toomey (R-PA) that would modify the bill’s language.

The amendment would establish that the new reporting “does not apply to individuals developing block chain technology and wallets,” removing some of the bill’s ambiguity on the issue.

“By clarifying the definition of broker, our amendment will ensure non-financial intermediaries like miners, network validators, and other service providers—many of whom don’t even have the personal-identifying information needed to file a 1099 with the IRS—are not subject to the reporting requirements specified in the bipartisan infrastructure package,” Toomey said.

Wyoming Senator Cynthia Lummis also threw her support behind the Toomey and Wyden amendment, as did Colorado Governor Jared Polis.

Picking winners and losers

The drama doesn’t stop there. With negotiations around the bill ongoing — the text could be finalized over the weekend — a pair of senators proposed a competing amendment that isn’t winning any fans in the crypto community.

That amendment, from Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Mark Warner (D-VA), would exempt traditional cryptocurrency miners who participate in energy-intensive “proof of work” systems from new financial reporting requirements, while keeping those rules in place for those using a “proof of stake” system. Portman worked with the Treasury Department to author the cryptocurrency portion of the original infrastructure bill.

Rather than requiring an investment in computing hardware (and energy bills) capable of solving increasingly complex math problems, proof of stake systems rely on participants taking a financial stake in a given project, locking away some of the cryptocurrency to generate new coins.

Proof of stake is emerging as an attractive, climate-friendlier alternative that could reduce the need for heavy computing and huge amounts of energy required for proof of work mining. That makes it all the more puzzling that the latest amendment would specifically let proof of work mining off the hook.

Some popular digital currencies like Cardano are already built on proof of stake. Ethereum, the second biggest cryptocurrency, is in the process of migrating from a proof of work system to proof of stake to help scale its system and reduce fees. Bitcoin is the most notable digital currency that relies on proof of work.

The Warner-Portman amendment is being touted as a “compromise” but it’s not really halfway between the Wyden-Toomey amendment and the existing bill — it just introduces new problems that many crypto advocates view as a fresh existential threat to their work. Prominent members of the crypto community including Square founder and Bitcoin booster Jack Dorsey have thrown their support behind the Wyden-Lummis-Toomey amendment while slamming the second proposal as misguided and damaging.

Unfortunately for the crypto community — and the promise of the proof of stake model — the White House is apparently throwing its weight behind the Warner-Portman amendment, though that could change as eleventh hour negotiations continue.

#biden, #bitcoin, #blockchain, #broker, #cardano, #chairman, #coinbase, #cryptocurrencies, #cryptography, #democrats, #digital-currency, #electronic-frontier-foundation, #energy, #ethereum, #finance, #government, #internal-revenue-service, #jack-dorsey, #proof-of-stake, #proof-of-work, #republicans, #ribbit-capital, #ron-wyden, #tc, #white-house

The hydrogen economy is about to get weird

Image of a blue light rail vehicle.

Enlarge / A Coradia iLint hydrogen fuel-cell powered prototype railway train, manufactured by Alstom SA, travels in Salzgitter, Germany. (credit: Bloomberg/Getty Images)

If you were paying attention at the start of this century, you might remember the phrase “hydrogen economy,” which was shorthand for George W. Bush’s single, abortive attempt to take climate change seriously. At the time, hydrogen was supposed to be a fuel for vehicular transport, an idea that still hasn’t really caught on.

But hydrogen appears to be enjoying a revival of sorts, appearing in the climate plans of nations like the UK and Netherlands. The US government is investing in research on ways to produce hydrogen more cheaply. Are there reasons to think hydrogen power might be for real this time?

A new report by research service BloombergNEF suggests that hydrogen is set for growth—but not in transport. And the growth has some aspects that don’t actually make sense given the current economics.

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#energy, #green, #hydrogen, #renewable-energy, #science

Tech leaders can be the secret weapon for supercharging ESG goals

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors should be key considerations for CTOs and technology leaders scaling next generation companies from day one. Investors are increasingly prioritizing startups that focus on ESG, with the growth of sustainable investing skyrocketing.

What’s driving this shift in mentality across every industry? It’s simple: Consumers are no longer willing to support companies that don’t prioritize sustainability. According to a survey conducted by IBM, the COVID-19 pandemic has elevated consumers’ focus on sustainability and their willingness to pay out of their own pockets for a sustainable future. In tandem, federal action on climate change is increasing, with the U.S. rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement and a recent executive order on climate commitments.

Over the past few years, we have seen an uptick in organizations setting long-term sustainability goals. However, CEOs and chief sustainability officers typically forecast these goals, and they are often long term and aspirational — leaving the near and midterm implementation of ESG programs to operations and technology teams.

Until recently, choosing cloud regions meant considering factors like cost and latency to end users. But carbon is another factor worth considering.

CTOs are a crucial part of the planning process, and in fact, can be the secret weapon to help their organization supercharge their ESG targets. Below are a few immediate steps that CTOs and technology leaders can take to achieve sustainability and make an ethical impact.

Reducing environmental impact

As more businesses digitize and more consumers use devices and cloud services, the energy needed by data centers continues to rise. In fact, data centers account for an estimated 1% of worldwide electricity usage. However, a forecast from IDC shows that the continued adoption of cloud computing could prevent the emission of more than 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from 2021 through 2024.

Make compute workloads more efficient: First, it’s important to understand the links between computing, power consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels. Making your app and compute workloads more efficient will reduce costs and energy requirements, thus reducing the carbon footprint of those workloads. In the cloud, tools like compute instance auto scaling and sizing recommendations make sure you’re not running too many or overprovisioned cloud VMs based on demand. You can also move to serverless computing, which does much of this scaling work automatically.

Deploy compute workloads in regions with lower carbon intensity: Until recently, choosing cloud regions meant considering factors like cost and latency to end users. But carbon is another factor worth considering. While the compute capabilities of regions are similar, their carbon intensities typically vary. Some regions have access to more carbon-free energy production than others, and consequently the carbon intensity for each region is different.

So, choosing a cloud region with lower carbon intensity is often the simplest and most impactful step you can take. Alistair Scott, co-founder and CTO of cloud infrastructure startup Infracost, underscores this sentiment: “Engineers want to do the right thing and reduce waste, and I think cloud providers can help with that. The key is to provide information in workflow, so the people who are responsible for infraprovisioning can weigh the CO2 impact versus other factors such as cost and data residency before they deploy.”

Another step is to estimate your specific workload’s carbon footprint using open-source software like Cloud Carbon Footprint, a project sponsored by ThoughtWorks. Etsy has open-sourced a similar tool called Cloud Jewels that estimates energy consumption based on cloud usage information. This is helping them track progress toward their target of reducing their energy intensity by 25% by 2025.

Make social impact

Beyond reducing environmental impact, CTOs and technology leaders can have significant, direct and meaningful social impact.

Include societal benefits in the design of your products: As a CTO or technology founder, you can help ensure that societal benefits are prioritized in your product roadmaps. For example, if you’re a fintech CTO, you can add product features to expand access to credit in underserved populations. Startups like LoanWell are on a mission to increase access to capital for those typically left out of the financial system and make the loan origination process more efficient and equitable.

When thinking about product design, a product needs to be as useful and effective as it is sustainable. By thinking about sustainability and societal impact as a core element of product innovation, there is an opportunity to differentiate yourself in socially beneficial ways. For example, Lush has been a pioneer of package-free solutions, and launched Lush Lens — a virtual package app leveraging cameras on mobile phones and AI to overlay product information. The company hit 2 million scans in its efforts to tackle the beauty industry’s excessive use of (plastic) packaging.

Responsible AI practices should be ingrained in the culture to avoid social harms: Machine learning and artificial intelligence have become central to the advanced, personalized digital experiences everyone is accustomed to — from product and content recommendations to spam filtering, trend forecasting and other “smart” behaviors.

It is therefore critical to incorporate responsible AI practices, so benefits from AI and ML can be realized by your entire user base and that inadvertent harm can be avoided. Start by establishing clear principles for working with AI responsibly, and translate those principles into processes and procedures. Think about AI responsibility reviews the same way you think about code reviews, automated testing and UX design. As a technical leader or founder, you get to establish what the process is.

Impact governance

Promoting governance does not stop with the board and CEO; CTOs play an important role, too.

Create a diverse and inclusive technology team: Compared to individual decision-makers, diverse teams make better decisions 87% of the time. Additionally, Gartner research found that in a diverse workforce, performance improves by 12% and intent to stay by 20%.

It is important to reinforce and demonstrate why diversity, equity and inclusion is important within a technology team. One way you can do this is by using data to inform your DEI efforts. You can establish a voluntary internal program to collect demographics, including gender, race and ethnicity, and this data will provide a baseline for identifying diversity gaps and measuring improvements. Consider going further by baking these improvements into your employee performance process, such as objectives and key results (OKRs). Make everyone accountable from the start, not just HR.

These are just a few of the ways CTOs and technology leaders can contribute to ESG progress in their companies. The first step, however, is to recognize the many ways you as a technology leader can make an impact from day one.

#artificial-intelligence, #carbon-footprint, #cloud, #cloud-computing, #cloud-infrastructure, #cloud-services, #column, #energy, #environmentalism, #esg, #etsy, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #greentech, #machine-learning, #open-source-software, #opinion, #sustainability, #tc, #thoughtworks

Industrial cybersecurity startup Nozomi Networks secures $100M in pre-IPO funding

Nozomi Networks, an industry cybersecurity startup that aims to shield critical infrastructure from cyberattacks, has raised $100 million in pre-IPO funding. 

The Series D funding round was led by Triangle Peak Partners, and also includes investment from a number of equipment, security, service provider and go-to-market companies including Honeywell Ventures, Keysight Technologies and Porsche Digital. 

This funding comes at a critical time for the company. Cyberattacks on industrial control systems (ICS) — the devices necessary for the continued running of power plants, water supplies, and other critical infrastructure — increased both in frequency and severity during the pandemic. Look no further than May and June, which saw ransomware attacks target the IT networks of Colonial Pipeline and meat manufacturing giant JBS, forcing the companies to shut down their industrial operations.

Nozomi Networks, which competes with Dragos and Claroty, claims its industrial cybersecurity solution, which works to secure ICS devices by detecting threats before they hit, aims to prevent such attacks from happening. It provides real-time visibility to help organizations manage cyber risk and improve resilience for industrial operations.

The technology currently supports more than a quarter of a million devices in sectors such as critical infrastructure, energy, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and utilities, with Nozomi Networks doubling its customer base in 2020 and seeing a 5,000% increase in the number of devices its solutions monitor. 

The company will use its latest investment, which comes less than two years after it secured $30 million in Series C funding, to scale product development efforts as well as its go-to-market approach globally. 

Specifically, Nozomi Networks said it plans to grow its sales, marketing, and partner enablement efforts, and upgrade its products to address new challenges in both the OT and IoT visibility and security markets. 

#articles, #australia, #canada, #colonial-pipeline, #computer-security, #computing, #cyberattack, #cybercrime, #cyberwarfare, #energy, #funding, #internet-of-things, #malware, #manufacturing, #mining, #nozomi-networks, #porsche, #security, #technology, #united-states

A Tesla Megapack caught fire at the Victorian Big Battery facility in Australia

A 13-tonne Tesla Megapack caught fire on Friday morning at a battery storage facility in south-east Australia. The blaze occurred during testing at between 10 and 10.15am local time, according to Victorian Big Battery. The regional fire service said a specialist fire crew had been dispatched to the site in Geelong, Victoria. Firefighters were using a hazmat appliance designed for hazardous chemical spills and specialist drones to conduct atmospheric monitoring, according to Fire Rescue Victoria.

The site was evacuated and there were no injuries, Victorian Big Battery said in a statement. It added that the site had been disconnected from the power grid and that there will be no impact to the electric supply. French energy company Neoen, which operates the facility, and contractor Tesla are working with emergency services to manage the situation.

As a result of the fire, a warning for toxic smoke has been issued in the nearby Batesford, Bell Post Hill, Lovely Banks and Moorabool areas, reports The Sydney Morning Herald. Residents were warned to move indoors, close windows, vents and fireplace flues and bring their pets inside.

The Victorian Big Battery site, a 300 MW/450 MWh battery storage facility, is viewed as key to the Victorian government’s 50 percent renewable energy target by 2030. It follows the success of Neoen and Tesla’s 100 MW/129 MWh battery farm in Hornsdale in South Australia, which was completed ahead of schedule and has resulted in multi-million dollar savings for market players and consumers. Both sites essentially provide a regional power backup for when renewable energy is not available, effectively filling the gap when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.

In February, Neoen announced that the Victorian Big Battery would utliize Tesla’s megapacks — utility-sized batteries produced at the company’s Gigafactory — and Autobidder software to sell power to the grid. Victorian Big Battery has a contract with the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO). As part of the pact, the site will provide energy stability by unlocking an additional 250 MW of peak capacity on the existing Victoria to New South Wales Interconnector over the next decade of Australian summers.

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Engadget.

#battery, #column, #energy, #green-power, #solar, #tc, #tceng, #tesla

The ‘Hydrogen Olympics’ Lit a Torch for the Clean Fuel’s Future

An energy expert explains why Japan—along with much of the rest of the world—is committing to the clean-burning fuel

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#energy, #environment, #renewable-energy, #technology, #transportation