The International Energy Agency (IEA) has published a special report on energy accessAround the world, more than a billion people still lack access to electricity. The IEA says this number will shrink by a third by 2030, with 60% of these gains supplied by renewable energy sources. The past two decades have seen spectacular gains in providing access to electricity, cutting the number without it from 1.7 billion in 2000 to 1.1 billion in 2016. Most of this progress has been in Asia. India has led the way, with 500 million gaining access to electricity. Sub-Saharan Africa now has the majority of people still without access, at 600 million. Coal has been the main source of this new supply, generating 45% of the electricity used by people gaining access for the first time between 2000 and 2016. Renewable sources of electricity have shown a rapid growth in decentralised off-grid regions, accounting for 34% of the electricity used by people gaining access for the first time between 2012 and 2016. The IEA forecasts the number of people without access to electricity will fall to around 700 million by 2030. More and more those people gaining access to electricity will be getting it from renewable sources as coal usage declines.

In the next two or three decades, China is expected to become the leading determinant in global natural gas demand, surpassing the US as the largest natural gas consumer at some point between 2040 and 2050. Economic and industrial production growth, coupled with efforts to reduce pollution levels, will be the drivers behind this surging natural gas demand. China’s gas consumption is expected to rise to 300 billion cubic meters (bcm) in 2020 from 206 bcm in 2016, and surge to 600 bcm by 2040. Almost every energy analyst expects China to become for the natural gas market what it is for the oil market now—the leading consumer with the largest demand growth. See China Drives Natural Gas Demand Boom.

Construction is soon to begin on the world’s first utility-scale, on-grid wind, solar and battery energy storage project. Located in the Australian state of Queensland, the project is expected to be up and running before the end of next year. The Kennedy Energy Park at Flinders Shire will have 12 wind turbines rated at 43.2 megawatts and standing 132 meters (433 ft) tall. It will operate with a solar array and 4 megawatt-hour lithium-ion battery storage pack. The battery will be used to store the intermittent electricity from solar and wind so as to help smooth out generation spikes and dips. Once operational, the facility will generate 210,000 MWh of electricity per year. PPA CS Energy has committed to buy all the electricity for at least the next 10 years.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said his government will continue to phase out nuclear-generated electricity. In addition to stopping construction of new nuclear plants, the government will increase the usage of natural gas and renewables. South Korea has 24 nuclear reactors, supplying a third of its electricity.

The uncertain future for nuclear fusion energy is addressed by The Energy Collective here and Bloomberg here. A combination of funding issues, politics, engineering challenges and declining prices from competitive solar and wind are raising questions about the future of fusion projects like ITER.

ITER will not only be the largest fusion reactor to date, but also quite possibly the most ambitious engineering project in history and the most complex machine mankind has ever attempted to build. 

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced plans for a new £380 ($500) billion megacity to be built to run entirely on alternative energy. The project will be built on untouched land along the country’s Red Sea coastline near Egypt and Jordan. The desert kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, the Saudi government, and global technology firms will help build the city. Situated in an area rich in wind, and solar energy resources, the location provides an ideal environment in which to develop renewable energy projects. The projects goals are to develop nine key economic sectors for the future: energy, transportation mobility, biotech, food, advanced manufacturing, media and media production, entertainment, technological and digital sciences, and the future of living. The expanse of the city will be 33 times larger than New York and twice the size of Greater Sydney. See video here.

The two Swedish municipalities Skellefteå and Västerås are partnering to host Europe’s largest lithium-ion battery manufacturing plant. When completed in 2023, the factory will produce 32 gigawatt-hours per year of electric car battery capacity. The factory will be located in Skellefteå and the main R&D operations in Västerås.

BMW announced it has opened a “High-Voltage Battery Center” in Shenyang, China. The battery factory will supply the nearby Dadong plant, which is operated by the BMW Brilliance Automotive (BBA) joint venture and will produce the BMW 5 Series Plug-in Hybrid for the local market. The new plant is the first battery factory of any premium automotive manufacturer in China. The BBA production location in Shenyang builds vehicles exclusively for the Chinese market. 

Singapore will not allow any growth in its automobile population starting in February, citing the small city-state’s land scarcity and billions of dollars in planned public transport investments. Singapore tightly controls its vehicle population by setting an annual growth rate and through a system of bidding for the right to own and use a vehicle for a limited number of years.

The mayors of London, Paris, Los Angeles, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Quito, Vancouver, Mexico City, Milan, Seattle, Auckland and Cape Town said they will procure only zero-emission buses as of 2025 and will ensure that a major area in each of their cities is zero emission by 2030.

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