Beyond Coal, the mega-battery and how fashion is stepping up

By Nigel Topping, CEO of We Mean Business coalition

Welcome to the We Mean Business coalition Progress Report where we review the defining trends setting the agenda in the transition to the low-carbon economy. This month we look at Michael Bloomberg’s rallying cry to move Beyond Coal in a just and sustainable way, how the UK’s ‘steel city’ Sheffield got its first mega battery and the dynamic moves from some of fashion’s biggest brands to decarbonize.

Bloomberg doubles down on Beyond Coal

In the wake of the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the Clean Power Plan, Michael Bloomberg announced US$64 millions in new funding to help accelerate and manage the country’s shift away from coal. The commitment, which adds to Bloomberg Philanthropies’ previous funding in excess of US100 million, is to support the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign and other organizations with the aim of slashing the number of coal-fired power plants by two thirds by 2020.

The move also draws attention to the communities impacted by the inevitable shift away from coal power, by highlighting the need for a managed transition that demands good-paying jobs for workers who currently depend on the fossil fuel economy.

Meanwhile, commentators have been debating whether rescinding the Clean Power Plan can actually keep aging coal plants running. Amy Grace, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, argues that the tax credits supporting wind and solar power in the US are far more important in securing the country’s clean energy future than the plan itself. The tax credits, which see strong cross-party support in states with burgeoning renewable sectors like Texas, cannot be unilaterally removed by the administration. However, they are coming under increasing attack, setting the scene for the next round in this fierce and critical debate.   

Sheffield gets a mega-battery

The rollout of mega-batteries, as a key enabling technology for widespread renewable integration, is taking several leaps forward this month. The UK’s northern city of Sheffield welcomed the introduction of a 10MW industrial-scale battery, which was launched by E.ON at its Blackburn Meadows Renewable Energy CHP Plant and has the equivalent capacity of half a million phone batteries. The Guardian pointed out that while the battery is one of the biggest in the country so far, it will soon be surpassed by two 49MW batteries, from Centrica and EDF Energy.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk looks on track to win his risky bet of installing a huge 100MW battery in Southern Australia within 100 days. The Tesla boss promised to meet the tight deadline or forfeit any payment for the project, designed to help the blackout-plagued region improve its power grid.

“This is a great example to the rest of the world of what can be done,” Musk said. “When this is done in just few months, it will be the largest battery installation by a factor of three.”

Sustainability in fashion

Since Climate Week NYC last month, the progressive movement coming from the apparel industry has shown no signs of stopping. As noted in the HuffPost, the industry has already come a long way from various supply-chain scandals, but the latest developments show genuine signs of progress towards sustainability.

Leading apparel companies – Levi Strauss & Co, Gap, NIKE, Guess?, Eileen Fisher and VF Corporation – have now all committed to setting a science-based target, via the Science-Based Targets initiative. They join the likes of H&M in committing to set an emission reductions goal that is in line with the level of decarbonization required to keep global temperature increase below 2 degrees.   

Meanwhile, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition has launched a campaign to get 20,000 supplier facilities on board to scale up participation in its Higg Platform sustainability index by the end of 2018.

In other news

General Motors and Ford are playing catch up with the accelerating electric vehicle (EV) rollout, with both companies unveiling plans for new electric models. GM announced plans for 20 new all-electric models before 2023, with two due to be on the market in the next 18 months. Rival Ford quickly followed with an announcement that it would add 13 electric models over the next five years, along with spending cuts for internal combustion engines.

This comes in the wake of The Climate Group’s launch of its EV100 initiative at Climate Week NYC, when ten companies committed to accelerating the transition to EVs and making electric transport the new normal by 2030.  

And Mars Chairman Stephen Badger is stepping up the company’s efforts to reduce its footprint ‘equivalent to that of a country roughly the size of Panama’. Badger described in the Washington Post how taking on action on climate is good for business and gave “a call to action for all in business to double down in support of the Paris Agreement and the sustainable-development goals.”

Last month, Mars unveiled its Sustainable in a Generation plan, leading the way by investing US$1 billion to tackle climate change, poverty in its value chain and resource scarcity.

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