countries around the world to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and pledging cash money to support these commitments. The weekend resulted in some vigorous handshaking, but we’re guessing those were some sweaty palms. The task ahead is daunting, and requires advances in a number of areas. One of those areas is energy storage.
Missed the news from Paris this month? We’ll lay out the main details of the deal for you:
The global average temperature increase must be held to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, reducing climate change significantly. This point actually does something very important: it acknowledges the scientists who have told us that an increase of more than 2 degrees Celsius would send our planet spinning into catastrophe. Sea levels would rise, we would experience more devastating floods, and difficult droughts as well as powerful storms. All of these events combined would result in some serious food and water shortages. Yes, let’s avoid that, please. So, what do we have to do to make that happen? That brings us to the next point.
In order to achieve this goal, all countries need to “reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible.” In other words, we’re looking at you, fossil-fuel industry. A lot of the world’s coal, oil and gas reserves need to stay there, and not be burned. But this “as soon as possible” speech does leave room for some of the remaining fossil fuels to be used up, as long as “greenhouse sinks,” like new forests, can absorb the emissions. Okay. What’s next?
The agreement calls for “averting, minimizing and addressing loss and damage” associated with climate change. Cue cheering from the poor and small-island countries in attendance. These countries suffer the most from extreme weather and natural catastrophes like droughts. Averting and addressing is one thing, and compensation is another. The wealthy nations won out in the inclusion of a caveat that prevents them from being held financially responsible for climate change, or its results. This might leave them off the hook a bit, but they do have some homework to do. Here’s the next point:
Nations around the world have to take stock of their emissions, and submit some updated plans that prove they’re going to do some serious work by 2020. This stock-taking is required to continue every five years, starting in 2023. After writing up those rigorous national plans, each country has to compare them to the reality of the state of their country pretty frequently. And then there’s even more accountability.
From now on, countries have to “monitor, verify, and report their greenhouse gas emissions” using a standardized worldwide system. The U.S. was a big supporter of this particular point. They argued that without an “aggressive” system of verifying each nation’s emissions, the plan could never succeed. They followed that up with a push for an outside expert to verify each report. (They might have been giving China a side-eye on this one. They’ve gotten in trouble with that in the past.) In the end, the deal said the standardized system was a go, but the team of auditors would have to wait. Stick with us, only three points to go.
The agreement acknowledged that developing countries may need some help meeting the “inventory report” requirement of reporting emissions and progress toward goals. Because of this, the agreement sets up a “Capacity-Building Initiative for Transparency.” We’ll keep tabs and see if this does the trick in giving developing countries a boost.
Here’s a big one: it’s time for nations to establish a new, quantified goal of at least $100 billion a year in climate-related financing by 2020. There’s no straight number here, but over $100 billion is some pretty serious cash, and it’s the annual bare minimum from 2020 forward (you may remember this as a repeat from Copenhagen in 2009.)
Finally, the agreement calls nations to commit to the “highest possible ambition” when they update their plans. It’s like the teacher in a one-room schoolhouse of all grades saying “Now, I want to see all of your best work here.” There’s a wide range of resources in the room, so there should be a wide range of results. As the agreement put it, there are “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances.” This is really important for countries like India, who have 300 million people who need electricity. They’ve been asked to continue to push forward, while requiring the wealthier countries to show some quick, absolute reductions.
So, there’s the agreement. And it’s a pretty tall order. If everything goes according to the plan, the world would reach net-zero emissions before the end of the century. Sounds great, right? But it’s not going to be easy.
How to Stick to 2 degrees Celsius
The major, specific requirement of the agreement was to limit temperature rise to 2 degreesC Celsius. This isn’t just an arbitrary number. Many scientists belive that if the global temperature rises just two degrees higher, we’re going to see some really scary natural stuff go down. In order to avoid the food and water shortages that accompany worldwide-scale flooding and drought, we’ve got to keep things under control. So how do we stick to the 2 degree plan?
Leaders in the field of environmental and energy studies say that it comes down to three major areas of technology: advanced nuclear reactors, carbon capture, and energy storage. Since energy storage is near and dear to us at Swell, we are going to focus on the last of the three. With some investments in science and commercialization, a global energy storage boom is possible.
Energy Storage on a Massive Scale
In order to really move away from fossil fuels, we need to focus on storing the intermittent energy provided by renewable sources like solar and wind. It’s no secret that the wind and the sun aren’t consistent sources of energy. The earth rotates. The sun goes down. The winds wax and wane. But what it lacks in consistency, wind and solar make up for in strength, supply, and, well, consistency. Worldwide, there’s a crazy amount of solar and wind power ready to be harnessed, and even though it’s not always sunny where you are… it’s always sunny somewhere. The sun itself is pretty much as reliable as resources get. It’s not going anywhere (and if it does, we’re going with it.)
So, if we’re serious about decarbonizing the electrical grid, we’re going to have to get serious about storing all of the electricity we can get from the sun and wind. What’s specifically involved in “getting serious?” A lot. In 2014, the U.S. has set up about 100 megawatts of grid energy storage. To reach the goal, the U.S., along with Europe, China and India, are going to have to add 310 gigawatts more. Not megawatts… gigawatts. This wasn’t exactly in the forecast. But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.
2015 brought some really exciting new advances in lithium-ion batteries. These new batteries are high-capacity, and low-cost. They’re exactly what we’re looking for. But even low-cost batteries come at a high expense if we’re talking about a grid-wide scale. It’s a cost that U.S. isn’t confident that it can pay. As we move forward, closer and closer to the 2020 date set by the Paris Agreement, we’ll keep watch over what steps the United States takes toward an energy storage takeover. In the meantime, we’re going to keep spreading energy storage in the residential world, and you can too. Enter: the home battery.
Take a Step Forward with a Home Battery
Home batteries are energy storage on a micro-scale, but they do for you exactly what grid-wide storage would do for nation-wide renewable energy: they store the energy generated by renewable energy sources like wind and solar, so you have reliable electricity when you need it.
Depending on where you live, the sun checks out at a certain time in the early evening, and shows up hours later, in the early morning, taking all of its energy with it. This leaves anyone relying on solar power without electricity. To make it worse, these are the hours when we need electricity the most. So yeah. Solar energy poses a pretty big problem. But there is also a really simple solution.
Home batteries are the simplest and best way to solve the solar energy glitch -- you know, the whole sun-going-down thing. Experts from the fields of science, engineering, technology, and sustainability are all coming to the same conclusion: energy storage in the form of home batteries are the best way to launch residential use of renewable energy into the future.
With home batteries, your household can take a step forward into the future of renewable energy, cutting your personal ties to fossil fuels, and taking the power back into your own hands.
It’s pretty perfect. So instead of just watching to see how the U.S. moves forward into a cleaner and more sustainable future, step in and participate with a home battery.