Despite the Smog, China is Improving More than Many Think
Air pollution is a serious problem affecting developing countries today, and a lead consultant from research and consulting firm GlobalData suggests that politicians and policy makers in emerging economies such as India and China face bigger challenges compared to their peers in developed economies.
China and India’s cities suffer heavy levels of pollution due to mass motor vehicle ownership coinciding with the use of coal as a popular domestic fuel and local power generation fuel. Modern transport has coupled with more traditional coal-fired energy production, and the air quality is suffering as a result.
Jonathan Lane, GlobalData's Head of Consulting for Power and Utilities, considers China’s current air pollution in relation to Britain’s industrial era. London’s worst smog, or pea souper, started on 6th December 1952, lasted for four days and is reckoned to have killed 12,000 in total. Lane states that, similarly to Beijing in the present day, London’s weather was partly responsible for the smog, but the problem was eventually fixed by the Clean Air Act of 1956 which enforced the use of smokeless fuels and relocated power stations outside of cities. He says: “Progress towards resolving the situation in the UK was relatively slow.
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“It is useful to contrast this with the challenges that lie before Beijing and other Chinese cities today and the progress they are making in improving air quality. The popular view is that Chinese politicians display the same attitude as Macmillan – burning coal and maintaining lax environmental policies in order not to damage economic growth. There are clear signs, however, that attitudes and development have changed significantly.”
Lane states that natural gas is the key driver transforming energy consumption in Beijing, and identifies development in three major areas. Firstly, the conversion of coal-fired heating and electricity generating plants from coal to natural gas is nearing completion in Beijing, and will reduce air pollution significantly, as district heating plants must be located inside the city and therefore contribute to smog problems in winter. The availability of natural gas to household consumers is also rising, with Beijing having around 4.5 million domestic gas connections, representing around 60-70% of all households. In addition to this, Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) is now available in Beijing, and the market is expected to grow rapidly. CNG has far fewer particulate emissions than either petrol or diesel, and will therefore help Beijing reduce its air pollution significantly.
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“Indeed, natural gas is growing rapidly across China as many cities look to reduce their pollution problems,” states Lane. “GlobalData estimates that at the end of 2011, there were 108 million domestic natural gas connections in China, showing an astonishing growth of 19 million over 2010. Alongside the growth in domestic consumption will come growth in natural gas for urban electricity and heat generation, albeit more slowly. This, alongside China’s burgeoning solar PV market, will clear Beijing’s skies more quickly than many expect, and perhaps more quickly thatn London managed.”
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Major move forward for UK’s nascent marine energy sector
Although the industry is small and the technologies are limited, marine-based energy systems look to be taking off as “the world’s most powerful tidal turbine” begins grid-connected power generation at the European Marine Energy Centre.
At around 74 metres long, the turbine single-handedly holds the potential to supply the annual electricity demand to approximately 2,000 homes within the UK and offset 2,200 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Orbital Marine Power, a privately held Scottish-based company, announced the turbine is set to operate for around 15 years in the waters surrounding Orkney, Scotland, where the 2-megawatt O2 turbine weighing around 680 metric tons will be linked to a local on-land electricity network via a subsea cable.
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Described as a “major milestone for O2” by CEO of Orbital Marine Power Andrew Scott, the turbine will also supply additional power to generate ‘green hydrogen’ through the use of a land-based electrolyser in the hopes it will demonstrate the “decarbonisation of wider energy requirements.”
“Our vision is that this project is the trigger to the harnessing of tidal stream resources around the world to play a role in tackling climate change whilst creating a new, low-carbon industrial sector,” says Scott in a statement.
The Scottish Government has awarded £3.4 million through the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund to support the project’s construction, while public lenders also contributed to the financial requirements of the tidal turbine through the ethical investment platform Abundance Investment.
“The deployment of Orbital Marine Power’s O2, the world’s most powerful tidal turbine, is a proud moment for Scotland and a significant milestone in our journey to net zero,” says Michael Matheson, the Cabinet Secretary for Net-Zero, Energy and Transport for the Scottish Government.
“With our abundant natural resources, expertise and ambition, Scotland is ideally placed to harness the enormous global market for marine energy whilst helping deliver a net-zero economy.
“That’s why the Scottish Government has consistently supported the marine energy sector for over 10 years.”
However, Orbital Marine CEO Scott believes there’s potential to commercialise the technology being used in the project with the prospect of working towards more efficient and advanced marine energy projects in the future.
“We believe pioneering our vision in the UK can deliver on a broad spectrum of political initiatives across net-zero, levelling up and building back better at the same time as demonstrating global leadership in the area of low carbon innovation that is essential to creating a more sustainable future for the generations to come.”
The UK’s growing marine energy endeavours
This latest tidal turbine project isn’t a first for marine energy in the UK. The Port of London Authority permitted the River Thames to become a temporary home for trials into tidal energy technology and, more recently, a research project spanning the course of a year is set to focus on the potential tidal, wave, and floating wind technology holds for the future efficiency of renewable energy. The research is due to take place off of the Southwest coast of England on the Isles of Scilly