News In Brief 6 March 2017


Nestlé and Danone, the food and drinks groups, are investing an undisclosed sum to accelerate the efforts of Origin Materials, a Californian biotech company, to develop plastic made from waste such as sawdust or old cardboard instead of petroleum. Plastic production has grown by 20 times in the past 50 years, creating more of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming and a growing waste and litter problem on land and at sea. Nestlé and Danone say they will make their plastic entirely from waste materials such as sawdust or farm crop residues. The two groups are teaming up for the investment because they say it will help speed up the development of the plastic. The companies hope to produce commercial quantities of bottles made almost entirely from their new plastic by 2020, though it is not yet clear which of their products will end up in those containers.


Under a 2008 law, any money held in a UK bank or building society account which is untouched for 15 years is collected by the Reclaim Fund and earmarked for distribution to good causes, via the Big Lottery Fund. Original estimates suggested that around £400 million would initially be available for distribution in England, with around £100 million more available in other nations. However figures published by the Reclaim Fund suggest at least twice as much is available; £362 million has already been distributed across the UK, and the Reclaim Fund currently holds another £561 million. This figure is likely to continue to increase by around £100 million a year over the next few years.


VLC Energy – a joint venture between the energy trader Vitol and the renewables energy investment company Low Carbon – revealed plans for two of the UK’s largest lithium ion energy storage projects, to be in Cumbria and Kent. According to Low Carbon: “The use of batteries will enhance National Grid’s ability to manage surges in supply from renewable energy sources, as well as surges in demand, and ultimately increase the Grid’s capacity to accommodate energy generated from renewables.” The energy storage projects have already secured contracts under National Grid’s enhanced frequency response (EFR) tender and the capacity market for 2020; as a result they will be able to provide balancing services to grid operators and back-up power capacity. According to Low Carbon, the sites will have a combined capacity of 50 megawatts accounting for a quarter of the total enhanced frequency response (EFR) contract capacity awarded by National Grid.


Sustainable Development Capital (SDCL), a London-based investment fund, said it was launching a legal challenge to the government’s decision to select Macquarie as its preferred bidder for the Green Investment Bank. It has applied to the high court for a judicial review, on the grounds that it believes the bidding process has not complied with the criteria laid out by the government in March 2016. Macquarie was first selected as the government’s preferred bidder in October 2016, and an announcement on the sale was expected in January. But confirmation of the deal has failed to materialise in the face of strong political opposition. Ministers have yet to even officially acknowledge that Macquarie is the preferred bidder, citing commercial confidentiality.


A report delivered to Parliament by the Green Building Council, a group of construction firms, asserted that 25 million existing homes in the UK will not meet the insulation standards required by 2050 and that more than one home every minute will need to be refurbished between now and then, if the UK is to meet its target of cutting needs to cut carbon emissions by 80%; a third of those emissions come from heating draughty buildings. The report recommends: setting staged targets for refurbishing buildings; reintroducing the zero-carbon standard for buildings from 2020; recognising energy efficiency as a national infrastructure priority; setting long-term trajectories for ratcheting up home energy standards; and obliging commercial buildings to display the amount of energy they use.


67,000 of Beijing’s 71,000 taxis which currently run on gasoline, diesel, or liquefied gas, will be converted to electric vehicles, to combat the city’s notorious pollution problems. Last winter there were more than a dozen days when particle matter measured in the air was 10 times over the limit regarded as safe by the World Health Organization. The measure will reportedly cost taxi companies Yuan 9 billion, or $1.3 billion. The market price for a typical gasoline-powered vehicle is $10,000 in China, with electric cars costing twice that. By 2020 the Chinese government wants to see five million electric vehicles on its streets and is offering subsidies that in some instances can amount to more than 70% of the EV’s market price.



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